Chicago Tribune | Illinois sours on Bush

Illinois sours on Bush
Iraq, economy drive job approval down to 33%, stir fear in state GOP

By Jeff Zeleny and Rick Pearson
Tribune staff reporters
Published October 15, 2005, 9:00 AM CDT

Pessimism over the war in Iraq and skepticism about the economy at home have cost President Bush support among the most reliable segments of Illinois Republicans, a Tribune/WGN-TV poll shows, and now nearly 6 out of 10 voters statewide disapprove of his job performance.

The government's tepid response to Hurricane Katrina and a summer-long spike in gas prices also have helped drive Bush's job-approval rating down to 33 percent in the state, the lowest point among Illinois surveys involving his administration. A similar poll in May showed Bush's approval rating at 41 percent.

Support for Bush has dropped 14 points in the last year among Republicans, and GOP officials fear that could complicate their efforts in next year's races for Congress and governor. For the first time in his presidency, half the voters in Chicago's Republican-rich collar counties disapprove of Bush's job performance, a departure from last fall when he carried all five suburban counties.

Though Illinois voted Democratic in both of Bush's elections, including handing Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) the state's 21 electoral votes last year, dissatisfaction emerging from traditional Republican strongholds illustrates the challenges confronting the president during his second term.

In addition to Bush's low standing among voters in the collar counties of DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will, 54 percent of voters Downstate now say they disapprove of his performance. Downstate voters generally are more conservative and have in the past been more supportive of Bush. But his disapproval rating among those voters has climbed 12 percentage points since May.

An array of recent national polls paint a similar picture of discontent as the Bush administration moves ahead with its Iraq policy, pushes a controversial Supreme Court nomination and braces for the findings of a criminal investigation into whether top aides leaked classified information or obstructed justice.

Nearly 1 in 3 Illinois voters disapprove of Harriet Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court, the Tribune poll found, while 42 percent said they have no opinion on the president's selection of his longtime legal adviser. More than half of Illinois voters, however, said they supported John Roberts Jr.'s appointment as chief justice.

What emerges most clearly from the survey is a growing disdain for the war, with 64 percent saying they disapprove of how Bush is handling Iraq. Four out of 10 Illinois voters say they favor the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, up 7 percentage points since the question was asked in a Tribune poll just over a year ago.

Support for the administration's Iraq policy is primarily confined to Republicans, but backing even among GOP loyalists has softened from 75 percent in May to 63 percent.

Fern Krugjohann, a lifelong Republican from Rockford, said the Iraq war has soured her on Bush.

"The way things are going right now, I think he's in turmoil," said Krugjohann, 79, a retired nurse. "All of our boys over there are getting killed, and what do you think is going to happen? They'll keep them over there for years and years and years. I don't think it's worth the cost."

The Tribune/WGN-TV poll of 700 registered voters was taken Oct. 5-9. The telephone survey, conducted by Market Shares Corp. of Mt. Prospect, has an error margin of 4 percentage points.

Chicago Tribune | Illinois sours on Bush


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