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Feb. 25, 2003, 10:38PM

Bush economic plan loses support in poll

For first time, more people disapprove

Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- People who disapprove of President Bush's handling of the economy now outnumber those who approve, according to a Pew Research Center poll.

The poll also shows Bush's overall job approval at 54 percent -- down from 61 percent in December.

The poll released Tuesday found that 43 percent approve of the president's economic policy and 48 percent disapprove -- the first time a Pew poll has found more disapproving.

His overall job approval was at the lowest level in this poll since before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 sent it into the 80s.

Bush is still near 60 percent in overall job approval in some other polls, including an ABC-Washington Post poll released Monday.

The public's view of "Bush's stewardship of the economy continues to erode, and his tax plan isn't helping him much," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. "The public is increasingly worried about finances."

Only four in 10 in the Pew poll, 42 percent, said they approve of his tax policy -- suggesting that his $670 billion tax cut plan, including a centerpiece proposal to slash the tax on investor dividends, has not shored up eroding confidence in his economic leadership. About the same number, 44 percent, said they disapprove of his tax policy.

Kohut said his poll suggests that many people "would roll back the last tax cut to pay for military spending rather than add to the deficit, so it's not too surprising that the new tax proposals are a nonstarter."

When asked the best approach to pay for large increases in military defense and homeland security, 40 percent said the government should postpone or reduce last year's tax cuts, 23 percent said it should add to the budget deficit, and 21 percent said it should reduce spending on domestic programs.

More than half, 56 percent, said they are very concerned they will not have enough money for their retirement, up from 42 percent who felt that way in May 1997.

Public support for Bush's handling of terrorist threats remains strong, with two-thirds, or 67 percent, saying they approve.

Just under half, 48 percent, said they approve of his handling of the situation in North Korea, while just over a third disapprove.

The poll of 1,254 adults was taken Feb. 12-18 and has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.


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