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Ratings of Government Leaders



Key Summary Points

  • Public support for government leaders remains extraordinarily high, close to the "rally" level set in the immediate aftermath of the September terrorist attacks.
  • Eighty-eight percent of Americans currently approve of the job George W. Bush is doing as president, and Bush has now received three of the four highest approval ratings Gallup has measured, including a record high 90% in late September.
  • Ratings of Congress have also achieved all-time highs.
  • Trust in government has risen to levels not seen since the mid-1960s.
  • The public expresses high levels of support for other government agencies and for the government's ability to deal with terrorism, but has slightly less confidence in its ability to deal with the anthrax situation.


Bush, Congress Getting Very High Marks From Public

President Bush's current approval rating is 88%, which is the fourth highest presidential job approval rating Gallup has ever obtained. Bush now holds three of the four highest ratings ever, including his earlier 90% and 89% scores along with his father's 89% approval rating during the Persian Gulf War. Bush is now in his second month with job approval ratings in the high 80s. Most presidents have been unable to sustain their highest approval ratings for much more than one month. A CBS News/New York Times poll conducted this past weekend shows that Bush's overall approval rating is holding steady, and that 79% approve of the way he is handling the war on terrorism.

The new CBS News/New York Times poll showed approval of Congress at 67%. This is somewhat lower than Gallup's most recent measurement, taken Oct. 11-14, which showed 84% approval. That 84% rating is double the rating taken immediately before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Since Gallup began asking the question in 1974, Congress' approval ratings had been only as high as 56% (in December 2000).

Trust in Government Also at High Levels

The percentage of Americans who say they "just about always" trust government to do what is right is the highest it has been since the mid-1960s. Currently, 13% believe this about the government. This number has been as low as 1% in January 1994 and hasn't been in the double digits since 1966.

Additionally, there have been sharp increases in the percentage of Americans who have "a great deal" of trust and confidence in the federal government to deal with domestic and international problems. The Oct. 11-14 Gallup poll finds 36% have a great deal of trust in the government to deal with international problems and 24% have this much confidence in the government's ability to handle domestic problems. Immediately before the Sept. 11 attacks, the percentages were 14% and 6%, respectively.

Public Confident in Government's Efforts to Deal With Terrorism

About seven in 10 Americans feel the government's efforts to protect Americans from terrorism have been about right, while 24% think they should go further and 6% think they have already gone too far. Nearly 80% think the government has made the country safer. However, 49% think the government's warnings about future terrorist attacks have just scared people, while 47% say these have helped people.

An ABC News poll last week showed that 78% of Americans were satisfied with the way government authorities have been handling the anthrax situation. This is down from 85% satisfaction in an Oct. 15 ABC News poll. The CBS News/New York Times poll shows 61% saying the Bush administration has done a good or an excellent job of handling the recent anthrax outbreaks.

Seventy-five percent of Americans think the Bush administration has a well-thought-out plan for using military force overseas to fight terrorism, according to a Newsweek poll conducted Oct. 25-26. However, the public is much less confident in the administration's plans for fighting bioterrorism and other terrorist threats at home. Only 48% think the administration has a well-thought-out plan in this regard.

A majority, 64%, are at least somewhat confident that national and local governments are prepared to deal with a terrorist attack that uses chemical or biological weapons, including 16% who are "very confident." The ABC News and CBS News/New York Times polls found slightly higher percentages in response to similar questions.

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