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Poll reveals low ratings for Bush and Congress

WASHINGTON - People think the Democratic-led Congress is doing just as dreary a job as President Bush, following four months of bitter political standoffs and little progress on Iraq and a host of domestic issues.

An Associated Press-Ipsos poll also found that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a more popular figure than the president and her colleagues on Capitol Hill, though she faces a gender gap in which significantly more women than men support her.

The survey found only 35 percent approve of how Congress is handling its job, down 5 percentage points in a month. That gives lawmakers the same bleak approval rating as Bush, who has been mired at about that level since last fall, including his dip to a record low for the AP-Ipsos poll of 32 percent in January.

"It's mostly Iraq" plus a lack of progress in other areas, said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., who heads the House GOP's campaign committee. "These are not good numbers for an incumbent, and it doesn't matter if you have an 'R' or a 'D' next to your name."

Democrats agree that the problem is largely Iraq, which has dominated this year's session of Congress while producing little more than this month's Bush veto of a bill requiring the withdrawal of U.S. troops. It also has overshadowed House-passed bills on stem cell research, student loans and other subjects that the White House opposes, they say.

"People are unhappy; there hasn't been a lot of change in direction, for example in Iraq," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., chairman of the House Democrats' campaign effort. Rising gasoline prices also could be a factor, lawmakers said.

In another measure of popular discontent, the survey found that 71 percent say the country is on the wrong track - about even with the 73 percent who said so last May, the worst level since the AP-Ipsos poll began in December 2003. The survey was taken Monday through Wednesday, before Bush offered to seek compromise with congressional Democrats over a war spending bill setting benchmarks for progress in Iraq.

Bush told reporters Thursday that if pollsters had asked his opinion about Iraq last fall, "I'd have said I disapprove of what was going on in Iraq. They could have put me down as part of the disapproval process." That was before his decision to send nearly 30,000 additional troops to Iraq, which "would more likely cause me to approve of what's going on in Iraq," he added.

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