Less than half of Americans now say they think President Bush is honest, according to an AP-Ipsos poll taken at a time of increasing concerns about Iraq, a potential problem for a president who won re-election declaring that "people know where I stand."
The percentage of people who say they consider Bush honest has dropped slightly from the start of the year. In January, 53 percent described him that way in the AP-Ipsos poll, while 45 percent said they did not believe he was honest. Now, people are just about evenly split _ 48 percent saying he's honest and 50 percent saying he's not.
"Whether you agree or disagree with him, the president has taken a pounding on perceptions of his honesty," said Karlyn Bowman, a public opinion analyst at the American Enterprise Institute. She cited as one example the administration's claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, but none have been found.
A solid majority still see Bush as likable and a strong leader, but a growing number view the president's confidence as arrogance, up from 49 percent in January to 56 percent now.
"He pushes and pushes and pushes until he gets his own way," said Diane Maley, a politically independent registered nurse from East Greenbush, N.Y. "I don't think he has the best interest of the country in mind."
For some people, especially Republicans, Bush is personally appealing.
"He's a man of character," said Cheryl Cheyney, a school bus driver from Cumming, Ga., and a Republican. "He's very honest in the things he says. I agree with his belief system, the way he believes in God and is not afraid to show it. That's very important to me."
Bush's overall job approval was at 42 percent, with 55 percent disapproving. That's about where his approval rating has been all summer but slightly lower than it was when the year began. His approval on handling Iraq was at 38 percent.
Some who don't approve of Bush's job performance admire him personally.
"I think he tries to be likable and I think he's somewhat honest," said Cindy Bashura, a Democratic-leaning resident of Seymour, Conn. "He tries to do what he thinks is right, but sometimes I think he takes the wrong advice from people in his circle."
Continuing worries about Iraq may do more than drag down Bush's standing with the public. They could become a major issue in the 2006 midterm congressional races, and if the war is still going in 2008, they could be a factor in the presidential race.
The war in Iraq also could have an impact on more than elections.
"Bush's standing with the public is a factor in his ongoing effort to influence legislation and to sustain support for his Iraq policy," said Bruce Buchanan, a professor of political science at the University of Texas. "The honesty dip is partly caused by a loss of faith in his credibility on Iraq."
The poll of 1,000 adults was conducted Aug. 1-3 by Ipsos, an international polling firm. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
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