Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clinton's Ratings Dented War Reduces His Popularity, Polls Suggest

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clinton's Ratings Dented War Reduces His Popularity, Polls Suggest

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Neither Monica Lewinsky nor impeachment put a dent in President Clinton's lofty poll ratings. It took a war.

Clinton's approval ratings are dropping as Americans grow increasingly anxious about nine weeks of air strikes, bombing accidents and debates over a ground invasion.

The president still is in relatively good shape with more than half the country -- 53 percent in the latest survey -- approving of how he handles his job.

"Fifty-three percent midway through your seventh year is pretty darn good," said Brookings Institution analyst Stephen Hess, an adviser to the Carter, Ford, Nixon and Eisenhower administrations. "It's always, compared to what and compared to whom? He was on such an abnormal high, thanks to impeachment. Now he's about where presidents tend to be at this point. That's not bad."

But the polls reveal doubts among Americans -- and those concerns have been reflected on Capitol Hill, most notably when the House, on a tie vote of 213 to 213, refused to support airstrikes against Yugoslavia.

"All of these polls are showing less basic support for involvement in Kosovo and less general support for President Clinton as a consequence," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. "The public is frustrated by a lack of progress and also by these accidents."

"President Clinton should be somewhat nervous, and Al Gore should be very nervous," Kohut said. "A decline in basic political support would not be a good thing for campaign 2000."

White House officials said they are not alarmed by the declining numbers.

"Historically, it's high," said presidential press secretary Joe Lockhart.

A series of recent news stories -- the Colorado shootings, China and Kosovo -- "have dampened the national mood a little bit," Lockhart said. "But we're working hard on all fronts and we're confident the president will continue to enjoy strong support from the American public."

A Pew poll conducted May 12-16 found that public approval for U.S. participation in the airstrikes had fallen to 53 percent from 62 percent in mid-April. Clinton's foreign policy ratings slipped and his overall job approval was unchanged at 56 percent after slipping a few weeks earlier. …

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