In the strongest indication yet of President Bush's weakening political position, a new poll has found that more voters would support a Democratic alternative than would back Bush if the next presidential election were held now.
The nationwide survey, done by Quinnipiac College's polling institute, found that 48% of those polled said they would vote for a Democrat while 44% would support Bush. The poll, which had a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points, surveyed 1,232 registered voters from Feb. 26 to March 3.
Six recent surveys by other polling organizations that asked a similar question found support for reelecting Bush had fallen below 50%, the level that many political professionals regard as a rough dividing line between incumbents headed for victory and those headed for trouble. The Quinnipiac poll, based in Connecticut, is the first to find Bush trailing.
Quinnipiac polling director Maurice Carroll noted that the survey had pitted an unnamed Democrat "without any baggage" against Bush, "who does have baggage." He said a late-January Quinnipiac poll matching Bush against seven actual Democratic candidates found the president ahead in each case.
Nevertheless, Carroll said, the new poll indicated at a minimum that Bush's reelection next year is "far from a sure thing." The 50% line, he said, is "a nice place to be, and he's below it. Less than 50% is not a good-looking number."
The survey indicated that the faltering economy is weighing Bush down politically.
Among those who thought that terrorism was the greatest problem facing the country, the president was favored by nearly 3 to 1.