Most Americans Now Disapprove of Bush on Terrorism, Poll Shows March 3 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. public opinion turned against President George W. Bush's handling of terrorism, his signature political strength, last month amid overwhelming opposition to plans to let a Dubai company operate U.S. port facilities. For the first time, a majority of Americans, 54 percent, disapprove of Bush's dealing with terrorism, the latest Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll found. Bush's job approval rating fell to 38 percent, a five-point drop from a month ago, fueled also by rising discontent over the Iraq war. The poll taken from Feb. 25 to March 1 found that almost two-thirds of Americans disapprove of Bush's handling of Iraq, amid a surge in sectarian violence there. Sixty-four percent say the U.S. is on the wrong track, while 30 percent say it's going in the right direction. In the poll, 58 percent say they oppose allowing DP World, Dubai's state-owned port operator, to acquire facilities at six U.S. ports. Most of those opposed say they are ``strongly'' against the idea; just 17 percent support it. ``The Dubai port storm hurt Bush more than anything because it cut right to the core of his strength on security and allowed his opponents to get to the right of him,'' said Scott Reed, a Republican strategist who ran former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign. ``It's the first time Bush and Rove have let this happen since 9/11,'' Reed said, referring to Karl Rove, Bush's chief political adviser. Bush vs. Clinton While more Americans say the economy is doing well than say it's doing badly, three-fifths of those surveyed disapprove of Bush's performance on the economy, compared with 37 percent who approve. Part of Bush's problem may be that he suffers in comparison with former President Bill Clinton, the poll indicated. Sixty- three percent of Americans say Clinton did the better job of handling the economy, to 26 percent who choose Bush. By an almost two-to-one margin, self-described independents say Clinton was better on the economy than Bush. ``For all his personal issues, if you try and lay that aside, Clinton was a very good president,'' said Henry Lennon, a 59-year-old surgeon in Boca Raton, Florida, who voted for Bush in the last election. ``Under the current economy the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. As a responsible person I think that's wrong,'' poll respondent Lennon said in a follow-up interview. Such observations underscore the main contrast in perceptions of the two presidencies on the economy, said Stan Greenberg, a Democratic pollster. The Clinton era ``was a period in which incomes rose for all classes,'' he said. Biggest Drop Bush saw a 12-point decline, one of his biggest among any demographic segment, to 26 percent in his overall job approval among those earning less than $40,000 a year. Among Republicans in this income group, his approval rating fell 16 points, to 60 percent. Overall, 52 percent of Americans say the economy is in worse shape than when Bush became president five years ago. Nineteen percent say it's in better shape. Bush has been seeking to reverse those attitudes by highlighting indicators he says point to a healthy economy, including low inflation and a decline in the unemployment rate. Fighting terrorism has been the bedrock of Bush's approval ratings ever since the Sept. 11 attacks. It formed the core of his re-election strategy in 2004 and is the issue the White House has been encouraging Republican lawmakers to campaign on this year. Dubai Deal Bush's 54 percent disapproval rating on terrorism marks a reversal from a year ago, when 54 percent approved his handling of it. His disapproval rating increased five points in the last month alone. Much of the rise in negative feelings may be driven by opposition to the port plan, which has come under criticism from lawmakers in both parties, including the Republican House and Senate leaders. Bush has agreed to demands from lawmakers for a 45-day review of the decision. That hasn't quelled public opposition, even among Republicans, 49 percent of whom say they oppose the transaction. The president is ``turning a deaf ear'' to the American people on security and other issues, said Richard Huffman, an 80-year-old Republican who voted for Bush in 2004. ``He's got his own agenda and it's going to go ahead no matter what,'' said Huffman, who served in the Navy Air Corps in World War II and Korea and now lives northeast of Tampa, Florida. ``Nobody knew about it until it was almost a done deal,'' Huffman said of the ports sale. ``It makes you wonder what is behind all this.'' Iraq War On Iraq, Bush's approval rating dropped seven points from last month, to 34 percent. Violence in the country has surged since the Golden Mosque in Samarra, sacred to the nation's Shiite Muslims, was destroyed by a bomb on Feb. 22. The attack prompted reprisals against Sunni Muslims and sparked warnings of a civil war. Even some Bush supporters say the situation in Iraq is dire. ``I lived through Vietnam,'' said Lyn Helvie, a 52-year- old Republican from Muncie, Indiana, whose Marine son has done two tours of duty in Iraq. ``This is on its way for another Vietnam. The lives that have been lost there, I'm not sure there is just cause for that.'' Helvie, a social-services contractor, voted for Bush in both 2000 and 2004. Economic Issues The economic news isn't all bad for Bush. Fifty-six percent say the economy is doing well, and a majority of Americans say they expect housing values to either remain steady or increase over the next six months. Only 12 percent expect them to decrease. Still, the number of Americans who think the economy will do worse over the next six months increased by seven points to 27 percent a month earlier. The proportion who think it will get better remained steady at 16 percent, and more than half expect the economy to stay the same. The poll indicated that Americans' main concerns revolve around national and economic security, with jobs leaving the U.S., the Iraq war and defense spending and oil dependency ranking evenly as the country's biggest economic problems. Following closely behind are the budget deficit, health care and unemployment. Bush, a former Texas oil executive, elevated the dependency issue in his State of the Union address Feb. 2, saying the U.S. ``is addicted to oil.'' In the poll, those who rank oil as the top economic problem give Bush his highest approval rating, at 58 percent. Health Care The poll indicated the president faces obstacles with his top domestic priority, a health-care program that includes shifting more Americans into individual, private health savings accounts. Asked whose responsibility it is to ensure health-care coverage, less than a third say individuals, while 34 percent say the government and 27 percent say employers. Of the poll of 1,273 adults, 35 percent were Democrats, 26 percent independents and 25 percent Republicans. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. ``Party identification is a dynamic variable that changes with the popularity of the party in control,'' said Susan Pinkus, the Los Angeles Times's polling director. ``The proportion of people who identified with the Republican Party was higher when Bush had more positive approval ratings.''