Americans place education ahead of tax cuts


Americans place education as a top priority for President George W. Bush, well ahead of a federal income tax cut, a new poll shows.

Half of the people surveyed in the CNN-USA Today-Gallup Poll said improving education should be a top priority for the Bush administration, and just under three in 10 said reducing income taxes should be the highest goal.

Almost four in 10 said the main focus should be on keeping America prosperous, balancing the budget, providing military security and dealing with energy problems.

The Bush administration has been moving ahead aggressively on both education improvements and tax cuts.

The public remains divided on whether they admire Bush. Those who think he is “tough enough” to be president have increased from half in the fall of 1999 to two-thirds now. Four in 10 think he does not understand complex issues, up from a fourth a year ago. The number who say he does remains at six in 10.

Bush’s job approval rate was 57 percent, about the same level then-President Bill Clinton had when he first became president, but slightly below the rate Clinton had in the mid 60s when he left office.

Bush’s personal approval was at two-thirds, substantially higher than Clinton, who ended his presidency with people split about evenly on him personally. Most of Bush’s personal ratings were similar to ratings he got during the campaign, with people saying he is a strong and decisive leader by a 2-1 margin.

Bush should have more influence on the direction of the country than the Republicans in Congress, 44 percent said, while 31 percent felt the congressional Republicans should have the influence. The margin with congressional Democrats was slightly smaller with 48 percent choosing Bush and 41 percent choosing Democrats.

The poll of 1,016 adults was taken Friday through Sunday and has an error margin of 3 percentage points.