Powell's Popularity Tops Even Bush, Poll Finds

Jim Burns | Senior Staff Writer | Monday, September 30, 2002

Powell's Popularity Tops Even Bush, Poll Finds

(CNSNews.com) - Secretary of State Colin Powell is the most popular Bush administration figure among Americans according to a new Gallup Poll released Monday. His approval ratings are even higher than his boss, President George W. Bush.

Powell received an 88 percent favorable rating the highest rating given to the four Bush administration officials measured in the poll.

President Bush had a 70 percent popularity rating but Gallup officials said his poll numbers have been declining slowly since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Two months after the attacks, Bush had an 87 percent favorable rating.

In the latest poll, Vice President Dick Cheney received a 65 percent approval rating and 60 percent said they had a favorable opinion of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Gallup officials said Powell's high favorable rating is nothing new. They found that when Powell was initially thrust into the national spotlight as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Persian Gulf War, he received highly favorable ratings from the American public.

Shortly after Powell's retirement from the joint chiefs, many Republicans, including U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater thought Powell would be a good presidential candidate to oppose Bill Clinton's re-election. Powell declined to run.

Powell has been portrayed in the establishment and other news media as less committed than Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld to an American-led war against Iraq.

However, he has been the point man at the United Nations for making the case for action against Iraq and has been working tirelessly on getting a resolution against Iraq acceptable to the 15-member U.N. Security Council.

Michael Mandelbaum, a Johns Hopkins University professor of foreign policy and author of a new book entitled "Ideas That Conquered The World: Peace, Democracy and Free Markets in the Twenty-First Century" isn't surprised by Powell's high popularity rating.

"His popularity predates and transcends his current position. He has worked himself up into a position of prominence by his own abilities and hard work really conforms to the American dream," said Mandelbaum in an interview with CNSNews.com.
Mandelbaum also thinks Powell's popularity gives him leverage and job security within the Bush administration.

"Because he is so popular and well known, this president would surely go to some lengths to avoid having him leave office. Even [leaving] gracefully would not be beneficial for the (Bush) administration," he said.

Despite Powell's differences with the president, his popularity will help sell the administration's viewpoint on Iraq, Mandelbaum said.

"We know that people are generally supportive of the president as far as his direction is concerned but ambivalent about actually fighting a war. If there is a war and it receives strong support from Secretary Powell, I think that would make some contribution to producing public support for the war," he concluded.

But others insist Powell is first and foremost a soldier who doesn't have the word "disloyalty" in his everyday vocabulary.

"He's a loyal soldier. He's not going to allow daylight to develop between him and the president. So while he'll never undermine a presidential decision, he will work hard to influence the decision before it's made, and the way it's implemented after," said James Lindsay, a foreign-policy expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington in a recent interview with the Christian Science Monitor.

Lindsay was unavailable Monday for further comment on the story.

Some of Powell's positions on issues like affirmative action have irritated conservatives. He is in favor of it.

Gallup officials said the survey was conducted between Sept. 23-26, 2002 with telephone interviews of 800 adults, aged 18 years and older. The margin of error was plus or minus four percentage points.

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