The portion of people who consider Bush honest has dropped slightly from January, when 53% described him that way while 45% did not. Now, people are just about evenly split on that issue — with 48% saying he's honest and 50% saying he's not.
The drop in the number of people who see Bush as honest was strongest among middle-aged Americans as well as suburban women, a key voting group in the 2004 election. A further erosion of trust could make it tougher for Bush to win support for his policies in Congress and internationally.
"The reason that trust is so important has to do with the long-standing belief that you could trust him, even if you don't always agree with him and don't understand what he's doing," said Bruce Buchanan, a political scientist at the University of Texas. "The honesty dip is partly caused by a loss of faith in his credibility on Iraq."
The president said Thursday from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, that threats from al-Qaeda's No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahri, "make it clear that Iraq is a part of this war on terror, and we're at war." Bush pledged to "complete this job in Iraq."
Almost two-thirds in the poll described Bush as strong and likable.
"He's a man of character," said Cheryl Cheyney, a school bus driver from Cumming, Ga., and a Republican. "He's very honest in the things he says. I agree with his belief system, the way he believes in God and is not afraid to show it. That's very important to me."
But the portion of people who view his confidence as arrogance has increased from 49% in January to 56% now.