Only half of Americans like the way US President George W Bush is handling his job, a poll released by USA Today/CNN/Gallup survey has revealed.
That's down from 71 per cent in late March, and from 60 per cent in early August
His disapproval rating, meanwhile, hit a new high of 47 per cent, up from 36 per cent in early August and 25 per cent in late March.
The survey also found for the first time that a Democratic candidate could beat Bush if the next presidential election were held immediately.
Former NATO commander Wesley Clark would beat Bush 49 per cent to 46 percent, and Senator John Kerry would win 48 to 47 per cent.
Bush had only a narrow lead over other leading Democrats, besting former Vermont governor Howard Dean 49-46 per cent, Representative Dick Gephardt 48-46 per cent and Senator Joe Lieberman 48-47 per cent.
All those rankings fell within the poll's margin of error of three percentage points, but indicate that Bush no longer has a clear lead over his rivals.
Americans are also divided over the war in Iraq, with only half saying that it was worth fighting. Some 63 per cent said it was worth fighting when asked the same question in late August, and 76 per cent backed the war at the time of Saddam Hussein's ouster.