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Americans guardedly optimistic about Bush

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George W. Bush is winning solid - but only tentative - approval from a broad cross section of Americans for his performance during the early weeks of his presidency.

A new, nationwide poll has found that by a margin of better than 2 to 1, Americans say they support the job President Bush is doing so far in the White House.

Even among Mr. Bush's harshest critics - blacks and Hispanics - there are indications that many are willing to give the president an opportunity to prove himself.

The next couple of months could prove critical, however. More than one-third of those surveyed (35 percent) said they were taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the new president.

The Christian Science Monitor/TIPP poll included interviews with 943 adults nationwide, and was conducted by telephone from Feb. 15 to 19. The poll was the first in a monthly series that will measure Americans' optimism about presidential leadership, economic conditions, and the overall national outlook.

Bush appears to have gotten off to a solid start. His overall index score of 65 was based on three measurements - job approval, leadership, and the number of people who view his presidency favorably.

But the poll also found a widespread sense of uncertainty. Among Democrats, for example, 43 percent say they are still undecided about Bush, and nearly as many independents (38 percent) feel the same way. Women (34 percent) and young people (35 percent) also are reserving judgment.

Bush, who got little support from minorities in the election, "must quickly embrace blacks and Hispanics and build their confidence in his leadership," says TIPP president Raghavan Mayur, who conducted the survey for the Monitor. "Nearly a third of them have yet to make up their minds about him."

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