(CBS) The Congressional hearings on what happened before Sept. 11 appear to have raised concerns about both the Bush administration's credibility and its overall performance, even on the issue on which the administration may be staking its re-election.
The latest CBS News poll, conducted Tuesday through Thursday, shows declines in the president's approval ratings in a number of policy areas, but especially changes in the evaluation of the president's handling of terrorism.
Six in ten Americans are following the hearings closely; 56 percent say the administration is cooperating with the panel. But what the administration is saying does not receives high marks: 59 percent say it is hiding something it knew before Sept. 11, and 11 percent even say it is lying. Only one in four think the administration is telling the entire truth.
So far, the impact on the campaign is mixed. Nationally, the president appears to have lost ground in the last two weeks, trailing Democrat John Kerry among registered voters by five points, 48 percent to 43 percent. However, the election won't be determined by the size of the Democratic or Republican margins in states like Texas, New York and California, the largest states. There are 18 battleground states where the campaigns are already focusing their attention and their advertising campaigns. In those states, the race is tighter, with Mr. Bush receiving 47 percent to Kerry's 45 percent.