http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tm...3&e=4&u=/ap/20040118/ap_on_go_pr_wh/bush_poll WASHINGTON - President Bush's support among political independents, a critical voting group in the coming year, has been slipping in recent weeks, a new poll has found. The CBS-New York Times poll, released Saturday, found that fewer than half, 45 percent, of independents approve of the job Bush is doing as president. In December, Bush's approval among independents had soared to 64 percent in the same poll. While 62 percent of independents support Bush's handling of terrorism, his backing on other issues is lagging in that group. Only 44 percent of independents support his handling of Iraq in the CBS-NYT poll and 37 percent support his handling of the economy. In the poll, 43 percent of all those polled said the war in Iraq was worth the costs and 51 percent said it was not. Republicans strongly support Bush on all fronts, as they have for months, and Democrats are increasingly opposed to the president as the 2004 campaign heats up. So independents will be a crucial voting bloc. The poll found that people are evenly divided on whether they would support Bush or the Democratic candidate. But when Bush is matched against specific Democratic candidates in other polls, he has a double-digit lead against any of them. Bush's job approval in this poll was 50 percent among all voters, though it has ranged from the low 50s to the high 50s in other recent polls. The CBS-Times poll found people evenly divided on whether they have a favorable or unfavorable view of the president personally. Two-thirds said he has strong qualities of leadership, but they were far less confident about his priorities and his economic decisions. The poll of 1,022 was taken Monday through Thursday and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, larger for subgroups.