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Clinton shrugs off poll ratings: President's support hits record low

SHRUGGING OFF some of the worst poll results of any modern United States president at this stage of an administration, Bill Clinton yesterday said that after 100 days in office he felt 'quite good' about the job done so far.

The public opinion surveys, which gave him approval ratings of between 55 and 59 per cent, coincided with economic figures showing an abrupt slowdown in the US recovery, renewed recrimination over the Waco disaster and continuing debate over what do in Bosnia.

Bruised in particular by the rejection last week of his dollars 16bn (pounds 10.2bn) jobs-creation programme in the Senate, Mr Clinton accepted that not all had gone as he had hoped. 'I learned that things are not going to change quite as fast as I wanted them to,' he told journalists.

The ritual of issuing report-cards on a president after his first 100 days has prompted a rash of mostly mixed reviews of Mr Clinton's efforts so far. But the President said Americans recognised his administration was trying to mend the economy.

'They know we're trying to make government work again. So I feel basically good about what's happened. But this country has some serious problems and we're going to have to get everybody serious about dealing with these problems,' he said.

A national survey carried out jointly by Democrat and Republican pollsters gave Mr Clinton a 55 per cent approval rating, the lowest at this point of any president for 40 years. Most people found Mr Clinton too willing to raise taxes and too ready to break campaign pledges.

The poll showed 56 per cent of voters concerned that the country remained 'on the wrong track' and 57 per cent convinced the President had lost his focus on the economy while trying to do too many different things. A higher approval rating, 59 per cent, was registerd in a Washington Post-ABC poll yesterday.

Economic figures released yesterday showed that the rate of growth in the first quarter of this year had slowed to just 1.8 per cent, less than half the 4.7 per cent rate achieved in the last quarter of 1992. Mr Clinton said it demonstrated the importance of his defeated jobs package.

Following Senate hearings this week on the death of the Koresh cult members in Waco there were reports that the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Stephen Higgins, who authorised the first raid on the cult compound, would be asked to resign.