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Sat Nov 15 2003 19:43:02 ET

The full extent of the low regard Britons have for George Bush was tonight revealed in a poll.

The US President was branded a threat to world peace by a clear majority, 60%, of those questioned by YouGov.

More than one in three, 37%, said Mr Bush was "stupid" while 33% called him "incoherent".

Only a minority saw positive characteristics in Mr Bush, with just 7% regarding him as a good world leader, 6% as articulate and 10% as intelligent.

The findings are published in The Sunday Times ahead of his state visit to Britain next week, the first by a US leader.

A slim majority of those questioned opposed the visit by 26% to 21% although half did not care.

There was sympathy with anti-war campaigners who plan a series of protests to mark the visit with a majority of 53% to 41% supporting the demonstrations.

The antipathy toward Mr Bush is matched by an increasingly gloomy view of Iraq.

For the first time a majority said Britain and America were wrong to go to war with Iraq by 45% to 43%.

The question has been asked repeatedly since March and when US troops entered Baghdad in April voters were in favour of the war by 66% to 29%.

Now almost three-quarters, 73%, expected the security situation to get worse over the next few months.

Only 15% believed that things would get better in Iraq with just 18% saying the country's future would be as a peaceful democracy.

An overwhelming 70% thought there was little hope for the people of Iraq and that it would be a permanently unstable country.

Despite this, there is not a clamour to bring Britain's troops home.

One in five, 20%, said UK forces in Iraq should be withdrawn immediately and 26% said they should return home within six months whatever the security situation.

However, 47% believed Britain had a duty to retain forces there.

There was little faith in the President's ability to handle the continuing problems in Iraq.

Fewer than a quarter, 24%, had confidence in Mr Bush on Iraq, while 74% did not.

Prime Minister Tony Blair fares only slightly better with 38% expressing confidence in him compared with 59% who did not.

There was also scepticism about the "special relationship" between Britain and the US.

Only a third, 34%, thought the relationship should continue as at present with Britain remaining America's closest ally.

A larger proportion, 47%, said that Britain should continue as one of America's allies but be ready to pursue a more independent line.

Some went further, with 14% saying Britain should no longer regard America as a close ally and should pursue its own interests irrespective of what Washington thinks.

YouGov surveyed a representative sample of 1,934 adults, online, on Thursday and Friday, November 13-14.

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