HAMISH ROBERTSON: While President George W. Bush was striding the world stage last week during his official visit to India, back at home his support among American voters was seriously haemorrhaging.

The latest opinion polls show his approval ratings at their lowest level since he won office more than five years ago, and even his performance in fighting terrorism is now getting the thumbs down from the American public.

Our correspondent John Shovelan compiled this report in Washington.

JOHN SHOVELAN: There was nothing "fat" Tuesday this week for the Bush White House.

(sound of people celebrating)

As New Orleanians celebrated, the local holiday of Fat Tuesday and the first post-Hurricane Katrina Mardi Gras, the President was delivered poll figures showing that his job approval rating is at an all-time low.

Only 34 per cent polled by the CBS News survey approved of the job he's doing. That puts him just a skerrick above the low point of the Nixon Watergate era.

(sound of marching band playing)

And the images of the subdued Fat Tuesday partying in Bourbon Street only reminded Americans of his administration's inadequate response to the country's most costly natural disaster.

As many businesses in the French Quarter reported only about half the usual number of revellers, the CBS news poll discovered only five per cent of respondents were happy with the reconstruction effort in New Orleans, while 38 per cent thought there was little or no progress.

Vast stretches of New Orleans are still in ruins and tens of thousands of its residents are scattered far and wide across the land six months after the storm.

Katrina was a major turning point for the Bush administration. It was one of a politically poisonous mix of crises which have driven down the President's standing and threaten just how effectively his administration can govern in the future.

Along with his response to Hurricane Katrina, there was the ill-fated nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, violence in Iraq, and the deal giving a state-owned Arab company rights to operate six major US ports.

The CBS poll led to some unflattering historical comparisons.

CBS NEWSREADER: Lyndon Johnson was at 36 per cent in March 1968 when he decided not to run for another term. Some presidents have dipped below 30 – Richard Nixon, before he resigned in 1974, Jimmy Carter in 1979, Bush's father in 1992.

JOHN SHOVELAN: Iraq, the economy and energy are all negatives for the President. Weakened, he's now facing dissident republicans in the Congress who were once loyal to the letter and are now distancing themselves from him.

The former House majority leader Tom DeLay is one.

TOM DELAY: It's not often that I disagree with President Bush, but I do disagree with him on this one.

JOHN SHOVELAN: The President's 34 per cent approval rating is the lowest since he took office in 2001, and eight points lower than in January this year.

Asked about how he felt about the poor results, the President offered the standard political refrain for a modern day politician who's in electoral trouble.

GEORGE BUSH: You know, I know people make a big deal out of these things. If I worried about polls I would be… I wouldn't be doing my job. And I fully understand that when you do hard things it creates consternation at times, and you know, I've been up in the polls and I've been down in the polls and, you know, it's just part of life.

JOHN SHOVELAN: Of course President Bush doesn't have to face the electorate again, but control of the Congress is up for grabs this November and poorly performing presidents can have a profoundly negative impact on that outcome.

Take for example Bill Clinton in 1993. His approval rating was a lowly 37 per cent and Democrats lost control of the Congress at the next mid-term elections.

President Bush's once unassailable position on fighting terrorism has also turned negative.

With 70 per cent of Americans opposed to the Arab company taking control of the ports, President Bush is arguing in favour of the deal. It's an awkward political position and is considered the major cause for this slump.

Some political scientists believe that it will take a new crisis where President Bush displays leadership before he can shake off his low approval numbers.

John Shovelan, Washington.