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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 January, 2005, 10:55 GMT
US divided as Bush is sworn in
By Michael Buchanan
BBC News, Washington

George W Bush may have won the popular vote, but as he begins his second term, American opinion on him and his policies seems as divided as ever.

US President George W Bush
Opinion polls have shown Bush has had no post-election honeymoon

Paul Davis and Jay Shannon are both middle-aged men.

They pepper their conversations with references to God or the Church.

Both care deeply about their families and their communities.

But the two proud Americans have sharply contrasting views of their country, its leader and the world around them.

They have never met and it is unlikely they ever will.

They live over 2,000 miles apart in communities that each would regard as another world.

Paul lives in south-east Washington, a poor, black inner-city neighbourhood, with high levels of crime, poverty and unemployment.

Jay lives in Provo, an expanding, prosperous conservative city in Utah.

In November's presidential election, a measly 3.3% of the residents of Council Ward 8 in south-east Washington backed George W Bush.

In Utah County, which surrounds Provo, the president received a thumping 86% of the vote.

Unsurprisingly, as Mr Bush starts his second term, Jay and Paul - and their communities - have very different expectations of what the next four years will bring.

No opportunities

Paul is a compact African-American with a trim grey beard and short tight dreadlocks.

He has run his own barber shop in Washington for almost 25 years.

He laments the lack of opportunities for young people, the absence of after-school programmes, the hours parents have to work to make ends meet.

DIVIDED NATION
How deep are the partisan divides in Bush's America?

All of which he says ends up turning youngsters into drug-dealing, murdering criminals.

And nothing that Mr Bush did over the past four years gives him any hope that things will improve this time.

Listening in on our conversation is William Lawson. He is one of Paul's regular clients, and he is also angry with the president, but as a Vietnam veteran his chief complaint is the war in Iraq.

He does not understand why, after toppling Saddam Hussein, the US is still there. After all, they do not want us, he says.

And with a son in Iraq he hopes the president at least brings the troops home during his second term.

Unpopular policies

William's sentiments reflect the wider African-American community. They have been more opposed to the war than other Americans.

US and Australian soldiers in Iraq
US casualties deepened the anti-war feeling among African-Americans
They perceive the conflict to be putting a greater burden on their neighbourhoods, and certainly black soldiers were being killed at a disproportionately high rate during the initial stages of the conflict.

Even though the numbers have now stabilised, the opposition remains.

Another of the president's policies, his tax cuts, did not help him either, says local councillor Kwame Brown.

Not only do most people think they benefited Mr Bush's rich friends, he told me, but in areas crying out for government help, they took away a potential source of hope.

Despite the gloom in south-east Washington, I know that nationally, Mr Bush increased his support within the African-American community by 2% in the election.

That is mainly explained by the influence of conservative black churches who felt that the president's vocal opposition to gay marriage should be supported.

Conservative values

The stance certainly bolstered Mr Bush's performance in Provo. In a city whose main characteristic is its integral relationship with the Mormon Church, the president's social conservatism is what matters most.

A gay couple marry
Gay marriage is a highly controversial issue in the US
When I dropped by to see Jay Shannon, he had only just returned from church and was still dressed in his dark suit and braces.

He knows Mr Bush will stand firm on the moral values that are his own moral values.

Marriage is clearly defined as a union between a man and a woman, he says, and he does not want his children - and I counted five of them - to be taught that a relationship between two men is as reasonable and natural as relations between a man and a woman.

Time and again people in the Utah Valley talked to me about Mr Bush's character, his love of family, his honesty, his can-do attitude, his belief in God.

At home they want new tax cuts, further restrictions on abortion, and the appointment of more conservative judges.

Abroad, they want the US to stay on the offensive, to continue to rid the world of terrorists.

Spreading democracy

They express a desire for other countries to better understand America's motivations.

As another of Mr Bush's supporters, Denise Ashworth, a mother of five, put it: "We see the democracy and the freedoms that we have, and we want others to have them as well."

The people I met may sound like stereotypes but they are all real, each with their different struggles and priorities.

For Paul, living in a difficult inner-city neighbourhood, the next four years are to be endured.

For Jay, who calls an affluent, close-knit city his home, the president's second term is to be enjoyed.

What is similar about both communities is the passion with which they express their beliefs; proof positive that for all his electoral success George W Bush is as polarising a president at home as he is abroad.

From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Thursday, 20 January, 2005 at 1100 GMT on BBC Radio 4. Please check the programme schedules for World Service transmission times.

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