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Fox News Poll: Wide GOP Lead Among Interested Voters; Obama Job Approval Hits New Low

With less than 50 days until Election Day, American voters favor Republicans over Democrats by a six percentage-point margin, and that advantage widens among those voters most interested in the election. After the economy, the next most important issue to voters is the trustworthiness of candidates.

Meanwhile, President Obama’s job rating has hit a new low.

These are some of the findings of a Fox News poll released Friday.

When asked who they would back if voting in the Congressional election today, 46 percent of voters say the Republican candidate in their district and 40 percent the Democrat. Two weeks ago the GOP lead was 46-37 percent (1-2 Sept 2010). And when the results are narrowed to voters who say they are certain they will vote in November, that gap widens to 9 points.

The Republican advantage expands to 20 points when looking only at results among voters who say they are extremely or very interested in the election -- a group that includes more Republicans (75 percent extremely/very interested) than Democrats (50 percent extremely/very interested).

More Republicans (91 percent) than Democrats (85 percent) say they plan to vote for their party’s candidate. The vote among independents is split evenly between the parties (30 percent each). Voters who consider themselves part of the Tea Party movement (21 percent in this poll) are more likely to vote Republican by a 63-point margin.

By a spread of 47-43 percent, more voters say it would be “good for the country” if all the current members of Congress were booted (including their own representative) and all new people were elected. That includes 59 percent of Republicans, 45 percent of independents and 36 percent of Democrats.

Two-thirds don’t think elected officials in Washington can relate to the lives of everyday Americans, and 80 percent think the United States is seen as weaker today in the eyes of the world compared to a few years ago.

Who should hold the gavel in the next session of Congress? Thirty-seven percent want Democrat Nancy Pelosi to keep her job as House Speaker. A larger number though -- 47 percent -- would rather see a Republican take over as leader. While 77 percent of Democrats want Pelosi to stay as speaker, some 9 percent would prefer a Republican and another 9 percent would prefer a different Democrat.

President’s Approval Hits New Low
President Obama’s job approval hit a new low this week. Overall, 42 percent of voters approve of the job he is doing, down from 46 percent earlier in September, and 52 percent disapprove. Compare that to his 54 percent approval rating a year ago (15-16 Sept. 2009), and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s current 66 percent approval rating.

Even fewer voters -- 40 percent -- approve of the job Obama is doing on the economy, and 56 percent disapprove.

In addition, the largest number -- 43 percent -- thinks Obama is spending too little time on the economy. However, nearly as many -- 41 percent -- say he’s spending the right amount of time.

A sizable 70 percent majority feels nervous about the economy compared to 24 percent who feel confident. Meanwhile, a 38 percent plurality of voters says they are “working harder and earning less.” That’s more than triple the 12 percent who are “working harder and earning more.” Some 37 percent are working harder and earning the same.

Sixty-one percent are optimistic about the future of the country. That’s down from 77 percent who felt that way when Obama took office (January 2009).

Even so, 78 percent feel at least somewhat confident about their personal financial future, including 30 percent who are “very” confident. That’s a slight improvement from when Obama took office. In January 2009, 74 percent were confident about their financial future (24 percent “very” confident).

The Obama administration frequently blames former President George W. Bush for the way things are going in the country. So far, Bush hasn’t responded. The poll found voters approve of Bush’s restraint. Sixty-two percent have more respect for him for keeping quiet, while 25 percent would have more respect if he responded.

The Fox News Poll involved telephone interviews with 900 randomly chosen registered voters and was conducted by Opinion Dynamics Corp. from September 14 - September 16. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points for the total sample.

Click here to see full poll results (pdf).

Trustworthiness Rivals Economy as Top Issue
The economy remains the top issue to voters this year, as 57 percent say it will be “extremely” important in their decision. What’s the second most important issue? Trustworthiness of candidates takes that spot -- 53 percent say it will be “extremely” important to their vote.

Forty-eight percent say government spending and 46 percent say health care will be “extremely” important to their vote for Congress this year, followed by the federal deficit (43 percent), taxes (43 percent), terrorism (41 percent), immigration (32 percent) and Afghanistan (27 percent).

Republicans have an 11 percentage-point advantage among voters who say the economy is "extremely” important to their vote for Congress. For those say the same about the trustworthiness of candidates, Republicans have an 18-point edge. The GOP has a 29-point edge among voters saying the issue of taxes will be “extremely” important.

For those who say health care is “extremely” important, Republicans holds a 12-point edge. That said, voters are fairly evenly split over repealing the new health care law -- 44 percent want it repealed, while 43 percent want it to stay in place.

More than 7 of 10 Republicans (71 percent) favor repealing the health care law. A majority of Democrats (67 percent) and a plurality of independents (45 percent) oppose repealing it.
When asked what makes them more upset, more voters say that the bill became law at all (47 percent) than say they are upset the law doesn’t do more (36 percent).

More than twice as many voters think the national debt (59 percent) is the greater threat to the country’s future than terrorism (24 percent). Still, that’s a smaller spread than six months ago when almost three times as many said the debt was the greater threat (65-23 percent, March 2010).

Democrats do best among voters who say Afghanistan will be “extremely” important to their vote, yet still trailing Republicans on this issue by 4 points.

Tax Cuts
Overall, when voters are asked about the Bush tax cuts, by more than two-to-one voters say they should continue (63 - 26 percent).

Going a step further, 40 percent think the tax cuts should continue for everyone, compared to 44 percent who agree they should remain only on income below $250,000. Ten percent would let them expire altogether.

Likewise, views are evenly split over whether there should be a tax increase on “high-income earners” -- 48 percent support an increase and 47 percent are opposed.

A majority of Republicans (61 percent) think the Bush tax cuts should continue for everyone. Majorities of Democrats (57 percent) and independents (55 percent) say they should continue only on income below $250,000.

Those with annual household incomes $100,000 or higher are more likely to say the tax cuts should continue for everyone by a slim 42-40 percent margin. By comparison, those with incomes $50,000 or below are more likely to think the tax cuts should continue just for the middle class by a 44-38 percent margin.

Few people put themselves in the “rich” category. Just 5 percent consider themselves part of the upper class. Half identify as middle class (50 percent), while 37 percent identify as working class and 8 percent lower class.