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Fox News Poll: Republicans Maintain Lead in Midterms

American voters would give the edge to Republicans over Democrats by a 9-percentage point margin if the Congressional election were held today, according to a Fox News poll. 

The poll released Thursday finds that 48 percent of likely voters say they'd back the Republican candidate in their congressional district, while 39 percent say they'd support the Democratic candidate. Recent Fox News polls of registered voters have shown a Republican advantage of six to nine percentage points.

More Republicans than Democrats continue to say they are extremely or very interested in the upcoming elections, but this “interest gap” has narrowed. The new poll found 71 percent of Republicans are interested in the election, down from 75 percent a month ago. Among Democrats, 64 percent are interested now, up from 50 percent earlier. As a result, the interest gap has gone from 25 points in mid-September to 7 points now.

It’s a gloomy electorate heading to the ballot box this year. Three of four voters -- 75 percent -- are extremely or very worried about the future of the country, and 61 percent think life will be worse for their kids. Just 27 percent think life for the next generation of Americans will be better than life today.

Overall, majorities of voters disapprove of the job Congressional Republicans (60 percent) and Congressional Democrats (57 percent) are doing. In fact, by 55-35 percent, more voters think an “everyday American” could do a better job than most current members of Congress. When asked if they personally could do a better job -- the number drops to 43 percent.

Do voters think the economy would be in better shape today if President Obama had handled things differently? Views are split: 37 percent think things would be better if Obama had focused more on the economy instead of working on health care. About the same number -- 38 percent -- think he should have done less on the economy and not passed the stimulus plan and government bailouts.

Blame for economic conditions gets placed fairly solidly on “previous Republican policies” (50 percent) rather than “President Obama and the Democrats” (22 percent). Some 17 percent blame both and six percent neither.

Yet, by an 8-point margin, more voters say they have personally been hurt (27 percent) than helped (19 percent) by Obama’s economic program. The largest number -- nearly half of voters -- say the president’s programs have not made a difference either way for them (46 percent).

In addition, the administration has failed to convince a majority of voters that patience will pay off: 45 percent think Obama’s economic policies will help the country’s economy in the long run and 44 percent think they will hurt.
Compare that to another president in the middle of tough economic times: 60 percent of voters said Ronald Reagan’s economic program eventually would help the country and 27 percent said it would hurt (CBS News/New York Times Poll conducted 23-28 October 1982).

One more interesting note from the 1982 election that confirms the old political adage, “it’s all about turnout.” While the CBS pre-election poll found strong optimism that Reagan’s economic program would eventually help the economy, that didn’t hold true among actual voters. CBS exit polling of voters as they left their voting place found just 49 percent felt Reagan’s economic program would help in the long run and 43 percent said hurt. Those upset about President Reagan’s economic policies were more motivated to vote, and Democrats gained 26 seats in the House that year.

Voter Priorities

Voters are twice as likely to say they would back a candidate they agree with on economic issues (59 percent) over a candidate who shares their views on social issues (31 percent).

The new poll also found that by 58 percent-31 percent, voters are more likely to support the candidate they agree with more often, but who also “says some off-the-wall things” over a candidate they agree with less often, but who is more “conventional.”

Voters this election season are interested in smaller government, as 50 percent say it feels like the government is doing too much compared to 40 percent who think the government should do more to solve the problems facing the country. Among likely voters, that spread widens to 20 points -- 56 percent think the government is doing too much, while 36 percent think it should do more.

Even so, the poll found “spending to create jobs” (41 percent) is picked as the highest priority for Congress next year, topping both “reducing the federal budget deficit” (30 percent) and “cutting taxes” (16 percent).

On the issue of how Congress should handle health care, over half would like to see the new law repealed entirely (27 percent) or partially repealed (27 percent). Another 19 percent want the health care law expanded. One voter in six (17 percent) would leave the new law in its current form.

The national telephone poll was conducted for Fox News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 1200 registered voters from October 11 to October 13. For the total sample, the poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

For the subgroup of 687 likely voters, the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 points.

Presidential Job Performance

Currently 43 percent of Americans voters approve of the job President Obama is doing and 47 percent disapprove. At the end of September it was 42-49 percent. Among likely voters the approval is the same at 43 percent, while disapproval is 5 points higher at 52 percent.

The president is more of a negative than a positive for candidates this election. A larger portion of likely voters say they would be more inclined to vote for a candidate who opposes President Obama on key issues (38 percent) than for a candidate who supports the president (31 percent). About a third -- 30 percent -- says the president won’t be a factor in their vote for Congress.

Click here to view the raw data