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03/16/06 FOX News Poll: President Bush and Congress

Is George W. Bush now a lame-duck president? A new FOX News poll finds that over half of Americans think the president has lost a great deal of his power and effectiveness. The president's overall job approval rating remains stable this week and approval of Congress shows a modest decline. In addition, a majority of voters say they want to see Democrats make gains in Congress in the midterm election.

President Bush's job approval rating held steady this week at 39 percent, unchanged from polling conducted two weeks ago and 3 points higher than his record low rating of 36 percent approval (November 8-9, 2005). Just over half — 51 percent — disapprove of the job Bush is doing.

Bush's approval among Republicans has dropped 6 points since January and 13 points since last year this time. Today, 74 percent of Republicans approve, as do 36 percent of independents and 8 percent Democrats.

Approve of Bush Job Performance:
-- % "Approve" -- One year change
Now Last March
Democrats 8% 19% -11 points
Republicans 74% 87% -13 points
Independents 36% 38% -2 points

In addition to the 66-point partisan gap, there is a 10-point gender gap on Bush's job approval: 44 percent of men approve compared to 34 percent of women.

The new poll finds that 53 percent of voters think President Bush has "lost a great deal of his power and effectiveness because he cannot be re-elected" and is now a lame duck, while a large minority disagrees (42 percent).

Difference by political party is sizable, with more than twice as many Democrats (72 percent) as Republicans (32 percent) saying they think Bush is now a lame duck.

There may be some consolation for the president in the fact that his approval rating is more positive than Congress' approval rating. Only 29 percent of voters approve of the job Congress is doing today, while a 55 percent majority disapproves.

Even though Congress took action to keep the Dubai ports deal from going through — a deal largely opposed by the public — this week's rating is down slightly from earlier in the year when 34 percent of Americans said they approved of the job Congress was doing and 51 percent disapproved (January 24-25).

The new poll finds that Republicans have reclaimed some ground on the issue of terrorism. Republicans now lead Democrats by 9 percentage points as the political party trusted to do a better job protecting the country from terrorism, up from a slim 5-point edge during the height of the ports controversy, though still lower than the 13-point advantage Republicans held at the beginning of the year.

Trust to Protect Country From Terrorism:
March 14-15 Feb 28-Mar 1 Jan 10-11
Republicans 39% 38% 43%
Democrats 30 33 30
Both same 10 10 11
Neither 13 12 9

Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News on March 14-15.

On the upcoming midterm election, the poll finds that a majority wants to see changes on Capitol Hill. About one in three Americans (32 percent) say they want Republicans to keep control of both the House and Senate, while over half either want Democrats to win control of both houses (31 percent) or for control to be divided between Republicans and Democrats (26 percent).

"It is clear that while people once derided 'divided government' they now yearn for it," comments Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman. "The perception of many pundits that the Republicans have turned Congress into an unwavering endorser of presidential action rather than a check on his power has spilled over to the electorate."

When asked which will be more important in deciding their vote this fall, voters are almost evenly divided between federal spending and taxes (27 percent) and the situation in Iraq (26 percent). About one in five (18 percent) say local issues that their elected officials can affect will decide their vote for Congress.

Finally, a brief follow up on the ports deal. Now that the United Arab Emirates has agreed to give up management of some ports in the United States, 44 percent of Americans think the country is safer because an Arab country is not involved, while 33 percent say less safe because a relationship with an ally may have been damaged and 23 percent are unsure.

Who can be trusted to run the ports? A 62 percent majority says they would trust American-owned Halliburton more — almost eight times as many as say Dubai Ports World (8 percent), with 15 percent volunteering the unprompted response "neither."

• PDF: Click here for full poll results.