NEW YORK – As the midterm elections approach, voters say they are much more likely to support a challenger over the incumbent candidate, according to a new FOX News Poll. In addition, "throw the bums out" is a popular choice when voters pick bumper sticker wording to describe the main reason for their vote for Congress this year. President Bush’s job rating is unchanged this month holding steady at 36 percent approval.
Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from August 8 to August 9. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
If the only piece of information a voter had was that one candidate was the incumbent and the other was a newcomer, the poll finds that by 46 percent to 21 percent people say they would be more inclined to vote for the challenger.
Democrats (63 percent) and independents (51 percent) are much more likely than Republicans (22 percent) to say they would vote for the challenger.
If the election were held today, 48 percent of Americans say they would vote for the Democratic candidate in their congressional district and 30 percent for the Republican candidate. This 18-percentage point edge is up from an 8-point advantage in mid-July and a 13-point lead in June.
"It is clear that the Republicans need some good news between now and November to recover their electoral strength," comment Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman. "Increasingly this election looks like it will be decided by the ugly mood of the electorate."
The Democrats’ lead is obtained by not only retaining the support of most self-identified Democrats (89 percent), but also support from a large minority of independents (38 percent). Only 14 percent of independents say they would vote for the Republican candidate today. The level of support among party faithful is lower among Republicans, as 79 percent say they would vote for the GOP candidate.
When asked how they would describe the main reason for their vote in short, bumper sticker language, anti-incumbent sentiments are clear. A plurality (23 percent) says "throw all the bums out," while "I like my Representative" gets the least amount of support (10 percent).
Overall, people were almost equally likely to say their vote was to show support for President Bush (17 percent) as to say it was to show opposition to the president (20 percent).
Among Democrats, the main reason for their vote was to show opposition to Bush (36 percent), followed by "throw the bums out" (26 percent) and "I support my Representative’s party" (14 percent).
Republicans were most likely to say the top reason for their vote was to show support for Bush (38 percent), followed by "throw the bums out" (16 percent) and "I support my Representative’s party" (14 percent).
Most voters say Iraq (81 percent), the economy (78 percent) and gas prices (76 percent) will be "very important" to their vote for Congress this fall, with about two-thirds (65 percent) saying immigration will be very important.
Among those saying Iraq will be very important to their vote, 48 percent say they plan to back the Democratic candidate and 31 percent the Republican candidate in the upcoming election.
Today almost a quarter of voters (23 percent) says they are "extremely interested" in the upcoming elections, with interest levels fairly even between Democrats and Republicans.
The same number says they have been following news coverage of the midterms "very closely" (23 percent), which is significantly less than the portion that is following news about Iraq (63 percent "very closely") and the heat wave (43 percent), though more than are following Fidel Castro’s health (14 percent) and Mel Gibson’s arrest (12 percent).
The new poll finds the 36 percent of Americans approve of President Bush’s job performance and 56 percent disapprove. These results are in line with the ratings the president has received for the last couple of months. Moreover, for the past three surveys the gap between approval among Republicans (76 percent) and Democrats (10 percent) has been 66 percentage points.
The assessment of the job Congress is doing continues to be abysmal, as more than twice as many Americans say they disapprove (58 percent) as approve (24 percent).
A slim 51-percent majority approves of the job Condoleezza Rice is doing as secretary of state; 32 percent disapprove.
Ratings of President Bush as a person are a couple of points more positive than his job rating: 39 percent say they have a favorable opinion of him and 56 percent unfavorable.
Finally, 63 percent of Americans say they want President Bush to succeed, including majorities of not only Republicans (90 percent), but also independents (63 percent). Just over half (51 percent) of Democrats say they do not want the president to succeed.
PDF: Click here for full poll results