NEW YORK – There has been little change in the past two weeks regarding intentions for the upcoming congressional election; by a 9-point margin, voters say they would vote for the Democratic candidate for Congress over the Republican if the election were held today, compared with an 11-point margin two weeks ago. Only 11 percent of voters say the congressional page scandal will be extremely important to their vote, although nearly half see the scandal as part of a larger pattern of Washington abuse of power rather than an isolated incident.
These are just some of the findings from the latest FOX News Poll.
The job approval rating of President Bush is down slightly compared with the previous poll. Currently, 40 percent of voters approve of his job performance and 56 percent disapprove. Two weeks ago, 42 percent approved of his performance.
About three in 10 voters approve of the job Congress is doing, while 63 percent disapprove. A majority of Republicans (54 percent) approve of the job Congress is doing, while the same is true of only 24 percent of independents and 14 percent of Democrats.
If the election were held today, 50 percent of voters would vote for the Democratic candidate in their congressional district, while 41 percent would vote for the Republican. Most Democrats and Republicans would support their party’s candidates. Independents are more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate by a 48 to 33 margin.
In addition, voters are more likely to hold a favorable opinion of the Democratic Party — 52 percent of voters have a positive view of the Democratic Party, while 42 percent hold a favorable view of the Republican Party.
Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 likely voters for FOX News from October 10 to October 11. The poll has a 3-point margin of error.
About four in 10 say they will cast their vote primarily or in part to express opposition to Bush administration policies; 31 percent say their vote will express support for Bush policies, and 22 percent say these policies will not impact their vote.
Most voters who plan to vote for the Democratic candidate say their vote is based more on a belief that it is extremely important to change leadership in Congress, rather than because they agree with the policies of the Democratic Party, by a 65 to 15 margin.
What issues are voters focusing on in deciding their vote for Congress? Voters are more likely to be focusing on national and international issues than on state and local issues — 40 percent and 23 percent respectively.
Voters continue to focus on Iraq, terrorism, and the economy as key issues for the upcoming election — 45 percent say the situation in Iraq is extremely important to their vote, while 39 percent say the same about terrorism and the economy.
Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say the situation in Iraq is extremely important to their vote by a 20-point margin. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to be motivated by the issue of terrorism by an 8-point margin.
Voters are distinguishing between the congressional page scandal and the general issue of political corruption. While 36 percent of voters say the issue of political corruption is extremely important to their vote, only 11 percent say the same is true of the congressional page scandal.
Less than one in five voters say the page scandal will affect their vote; 12 percent are more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate in their district as a result, 4 percent are more likely to vote for the Republican, and 1 percent less likely to vote in general.
While few voters say the page scandal is important to their vote, many see the issue as part of a larger problem in Washington — 48 percent of voters say the scandal is part of a larger pattern of abuse of power, while 42 percent see it as an isolated incident.
"The actions of Rep. Foley alone would most likely not be a serious problem for the Republican Party outside of his district," says Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman. "However, the perceived party response to the problem, along with reports of other ethics problems facing party members may make the congressional page scandal into a much more serious election issue for the Republicans as a whole."
Two-thirds of voters say they think the Republicans knew about Rep. Foley’s inappropriate behavior and intentionally failed to take action. At the same time, there is also suspicion of the Democrats’ on the scandal as 49 percent say the Democrats also knew about the behavior and waited until the election approached to release the information. A majority of independents agrees with each of these statements.
Dennis Hastert, despite being in the public eye as a result of the congressional page scandal, remains largely unknown to many voters; 44 percent say they have never heard of him and an additional 14 percent are unable to rate him. Overall, 15 percent have a favorable view of Hastert and 27 percent have an unfavorable view.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi earns similar ratings: 19 percent have a favorable opinion of her, 26 percent unfavorable, and 56 percent either can’t say or have not heard of her.
The public is divided as to how Foley’s actions compare to the relationship between former President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky; 47 percent believe that the actions of Foley are worse than what Clinton did, 19 percent say what Clinton did was worse, and 31 percent see no difference between the two.
Views are largely divided among party lines — Democrats believe what Foley did was worse by a 65 to 8 margin, while Republicans believe what Clinton did was worse by 33 to 26 percent.
"It is notable," comments Gorman, "that this is probably the best result for Clinton among Republicans since he was first elected. Nearly as many find him less guilty as find him more so."
Voters clearly do not see sex scandals as something unique to the Republican Party — 33 percent believe that Democrats have had more sex scandals, while only 10 percent say the same is true of Republicans.
Finally, when asked whether voters would want their own children or teenagers they know to be interns or pages on Capitol Hill, 68 percent say they would while 29 percent say they would not.
PDF: Click here for full poll results.