Fox News Poll: Voters Use Midterm Elections to Send Message to White House

With the balance of power in Congress at stake, many voters plan to register dissatisfaction with a Democratic-controlled White House – making the midterm elections a referendum on President Obama.

A Fox News poll released Thursday finds that 41 percent will use their vote this year to express opposition to Obama's policies, compared to 34 percent who describe their vote as expressing support. The message is even clearer among the swing group of independent voters: by an 11 percentage-point margin, independents will cast their ballot to express opposition (41 percent) rather than support (30 percent) for Obama.

That's not surprising given the lack of support for some of the administration's policies. More voters favor rather than oppose repealing the new health care law (46-42 percent). That includes 24 percent of Democrats and 44 percent of independents who want the law repealed.

And by a wide 54-36 percent margin, voters favor legislation stopping the government from spending the hundreds of billions of dollars of unspent stimulus money.

While 57 percent say the Tea Party will not be a factor in their vote for Congress, fully 70 percent of voters support the "main issues the Tea Party has raised" -- calling for lower taxes, less government spending and less government regulation. That includes 49 percent of Democrats.

Those who will use their vote to make a statement on the Tea Party are more likely to cast their ballot as an expression of support for the movement rather than opposition (21-13 percent). It’s important to note the new poll finds just 13 percent consider themselves "part of" the Tea Party movement.

Almost all voters -- 86 percent -- say it feels like the country is still in a recession.

Nearly four in 10 (37 percent) say their family is worse off today compared to two years ago. Just over half (52 percent) say their situation hasn’t changed. Only 11 percent say they are better off today.

Meanwhile, Obama's job rating remains low. Currently 42 percent of voters approve, matching last week’s record low, and 49 percent disapprove. Two weeks ago the president’s rating hit a new low approval (42 percent) and record high disapproval (52 percent).

In addition, 46 percent think Obama is doing a good job "listening to the American people," down slightly from 49 percent in February. Forty-three percent think he’s doing a bad job listening. Yet the president fares better on this measure than those on Capitol Hill. Majorities think Democrats (59 percent) and Republicans in Congress (55 percent) are doing a bad job listening to the American people.

Overall, 72 percent disapprove of the job Congress is doing, including 56 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of independents and 89 percent of Republicans. Likewise, 67 percent agree that the federal government has gotten “totally out of control” and American voters need to clean house.

The national telephone poll was conducted for Fox News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 900 registered voters from September 28 to September 29. For the total sample, the poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Click here to view the complete poll results

Republicans Maintain Edge in 2010 Vote

More Republicans (78 percent) than Democrats (60 percent) are extremely or very interested in the upcoming election, and those who consider themselves part of the Tea Party movement are the most interested group of voters this year (89 percent). In addition, a larger number of Republicans (83 percent) than Democrats (71 percent) are "certain" they will vote in the upcoming election.

That turns into an advantage for the Republicans. With Election Day less than five weeks away, by a 44-38 percent margin, more voters say they would back the Republican candidate in their district than the Democratic candidate if voting today. In mid-September, Republicans also had a 6-point edge on this generic ballot question (46-40 percent).

Among those who are extremely or very interested in the election, the Republican edge increases to 15 points (51-36 percent).

Not only are more Republicans (89 percent) than Democrats (82 percent) backing their party’s candidate, but also Democrats (20 percent) are more than twice as likely as Republicans (9 percent) to say they "dread" voting this year.

Ninety-three percent of those who consider themselves part of the Tea Party, as well as 82 percent of Republicans, 69 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of independents are “looking forward” to voting this year.

Clinton Preferred Over Obama on Campaign Trail

While 35 percent of voters say they would be more likely to support a candidate if Obama campaigns for them, nearly half -- 48 percent -- say they would be less likely to do so.

Among independents, the president would do even more harm. By a 29-point spread, independents would be less likely (48 percent) to vote for a candidate Obama backs rather than more likely (19 percent).

It's a similar story for First Lady Michelle Obama -- voters would be less likely to vote for a candidate if she campaigns for them by 16 points.

For former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, the effect is about the same: by 19 points voters overall would be less likely to vote for a candidate she backs, and by 20-points independents would be less likely.

The most positive response was for former President Bill Clinton. Some 39 percent say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate Clinton backed, while 40 percent say less likely. Even so, among independents, Clinton would do more harm than good: 25 percent say they would be more likely and 40 percent less likely.

Congress Should Vote on Tax Cuts before Election

Most voters -- 76 percent -- favor continuing the Bush tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 a year. That drops to 45 percent support for extending the tax cuts for all Americans, including those making $250,000 or more.

Still, 71 percent think raising taxes right now would be a "mistake" because it would hurt the economy. That’s more than three times as many as think raising taxes is a “necessity” because of the size of the federal deficit (19 percent).

Either way, a 65 percent majority thinks Congress should take action on the Bush tax cuts before the upcoming midterm elections so lawmakers can be held accountable for their vote. That includes more than 6 in 10 Democrats, Republicans and independents.

The Republicans New Pledge to America

Nearly half of voters (47 percent) say they are familiar with the Republican Party’s new “Pledge to America,” which was announced September 23.

Of those at least somewhat familiar with the new Pledge, many more have a favorable (46 percent) than an unfavorable (35 percent) impression of it. For 9 percent it is too soon to say.

Click here to view the raw data