01/12/06 FOX News Poll: Views on Washington

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In the wake of lobbyist Jack Abramoff's guilty plea on federal corruption charges, a new FOX News poll shows that Americans think most elected officials in Washington have made policy decisions or taken actions as a direct result of campaign contributions. Even so, job ratings for both political parties on Capitol Hill have inched up.

The new poll finds that 65 percent of Americans think "most" elected officials in Washington have taken a bribe, though that drops to 44 percent when the question is asked about their own congressional representative.

A 40 percent plurality thinks both sides of the aisle are equally corrupt, 33 percent say Republicans are more corrupt and 15 percent say Democrats are.

Who's at fault? One third blame both lawmakers and lobbyists for the current corruption and bribery in Washington, while 32 percent fault lawmakers — slightly more than the 25 percent that place the blame on lobbyists.

On January 3, Abramoff pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges and now is cooperating with investigators; the new poll finds that 57 percent of Americans are familiar with the case.

Most people think elected officials who received contributions from Abramoff should donate the money to charity (56 percent) or return it (29 percent). Fewer than one in 10 think it is okay to keep the money.

And, while Election Day is months away, right now about three-quarters of voters say if a candidate took contributions from Abramoff it will be a factor in deciding their vote (44 percent "major" factor and 33 percent "minor" factor).

Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News on January 10-11.

Job ratings for both political parties on Capitol Hill have actually inched up a notch since before the lobbyist scandal. Today 39 percent approve and 41 percent disapprove of the job Democrats in Congress are doing, up from 33 percent approve and 47 percent disapprove in November. As for Republicans in Congress, 37 percent approve and 49 percent disapprove now, while two months ago 34 percent of Americans approved and 50 percent disapproved.

2006 Vote for Congress

As for vote preference, by an 11-percentage point margin, voters think it would be better for the country if Democrats win control of Congress in the midterm election this year than if the Republicans win. In September, Democrats had an 8-point edge.

"While it is a long time until the elections, Democratic prospects for gains seem good," comments Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman. "Even though many people see both parties as at least somewhat corrupt, independents see Republicans as more tied to Abramoff by a 33 percent to 5 percent margin. In a country so closely divided a swing this large among the independents could easily tilt some seats to the Democrats."

Right now, voters say the most important issue in deciding their vote this fall will be the economy (23 percent), though some would argue that when Iraq (18 percent) and terrorism (11 percent) are combined that puts the overarching issue of security at the top of the list.

The poll also asked about the president's role in deciding their vote. Some 26 percent say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports President Bush on the issues, 34 percent for a candidate who opposes Bush, while the largest portion — 36 percent — say Bush will not be a major factor in deciding their vote.

The president's job performance rating remains stable this month, with 42 percent of Americans saying they approve, unchanged from December and up from 36 percent in early November — the lowest rating of his presidency.

It may be a new year, but it's the same story on party affiliation driving the president's ratings: 80 percent of Republicans approve of the job Bush is doing and 82 percent of Democrats disapprove.

Supreme Court Nominee Samuel Alito

Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito started this week. Nearly half of Americans (45 percent) say they would vote to confirm him, 30 percent would vote against and 25 percent are unsure. The survey was conducted in the evenings of the second and third days of the hearings — before many people had a chance to digest what they had heard or read about the nominee.

There are huge partisan differences on the nominee. Republicans are 53 percentage points more likely than Democrats and 37 points more likely than independents to say they would vote for Alito.

Among other groups, men are 8 percentage points more likely than women to support Alito's confirmation, and older Americans are 14 points more likely than young people to do so.

• PDF: Click here for full poll results.