05/19/06 FOX News Poll: Approval of Bush, Congress

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Views of the nation’s leaders are decidedly downbeat. Significantly more Americans still disapprove than approve of the job President George W. Bush is doing. According to this week’s FOX News national poll, 35 percent approve of Bush. Approval of Congress is even lower, as only 27 percent of voters give lawmakers a thumbs-up. And the outlook for the future is somewhat gloomy, as a slim majority thinks life for Americans is going to get worse over the next five years.

The poll shows 35 percent of Americans approve of President Bush’s job performance and 56 percent disapprove. The president’s approval rating has remained below 40 percent since March of this year, and dipped to a low of 33 percent last month (April 18-19).

For the opposite end of Pennsylvania Avenue, similar negative views are found: 27 percent approve of the job Congress is doing and 56 percent disapprove. Approval of Congress has been below 30 percent in the two previous polls, both conducted in 2006.

Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News on May 16-18. The margin of error is plus- or minus-3 percent.

Despite a majority disapproving of the larger legislative body, when voters are asked to rate their own representative the results reverse. A 53 percent majority says they approve of the job their representative is doing -- significantly more than the 28 percent who disapprove.

"This is a relatively common phenomenon," comments Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman. "Respondents almost always rate institutions worse than particular members of the institution -- particularly ones close to them personally. For example, people will rate the public schools very badly, but find their own child’s school good, and the actual classroom their child is in as excellent or outstanding."

On a range of issues, Republicans are about twice as likely to be blamed for "not doing enough" as Democrats are to be blamed for "blocking action." For example, 31 percent say Republicans are not doing enough on the issue of ethics in Washington, 13 percent say Democrats are blocking action and 13 percent say Congress is doing a good job.

2006 Congressional Election

Democrats continue to have the edge over Republicans in the upcoming midterm elections. The poll shows that by a 46 percent to 29 percent margin, voters think it would be better for the country if the Democrats win control of Congress in this year’s elections.

As would be expected, almost all Democrats (82 percent) think it would be better for the country if their party wins and most Republicans (72 percent) think it would be better if their party retains control. What about swing voters? Among independents, 42 percent say Democrats and 10 percent Republicans -- with a sizable minority saying "no difference" or "neither" (39 percent).

For most Americans, the president will play a role in how they decide their vote for Congress. By an 18-percentage point margin voters say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who opposes President Bush on the issues (38 percent) than a candidate who supports the president (20 percent). Thirty-nine percent say Bush will not be a factor in their vote for Congress.

Regardless of how they plan to vote, Americans do not think Democrats should try to impeach President Bush over the Iraq war if they win in November. By a 62 percent to 30 percent margin, voters say it would be wrong for Democrats to try to impeach Bush. Even Democrats are fairly divided on this issue: 48 percent say it would be right, 43 percent disagree.

Nearly half of the public (49 percent) believes most members of the news media want Democrats to win this year’s elections and 16 percent think reporters want Republicans to win.

The Quality of Life In America

How’s life? Many people think the quality of life for Americans today is pretty good, while almost as many think it could be better. Just over half rate it positively (14 percent "excellent" and 38 percent "good"), and nearly half rate it negatively (33 percent "only fair" and 13 percent "poor").

In addition, people are pessimistic about what’s ahead. More than half think life for Americans is going to get worse over the next five years (53 percent), including 26 percent who say "a lot" worse. Less than a third say life will get better (9 percent "a lot" and 20 percent "a little").

The changes in these results since the questions were last asked are striking. In March 2004, the consensus was that the quality of life for Americans was either excellent or good (75 percent); moreover, twice as many rated it as excellent at that time (30 percent).

And the number who think life for average Americans is going to get better is down by 13-percentage points since July 2004, while the portion saying it is going to get worse has gone up by 26 points.

Why the gloom? Maybe a partial answer can be found in what is top of mind for Americans. People say the topics that come up most often these days in conversations with friends and neighbors are gas prices (29 percent), Iraq (13 percent), immigration (9 percent), politics (6 percent) and the economy (6 percent).

PDF: Click here for full poll results