NEW YORK – Less than four months before Election Day, the latest FOX News Poll finds that voters strongly favor the Democrats on key issues such as the economy and gas prices, and give the minority party a double-digit lead for control of Congress this fall. For most of President Bush’s second term in office, more Americans have said they disapprove than approve of his job performance and that is again the case in this new poll.
The president’s approval rating dropped to 36 percent, down from 41 percent approval two weeks ago and 40 percent in mid-June. Bush lost ground this week among some key constituent groups, such as Republicans, whites and men. Overall, 53 percent of Americans say they disapprove.
"It is important to remember that the president got his bounce after the killing of al-Zarqawi in Iraq," comments Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman. "While administration officials were careful not to overplay the significance of this, it naturally created hope that things would get better. Several weeks of bloody footage from Iraq have pretty much dashed those hopes."
Despite the negative views on the job he’s doing, Americans believe President Bush has had a tough job assignment. A 61 percent majority — including 48 percent of Democrats, 62 percent of independents and 75 percent of Republicans — thinks Bush has had to face a larger number of difficult situations than most presidents deal with during their terms in office.
Americans think the most important issues facing the country today are Iraq (21 percent), the economy (11 percent) and health care (10 percent). On each of these, Democrats are seen as the party that can do a better job — by a razor-thin margin on Iraq (+2 percentage points), and by much more significant margins on the economy (+20 points) and health care (+29 points).
Even though it is extremely close, this is the first time the GOP is no longer the preferred party on Iraq: By 38 percent to 36 percent voters say they think the Democrats would do a better job handling the war.
On terrorism, Republicans, who once had as much as a 34-point advantage in 2003, now top Democrats by 12 percentage points. The related issue of border security is the only other item where Republicans are favored.
With Democrats preferred on most issues, as one might expect, they win the generic ballot test. By 42 percent to 34 percent, voters say they would support the Democratic candidate if the midterm election were held today. Their current 8-percentage point advantage is down from a 13-point edge last month (June 13-14).
Self-identified independent voters say they would back the Democratic candidate by 30 percent to 17 percent. Most Democrats say they would vote for their party’s candidate (82 percent), as do most Republicans (78 percent).
Among those saying they voted for Bush in the last election, 64 percent say they would vote for the Republican candidate and 12 percent the Democrat.
So far, interest in this year’s elections is modest: 19 percent of voters say they are extremely interested and another 38 percent very interested. Democrats (23 percent) are slightly more likely than Republicans (17 percent) to say they are extremely interested.
"It is worth noting," observes Gorman, "that ‘interest’ is one significant component of turnout scales. If Democrats are not only preferred but also turn out in higher numbers than Republicans, the current polls may actually be underestimating their strength."
Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from July 11 to July 12. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
Overall, nearly half of voters (48 percent) say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate if President Bush campaigns for them — that’s more than double the number that says they would be more likely to vote for that candidate (21 percent).
Response to the same question when asked of Sen. Hillary Clinton is more positive, but still a net negative. By 44 percent to 30 percent Americans say they would be ‘less’ rather than ‘more’ likely to vote a candidate if Clinton campaigns for them.
Independents are inclined to say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate if Clinton were to campaign for them (22 percent) than if Bush campaigned on a candidate’s behalf (7 percent).
Congressional Job Approval
Approval of Congress remains in the dumps: 25 percent of Americans say they approve, down from 29 percent a month ago, and 61 percent disapprove. While most Democrats disapprove (73 percent), they are not alone in their negative assessment of Congress — more than four of 10 Republicans (43 percent) disapprove as well. Congress’s approval rating has been below 30 percent since January, when 34 percent of voters said they approved.
These less than stellar ratings are not surprising when a majority (53 percent) thinks Congress is not working on issues that are important to most Americans, and 10 times as many people think Congress has gotten less work done this term (38 percent) as say more work done (3 percent). Half think this Congress has accomplished as much as it usually gets done in a term.
If Congress fails to pass an immigration bill, Americans think the blame should be shared fairly evenly between Republicans in Congress (22 percent), Democrats in Congress (21 percent) and President Bush (21 percent), with about the same number saying "all" would be to blame (24 percent).
The poll shows that a slim majority thinks legal immigration to this country should be decreased (51 percent) — double the number that says increased (24 percent). Some 41 percent think immigrants join society and "give to the country," though almost as many (36 percent) say immigrants stay separate and "take from the country."