08/31/06 FOX News Poll: Economy, Iraq and Terrorism Top Issues for Midterm Voters

A new FOX News poll shows that the economy along with the situation in Iraq and terrorism are the top issues voters will consider in the upcoming midterm election. On Iraq, a candidate’s current stance on how much longer U.S. troops should stay is much more important to voters than a candidate’s original position on going to war. President Bush’s job approval rating is up a couple of points from earlier in the month and currently stands at 38 percent.

Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from August 29 to August 30. The poll has a 3-point error margin.

Overall, almost one out of four voters says the economy (23 percent) will be the most important issue on their mind when they vote this fall, followed by the situation in Iraq (14 percent) and terrorism (12 percent). Here’s how the remaining issues rank: health care (11 percent), immigration (9 percent), gas prices (8 percent), Social Security (7 percent) and ethics in Washington (6 percent).

For Democrats, the top issues are the economy (26 percent) and Iraq (17 percent). Republicans pick terrorism (22 percent) and the economy (19 percent), with only a few citing Iraq as the main issue deciding their vote (7 percent).

Voters who say the economy is most important are more likely to back the Democratic candidate by 30 percentage points; voters who put Iraq as the main issue are much more likely to vote for the Democrat by 47 points. For terrorism voters, the advantage goes to the Republican by 42 points.

On announcing a timetable for withdrawing from Iraq, the poll finds that by a 10-point margin more people think it is "crazy" to announce a departure date (48 percent) than think it is "smart" to let the Iraqi people know a date by which they will need to stand on their own (38 percent).

A candidate’s position on when/if U.S. troops should be withdrawn from Iraq is significantly more important to voters than whether the candidate supported or opposed going to war in the first place. By a 60 percent to 22 percent margin, the candidate’s current position on troop withdrawal will be the larger factor in voting this fall.

"Since most Americans supported the war initially and many have now had second thoughts, it is only logical that they care more about the candidate’s current position than his or her original one," comments Opinion Chairman John Gorman. "If they hold candidates to their original views, they might have to do more thinking about the evolution of their own ideas."

Majorities of Democrats (66 percent), Republicans (57 percent) and independents (56 percent) say they will be looking at the candidate’s current stance on troop withdrawal when deciding their vote.

Overall, the public is decidedly unimpressed with the work Congress is doing. While 24 percent of Americans approve, many more — a 61 percent majority — disapprove.

If the election were held today, 48 percent of voters say they would support the Democratic candidate and 32 percent the Republican. Democrats have had anywhere from a 3-point to an 18-point edge among registered voters since the beginning of the year in the generic ballot test.

Nearly six out of 10 Americans give a positive rating to the quality of life in their area, with 11 percent saying it is "excellent" and 47 percent "good." A large minority describes things as either "only fair" (29 percent) or "poor" (12 percent).

Partisanship comes through here, as 78 percent of Republicans say the quality of life is at least good in their area, while 43 percent of Democrats say so. Furthermore, Republicans (20 percent) are four times as likely as Democrats (5 percent) to say things are "excellent."

President Bush’s approval rating is 38 percent, up from 36 percent at the beginning of August. The bad news for Republican candidates is that — two months before the midterm election — a 56 percent majority of voters disapproves of their party’s leader.

The president continues to receive strong positive marks from Republicans (78 percent approve), though even higher numbers of Democrats give him negative marks (88 percent disapprove).

Finally, if Democrats win control of Congress, nearly half of voters (47 percent) think they will focus on coming up with new ideas to move the country forward, and 30 percent think Democrats will spend the next two years investigating President Bush and trying to impeach him.

PDF: Click here for full poll results