NEW YORK – Less than two weeks before Election Day, Democrats hold a double-digit lead over Republicans among likely voters in the Congressional election — not surprising, as Democrats are seen as the party that can do a better job on almost all of the top issues facing the country today, according to a new FOX News poll. Republicans still have the advantage on one of their traditional strengths — handling the issue of terrorism, although even that lead has tightened.
President George W. Bush’s job rating is essentially unchanged this week: 40 percent of voters say they approve of the job Bush is doing and 53 percent disapprove. And the vote for Congress looks similar to those numbers — in reverse.
Today Democrats have an 11-percentage point advantage in the Congressional election (49-38 percent), up from a 9-point edge over Republicans two weeks ago.
Almost all Democrats would vote for their party’s candidate (92 percent), and most Republicans would vote Republican (85 percent). Independents are more likely to back the Democrat in their district by 14 points (43 percent to 29 percent).
About one in 10 voters who backed President Bush in the 2004 election (11 percent) say they will support the Democratic candidate in their district — by comparison, 6 percent of those who voted for Kerry say they will vote for the Republican.
A higher portion of Democrats (73 percent) than Republicans (60 percent) say they are more interested in elections this year than usual, and a majority of Democrats (57 percent) says congressional scandals have made them more likely to vote this year, while a majority of Republicans (52 percent) says the scandals have made no difference to whether they go to the polls.
"With both a lead in the vote and a higher level of interest in the election, Democrats may score better than they are currently polling," says Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman. "Republicans have relied on motivating their base; the danger for them now is that that base is both shrunken and homebound."
Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 likely voters for FOX News from October 24 to October 25. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
When asked to name the one issue — without the aid of a list — that will be most important to their vote for Congress this year, the most common responses include the war in Iraq (cited by 26 percent), the economy (11 percent), terrorism (10 percent) and immigration (7 percent).
Democrats are seen as the party that would do a better job on almost all of these most frequently mentioned issues. On handling Iraq, the poll finds that voters prefer Democrats by 9 percentage points, on the economy by 6 points and immigration by 3 points. Furthermore, on handling issues like health care (+ 34 points) and gas prices (+ 29 points), Democrats have striking leads.
Republicans still have the advantage on the issue of terrorism, though it has dropped significantly from what it once was. Overall, 43 percent of voters say Republicans would do a better job on terrorism and 35 percent the Democrats. Today’s 8-point Republican edge is down from a 14-point lead earlier this year (February 2006), and a high of 34 points in May 2003.
As is well known, views are sharply divided on Iraq: 47 percent support the war and 50 percent oppose it. Voters who support the war are much more likely to say they will vote for the Republican in their district (69 percent); among anti-war voters, most plan to back the Democrat (78 percent).
Those who say Iraq is the most important issue in deciding their vote are much more likely to support the Democrat this November by 63 percent to 28 percent.
The corruption charges and recent scandals in Washington are clearly damaging the majority party. Voters are more than twice as likely to say the Republican Party is the "more corrupt" party. In addition, Democrats are seen as the party better able to handle ethics in government by a 9-point margin.
Even so, a candidate’s positions on the issues still trumps indiscretions. The poll finds that a slim 51-percent majority says they would vote for a candidate they agree with on the issues, even if he or she has questionable ethics, while about half that number would vote for a candidate they disagree with on issues, but who has no ethics problems (25 percent).
Views on the nation’s economy are improving, though more Americans continue to rate it negatively than positively. Today, 42 percent rate the economy as either excellent or good, up from 28 percent who thought so six months ago (April 2006); 57 percent say it is only fair or poor, down from 72 percent.
This is the highest positive rating for the economy since July 2001, when 42 percent said it was in either excellent or good shape.
How do people feel their family is doing? A majority (53 percent) describes their situation as having "just enough money" to maintain their standard of living, another 29 percent say it feels like they are "getting ahead" financially and 17 percent "falling behind."
Among the majority of voters who say they are maintaining their standard of living, they are more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate by 26 points. Voters who feel like they are getting ahead are more likely to back the Republican by 41 points, while those who are "falling behind" back the Democrat by 55 percent.
Given the vote counting problems in some states in the last couple of elections and the high number of jurisdictions that will be using new voting machines this fall, the poll asked voters about their confidence in the accuracy of election results. Most Americans say they are confident that votes will be accurately counted in this year’s election (58 percent "very" confident and 28 percent "somewhat" confident).
And if there are problems counting votes this year, a majority (54 percent) thinks it will be due to unintentional mistakes by election workers or machine errors rather than because of foul play (30 percent).