12/16/04 FOX Poll: Iraq, Economy Most Prevalent Issues of 2004

The latest FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll finds that Iraq and the economy are the most talked about issues among friends and neighbors right now — the same two issues that topped the list at the beginning of the year, as well as largely throughout 2004.

Today 21 percent say Iraq is the topic that comes up the most in conversations, up from 13 percent in January. And for 18 percent, the economy is the hot topic — down from 27 percent at the start of the year.

The poll shows that even though fewer folks are talking about the economy, ratings of the nation's economic conditions are unchanged: twice as many Americans rate the economy negatively as rate it positively today, an assessment identical to January 2004.

In addition, views of personal finances look strikingly similar to those from just over a year ago, with opinion almost evenly divided. Now 50 percent rate their financial situation as either excellent or good and nearly half (48 percent) say only fair or poor. Compare that to these results from November 2003: 47 percent rated their personal financial situation as excellent/good and 50 percent only fair/poor.

A 51 percent majority is optimistic that their financial situation will be better next year, down from 57 percent in December 2003. Over a quarter (27 percent) think their situation will be the same in 2005 and 16 percent say worse.

Opinion Dynamics Corporation (search) conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News on December 14-15.

George W. Bush (search) ends the year with more Americans, on average, approving than disapproving of the job he's doing as president, although his average job rating for 2004 is the lowest annual average of the four years of his first term.

Currently almost half (48 percent) of Americans approve of his job performance, down 5 percentage points from mid-November, and 45 percent disapprove, up 5 points.

It seems clear the president isn't getting any 'honeymoon' bounce out of his electoral victory, comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman (search). It is tedious to keep repeating the same phrases, but the reality is that the country remains just about evenly divided with half the public behind the president and his policies and half opposed. Opponents are not inclined to give him any break because he won.

More Americans view Bush and his former Democratic challenger Mass. Sen. John Kerry (search) favorably than unfavorably but even so, neither comes close to matching the strong positive opinion the public holds of first lady Laura Bush (search). More than two-thirds (68 percent) have a favorable opinion of Mrs. Bush.

Below are some additional highlights from the poll on topics in the news.

National Identification Cards

Overall, half of the public think having U.S. citizens carry national identification cards would be an advantage in the war on terrorism, while about a third disagree.

When asked about concern over the cards violating civil rights, half, again, say they support carrying the cards because they think it would help law enforcement officials catch terrorists, over a quarter (29 percent) oppose the cards due to concerns about privacy and one in 10 have mixed feelings.

Although twice as many Americans approve as disapprove of the intelligence reform bill passed by Congress (34 percent approve and 15 percent disapprove), over half were either unsure or unfamiliar with the legislation.

Social Security

Six in 10 Americans support giving people the choice to invest privately a small percentage of their Social Security (search) contributions, down 7 percentage points since the beginning of the year (67 percent in January 2004). More than four in 10 seniors oppose the idea, while almost three out of four Americans age 45 and under like the idea.

Even though there are wide partisan differences on this issue, majorities of both Democrats (53 percent) and Republicans (71 percent) give a thumbs-up to the personal investment option.

A 55 percent majority says if they had the choice today, they would invest some of their Social Security money in personal accounts. Young people under age 30 are the most likely to say they would take this option (71 percent), as would many of those ages 30-45 (69 percent). In addition, more than six in 10 of those living in households with an annual income over $50,000 say they would invest in personal savings accounts.

Not surprisingly, younger people are more skeptical about receiving Social Security benefits. Three out of four baby boomers say they do expect to receive benefits when they retire, but 32 percent of those between the ages of 30-45 and 39 percent of those under age 30 think benefits will not be there for them.

Thinking Ahead to 2008

Having post-2004 presidential election withdrawal?

Then here's a fix for you. The poll asked voters to think ahead to 2008 with a few hypothetical presidential matchups. Candidates tested include Democrats New York Sen. Hillary Clinton (search) and Sen. Kerry, and Republicans Tenn. Sen. Bill Frist (search) and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (search).

A clear majority of voters thinks Hillary Clinton is qualified to be president of the United States (59 percent), including a third of Republicans, 58 percent of independents and 84 percent of Democrats. There is a gender gap in opinion: 64 percent of women think Clinton is qualified compared to 53 percent of men.

Beyond Democrats and women, those most likely to believe Clinton is qualified are minorities (76 percent), young people (73 percent), single women (69 percent), those living in lower income households (67 percent) and those in the Midwest (63 percent).

• Pdf: Click here for full poll results.