NEW YORK – By an 11-point margin, voters would give the edge to Democrats over Republicans if the congressional election were held today, yet slightly more Americans think the country would be safer from terrorism if Republicans keep control of Congress. And President George W. Bush’s approval rating is up a couple of points this week, although more voters blame the Bush administration than blame the Clinton administration for failing to capture Usama bin Laden.
These are just some of the findings from the latest FOX News poll.
There has been considerable finger pointing recently between former President Bill Clinton and members of the Bush administration about whose fault it is that Usama bin Laden is still at large.
By a 10-percentage point margin, the poll finds that more Americans blame the Bush administration than the Clinton administration for failing to capture bin Laden (32 percent-22 percent), while quite a few say either that both are to blame (21 percent) or neither is (17 percent).
More Democrats blame Bush for not capturing bin Laden than Republicans blame Clinton. A 57-percent majority of Democrats says Bush is more to blame; 47 percent of Republicans say Clinton is. Independents are almost twice as likely to say Bush is more to blame (32 percent Bush -- 17 percent Clinton).
The poll finds approval of President Bush’s job performance inches up a bit this week. Today 42 percent of Americans approve of the job he’s doing and 54 percent disapprove. Two weeks ago, 40 percent approved (September 12-13).
Likewise, about four in 10 have positive feelings about the Bush administration with 11 percent saying they feel "enthusiastic" and 31 percent "satisfied." Over half have negative feelings: 32 percent "dissatisfied" and another 24 percent "angry."
For comparison, in early 2004 a slim majority had positive feelings about the administration (15 percent enthusiastic and 38 percent satisfied) and less than half felt negatively (28 percent dissatisfied and 18 percent angry).
Democrats are back to a double-digit lead in the generic vote question, up from a slim 3-point lead over Republicans earlier in the month.
By 49 percent to 38 percent, voters say they would back the Democrat over the Republican in their district if the election were today. Although the size of the Democratic lead has moved around a bit, they have consistently held the advantage in 2006 polling.
Partisans mostly stick with their own, as almost all Democrats (89 percent) say they will vote for their party’s candidate, as do almost all Republicans (88 percent). Among independents, 50 percent would vote for the Democrat -- more than double the number for the Republican (21 percent).
Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 likely voters for FOX News from September 26 to September 27. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
Democrats in Congress receive better marks than their counterparts. Thirty-nine percent of voters approve of the job Democrats are doing, while 34 percent approve of Republicans.
It’s easy to understand such low approval ratings, considering that more than a third of voters (36 percent) think the "average person on the street" could do a better job than most members of Congress, and most (71 percent) think lawmakers in Washington are more concerned with getting re-elected than doing good work for the country.
By a 13-percentage point margin, voters say they are more interested in which party wins control of Congress this year (36 percent) than in who wins their House and Senate races (23 percent).
In this poll of likely voters, there is a widespread feeling (77 percent) of looking forward to voting this year, with about 1 in 10 saying they are "dreading it" (13 percent). There is little partisan difference here, as Democrats (80 percent) are only slightly more likely than Republicans (76 percent) to say they are looking forward to voting.
What are the neighbors saying about the upcoming election? When chatting about the election, people say their friends and neighbors seem most angry with President Bush (44 percent). Others say their friends are most angry with Congress generally (20 percent), Democrats in Congress (10 percent) and Republicans in Congress (7 percent). Only 10 percent say their friends are not angry at all.
Overall, Americans say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who opposes Bush on the issues (37 percent) than one who supports him (25 percent). Another 33 percent say Bush will not be a factor in their vote for Congress.
Once again, Iraq and terrorism will be key issues in this year’s elections. Over half of voters say Iraq (52 percent) and terrorism (52 percent) will be "extremely" important to their vote for Congress.
Which party can better handle these issues? By a 9-point margin, more voters think the country would be safer from terrorism if Republicans keep control of Congress (36 percent) than if Democrats gain control (27 percent).
In addition, by a 12-point margin, Republicans are seen as the party that would be more likely to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
On Iraq, it is a virtual tie as 35 percent think more progress would be made in Iraq if Democrats win and 34 percent if Republicans stay in power.
One of the key debates this fall is how the war in Iraq is characterized, with the Bush administration and Republicans arguing that it is an important part of the war against terrorism. The poll shows a slim majority (51 percent) agrees the military action in Iraq is part of the overall war on terrorism, while almost as many (41 percent) disagree.
Not surprisingly, the consensus among Republicans (79 percent) is that Iraq is part of the global war on terrorism. Among Democrats, a majority (55 percent) considers Iraq a separate military action.
Iraq continues to be an enormously divisive issue. Half of voters support the war in Iraq: 19 percent support it and the current strategy, and 33 percent support it but think a new approach is needed. And nearly half oppose the war: 20 percent oppose the war, but say they could support it if the strategy is changed, and 25 percent oppose it no matter what.
In addition, nearly half of Americans (46 percent) say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who believes the U.S. should get out of Iraq than one who believes the U.S. should stay (36 percent).
The divide along political lines is striking: 76 percent of Democrats say they would back a candidate who believes the U.S. should get out and 76 percent of Republicans say a candidate who believes the U.S. should stay. Independents are twice as likely to say they would back a candidate who wants the U.S. out of Iraq.
"Republican candidates are confronted with the need to perform a real juggling act this year," comments Opinion Dynamic Chairman John Gorman. "On the one hand, they have partisan advantages on fighting terrorism; on the other hand, the crucial independent vote is skeptical about both the war in Iraq and the president who’s fighting it. Somehow Republicans need to keep the two separate; right now Democrats have the advantage."