Poll: Voters Evenly Divided

Voters are closely divided between Democrats and Republicans in the coming congressional elections.

The latest FOX News poll conducted by Opinion Dynamics Corporation shows that almost equal numbers of likely voters say they would vote for the Democrat as for the Republican House candidate if the election were held today. Including those who are leaning toward one party's candidate, 41 percent say they would vote for the Republican candidate and 40 percent for the Democrat.

Democrats are slightly more likely to be supported by those who say the economy is the most important issue to their vote (46 percent to 37 percent), while Republicans are considerably more likely to be supported if the voter's top issue is terrorism (63 percent to 18 percent). Notably, of voters who say their top issue is Iraq, a slim plurality is voting Democratic for Congress (44 percent to 39 percent).

From a list of several top issues, voters overall continue to rank the economy (25 percent) as the most important issue to their mid-term election vote, followed by terrorism (17 percent), education (14 percent), health care (13 percent), Social Security (11 percent), taxes (7 percent) and Iraq (5 percent). Of course, some would combine the issues of terrorism and Iraq (22 percent), which would place it second in importance to the nation's economy.

In another series of questions, majorities of the voters say they are "very concerned" about the nation's economy (58 percent) and about terrorist attacks (53 percent). By 48 percent to 31 percent, those who say they are very concerned about the economy plan to vote Democrat; however, the vote is almost evenly split among those who are very concerned about terrorism.

"Neither party seems able to get much traction this year," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "As the voters shift their focus back and forth from worry over the economy to worry over terrorism, they also seem to shift from party to party. Since there is no strong national trend, local issues, character and the quality of the individual campaigns may be more important than anything. No matter what happens on Election Day it is fairly clear that this election isn't giving anyone a 'mandate' to do anything."

Overall, more voters say the country is headed in the right direction (46 percent) than on the "wrong track" (37 percent). When asked specifically about the moral climate of the United States, a majority says the country is off on the wrong track (53 percent to 32 percent "right direction").

By 60 percent to 30 percent, voters approve of the job George Bush is doing as president. This is down 6 percentage points from two weeks ago, and marks his lowest approval rating since the terrorist attacks in September 2001. Those voters who approve of Bush's job performance plan to vote for Republican House candidates by about a three-to-one margin; those who disapprove plan to vote for the Democrats by an eight-to-one margin.

As has been the case all along, Bush receives much higher approval ratings for his handling of terrorism (67 percent approve) than for the economy (48 percent approve). In addition, 66 percent say they are very or somewhat confident that President Bush will make the right decision about the use of U.S. military troops in Iraq.

With coverage focused on the serial sniper and other non-Iraq news, support for disarming Iraq and removing Saddam from power dropped 10 percentage points since the previous survey. Today, 62 percent support using force to achieve disarmament and regime change, down from 72 percent earlier this month.

Polling was conducted by telephone October 22-23, 2002 in the evenings. The sample is 900 likely voters nationwide with a margin of error of ±3 percentage points. LV = likely voters, RV = registered voters

1. Considering how things are today, would you say that the U.S. is generally headed in the right direction, or is it off on the wrong track?

2. Considering just the moral climate of the U.S. today, would you say that the U.S. is generally headed in the right direction, or is it off on the wrong track?

3. Do you approve or disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as president?

4. Do you approve or disapprove of the job President Bush is doing handling terrorism?

6. Thinking ahead to this November's elections, if the congressional election were held today, would you vote for the Republican candidate in your district or the Democratic candidate in your district? (If undecided) Well, if you had to vote, which way would you lean?

I'm going to read the names of some people and groups. Please tell me whether you have a generally favorable or unfavorable opinion of each. If you've never heard of one, please just say so. (RANDOMIZE)
SCALE: 1. Favorable 2. Unfavorable 3. (Not sure) 4. Never heard of

8. Al Gore

9. The National Rifle Association

10. Labor Unions

11. Of the following issues, which one will be the most important in deciding your vote for Congress this fall? (ROTATE)

12. Which do you think is more likely to boost the economy?

13. Do you support or oppose U.S. military action TO DISARM IRAQ AND REMOVE Iraqi President Saddam Hussein?

** Wording: " . . .to disarm Iraq and . . ."

* Wording: " . . .action against Iraq and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein"

14. How confident are you that President Bush will make the right decision regarding the use of U.S. troops in Iraq?

If Iraq violates the United Nations resolutions with regard to weapons of mass destruction, and the United Nations does not authorize military action to make Iraq comply, would you favor or oppose the United States taking the following steps:

15. Reducing financial contributions to the United Nations

16. Taking the United Nations less seriously when formulating foreign policy

17. Reforming the Security Council to take the veto away from France

18. Withdrawing from the United Nations all together

19. Which of the following countries do you think poses the greatest immediate danger to the United States? (Randomize)

Compare to: Which country do you think is a stronger supporter of terrorism and poses the greater immediate danger to the United States: Iran or Iraq? (6-7 Aug 02 RV)

21. - 25. How concerned are you about each of the following?
SCALE: 1. Very concerned 2. Somewhat concerned 3. Not very concerned 4. Not at all concerned 5. (Not sure)