Poll: Congress, Bush And Economy

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For Part 1 of this poll, click here.


CONGRESS AND NEXT YEAR'S ELECTIONS: THE IMPACT OF IRAQ?

Approval ratings of Congress remain low, as they have for most of the year. 33% now approve of the job Congress is doing; 53% disapprove.

CONGRESS JOB APPROVAL

Approve
Now
33%
10/2005
34%
7/2005
33%
5/2005
29%
1/200531
44%

Disapprove

Now
53%
10/2005
53%
7/2005
50%
5/2005
55%
1/2005
39%

On the other hand, a majority of Americans say their own representative in Congress is doing a good job. 60% approve of the job their member of Congress is doing, while a quarter disapproves. Traditionally, the public has rated their own representative in Congress higher than they have rated Congress as a whole.

JOB RATING OF OWN REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS

Approve

Now
60%
4/2005
57%

Disapprove

Now
24%
4/2005
23%


While the impact of President Bush on next year's Congressional races is unclear, in general, most Americans say if the President supported a candidate in their area for political office it would not affect their vote one way or the other. Only 10% say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate if he had the support of President Bush; 25% say they would be less likely to vote for such a candidate.

IF PRES. BUSH SUPPORTED A CANDIDATE, HOW WOULD IT AFFECT YOUR VOTE?

More likely to vote
10%
Less likely to vote
25%
Wouldn't affect vote
63%

Most Americans say the war in Iraq will be an important but not necessarily decisive issue in their vote. Just 12% say a candidate's position on the war in Iraq will be the single most important issue, 71% say it will be important to their vote but so will other issues and 15% say a candidate's position on the war won't influence their vote.

HOW MUCH WILL YOUR VOTE BE INFLUENCED BY A CANDIDATE'S POSITION ON THE IRAQ WAR?

Most important issue
12%
Important but so are others
71%
Won't influence vote
15%

More specifically, if a representative in Congress called for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, only 21% say it would make them more likely to vote for that representative, more -- 36% --say they would be less likely to vote for them, while 40% say a representative's call for immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq would not make much difference in their vote.

IF YOUR REPRESENTATIVE CALLED FOR IMMEDIATE WITHDRAWAL OF U.S. TROOPS FROM IRAQ, THAT WOULD MAKE YOU…

More likely to vote for him/her
21%
Less likely
36%
No difference
40%

Right now, Democrats could have an advantage in the 2006 elections. 42% of registered voters say they will vote for the Democratic candidate for Congress and 33% say they plan to vote for the Republican. But 23% say it depends or they don't know, and given the large number of safe Congressional seats, the overall vote preference may not directly predict the number of seats gained or lost.

2006 GENERIC CONGRESSIONAL VOTE
(Registered Voters)

Democrat
42%
Republican
33%
It depends/don't know
23%


Nearly half of Americans say it makes no difference which party controls Congress. Democrats have a slight edge when the public is asked whether the country would be better off if Congress was under Republican or Democratic control. This is also the case among registered voters.

WOULD THE COUNTRY BE BETTER OFF IF THE CONGRESS WAS CONTROLLED BY REPUBLICANS OR DEMOCRATS?

Republicans
19%
Democrats
24%
No difference
49%

In fact, Americans hold similar overall views of the Democratic and Republican parties. 46% view the Democrats favorably, and 42% have a favorable opinion of the Republicans.

When it comes to some of the important issues facing the country, the Democrats have an advantage on handling Medicare, the economy, the war in Iraq and immigration.

Republicans, however, are slightly more apt to be seen as the party more likely to have higher ethical standards, despite the recent ethical problems facing former House Majority Leader Tom Delay and the resignation of a California Congressman after he pleaded guilty to taking a bribe. But this gap has narrowed since Bill Clinton's Administration, when Republicans had a 23-point advantage over Democrats on the matter of higher ethical standards.

Republicans do continue to have an edge when it comes to dealing with terrorism. The parties are viewed nearly equally on sharing the public's moral values.

WHICH PARTY IS BETTER AT…?


Democrats

Dealing with Medicare
54%
Ensuring a strong economy
45%
Shares your moral values
43%
Dealing with war in Iraq
40%
Dealing with immigration
38%
Has higher ethical standards
31%
Dealing with terrorism
13%


Republicans

Dealing with Medicare
24%
Ensuring a strong economy
37%
Shares your moral values
41%
Dealing with war in Iraq
35%
Dealing with immigration
32%
Has higher ethical standards
34%
Dealing with terrorism
42%


Today 32% of Americans say they generally trust the government in Washington to do what is right most of the time. 67% trust the government only some of the time or never. These views are similar to what they were in September but among the lowest in recent years.

AN IMPROVING ECONOMY AND THE DIRECTION OF THE COUNTRY

The economy has emerged as the top issue, and assessments of it have risen. 19% volunteer the economy and jobs as the most important problem facing the country today. The economy now outranks the war in Iraq, which fewer Americans see as the number one problem than did in October. Terrorism remains the third most cited problem at 6%.

MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEM


Economy and jobs

Now
19%
10/2005
17%

War in Iraq

Now
13%
10/2005
21%

Terrorism

Now
6%
10/2005
5%

A majority of Americans now say the condition of the national economy is somewhat or very good -- a major improvement since October, and the highest percentage saying so since last July.

VIEWS OF THE ECONOMY

Good

Now
55%
10/2005
47%


Bad

Now
43%
10/2005
51%

Looking ahead, 19% of Americans think the economy is getting better, 35% say it is getting worse, and 45% think the economy is staying the same.

ECONOMY IS GETTING:


Better

Now
19%
10/2005
16%

Worse

Now
35%
10/2005
40%

Same

Now
45%
10/2005
44%

The public is still concerned about unemployment, however. 46% of all Americans say they are very or somewhat concerned that at least one member of their family will be out of work and looking for a job. This is larger than the number of people (38%) with the same concern at the beginning of the summer.

CONCERNED SOMEONE IN HOUSEHOLD WILL BE OUT OF WORK

Very

Now
21%
6/2005
20%

Somewhat

Now
25%
6/2005
18%

Not at all

Now
53%
6/2005
61%



Although a sizable majority – 79% - of Americans thinks the Bush Administration has no clear plan yet for keeping down the cost of home heating oil and gas, fewer Americans are personally concerned about the cost of heating their homes than were earlier this fall. 49% of the public is at least somewhat concerned about paying their heating bills, compared to 64% who were concerned in September. Those with incomes less than $50,000 a year are more concerned about their home heating costs than those with higher annual incomes.

CONCERNED ABOUT PAYING HEATING BILLS THIS WINTER?

A lot

Now
24%
9/2005
36%

Some

Now
25%
9/2005
28%

Not much
Now
16%
9/2005
17%

Not at all
Now
30%
9/2005
17%


The public has also become less pessimistic about the direction of the country over the past month. While 31% of Americans believe the country is heading in the right direction, 60% of Americans are willing to say the country is on the wrong track – down 8 points from October.


DIRECTION OF THE COUNTRY


Right direction

Now
31%
10/2005
27%

Wrong Track

Now
60%
10/2005
68%

ISSUES: THE SUPREME COURT

Confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito are scheduled for early next year, and a majority of the public is withholding judgment about him. Seventy-five percent haven't heard enough about Alito or are undecided in their views of him, down from 81 percent last month. Fourteen percent view Alito favorably, while 10 percent hold an unfavorable view of him.


OPINION OF SAMUEL ALITO

Favorable
Now
14%

Oct. 2005
11%

Unfavorable
Now
10%

Oct. 2005
7%

Undecided/haven't heard enough
Now
75%

Oct. 2005
81%

Views of Alito are slightly better than those of past nominee Harriet Miers, but not as positive as nominee John Roberts.

A majority of Americans think it has been more important to George W. Bush that a nominee hold conservative views on issues than have the right legal qualifications. Conservatives and Republicans are more evenly divided on this question.

IN MAKING CHOICES FOR THE SUPREME COURT, WHICH IS MORE IMPORTANT TO PRES. BUSH?

A candidate's legal qualifications
28%

Conservative views on most issues
59%

However, just a quarter of Americans say the President's nominees have been more conservative than they would like, 15 percent say they have been not conservative enough, and 50 percent say Bush's nominees have been about right.

Seventy-one percent of Americans say it is important for the Senate to know a Supreme Court nominee's position on abortion before it holds a confirmation vote, including 37 percent who say it is very important. Opponents of abortion are more likely than those who think abortion should be available to say it is very important for Senators be aware of a nominee's position on the issue.

IMPORTANT FOR SENATE TO KNOW NOMINEE'S POSITION ON ABORTION?

Very
37%

Somewhat
34%

Not very/not at all
28%

The public's views on abortion have changed little over the years. Today, 38 percent say abortion should be generally available to those who want it, 39 percent think it should be available but with stricter limits, and 20 percent say abortion should not be permitted.

ISSUES: THE MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION DRUG PLAN

Only one in five Americans feel they know a lot about the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, but half of those 65 and over do. Among current Medicare recipients, 43 percent know a lot.

But few find the plan easy to understand. An overwhelming majority of older Americans and current Medicare recipients say the plan is difficult to understand.

There is little optimism that the new plan will be able to significantly reduce costs. Only 17 percent think it will. Senior citizens are also skeptical, though many simply do not know what the impact will be.

Just 5 percent of voters say this will be the most important issue in their Congressional vote next year, including just 9% of registered voters over 64. Fifty-one percent of all voters say it will be important, but that other issues will be, too.

Moreover, just 15 percent of Medicare recipients have enrolled in the prescription drug plan so far. Eighteen percent say someone in their household has enrolled. Those with lower incomes are more likely than those earning more to have signed up for the drug plan.



This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1,155 adults, interviewed by telephone December 2-6, 2005. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points.

For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.
  • David Hancock

    David Hancock is a home page editor for CBSNews.com.

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