Poll: GOP Put Politics Over Safety

mark foley capitol generic CBS/AP

An overwhelming majority of Americans think House Republican leaders put their own political interests ahead of the safety of congressional pages in their handling of the Mark Foley scandal, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll.

Seventy-nine percent of those polled — including 61 percent of Republicans — say GOP leaders were more concerned with politics than the well-being of the teenage pages.

Sixty-two percent think the Republican leadership was aware of the sexually explicit e-mails sent by former Rep. Foley before the public learned about them in late September — a charge many top Republicans deny. Two-thirds of Americans say GOP leaders did not take the matter seriously enough when they first learned about it.

DID HOUSE REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP KNOW ABOUT FOLEY'S SEXUALLY EXPLICIT E-MAILS?

Yes
62%
No
19%

Forty-six percent think embattled House Speaker Dennis Hastert should resign for his handling of the Foley disclosures. Two-thirds of Democrats and 44 percent of Independents say Hastert should step down; among Republicans, nearly half think he should not resign, while 25 percent say he should.

While 80 percent of Americans think the Foley scandal is a serious matter for the country, it's not clear how big an impact it will have on next month's midterm congressional elections.

SHOULD SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE DENNIS HASTERT RESIGN?

Should
46%
Should not
26%
Don't know
28%

Two-thirds of voters say the Foley scandal will make little difference in how they cast their ballots, but 21 percent say it will make them more likely to vote Democratic.

Democrats continue to hold a sizeable lead in the generic vote for Congress, with 49 percent of registered voters saying they'd support a Democratic candidate versus 35 percent who would support a Republican. Those numbers show little change from last month.

2006 CONGRESSIONAL VOTE (Among registered voters)

Democrat
49%
Republican
35%

Fewer Republicans, though, now say they are enthusiastic about voting in November, and fewer expect their party to win the most seats this year. Overall, 59 percent of voters, including 41 percent of Republicans, expect the Democrats to pick up seats in the House in November.

More Americans also now see the Democrats as the party holding the higher moral and ethical ground — once a Republican strength. Thirty-seven percent think the Democrats have higher ethical standards, compared to 32 percent for the Republicans. Forty-seven percent think the Democrats are more likely to share their moral values, versus 38 percent for the Republicans.

By more than two to one, Americans see Republicans as more corrupt.

Overall, Americans have a very low opinion of Congress. Nearly seven in 10 think most members of Congress do not try to follow the same rules of behavior as most Americans, and a similar number believe most members consider themselves above the law.

President Bush continues to be a negative factor in the upcoming elections — to a degree unprecedented in previous midterm elections. Just 15 percent of registered voters say they think of their vote as being one in support of the president, while over twice as many, 36 percent, say theirs will be a vote against the president. Forty-three percent say their vote will not be about Mr. Bush.

A separate CBS News/New York Times poll finds Mr. Bush's overall job approval is down to 34 percent, a drop of three points from last month.

That poll also finds Americans are more negative than ever before about the state of the Iraq war. Just 31 percent think the war is going well, the lowest number ever in this poll; while two-thirds say the war is going badly, the highest number ever.

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


This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 983 adults, interviewed by telephone October 5-8, 2006. The sample included 891 registered voters. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points and plus or minus three points among registered voters. Error for subgroups may be higher.
  • Joel Roberts

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