Poll: No Groundswell For GOP Agenda

GENERIC George W. Bush GOP Republican election victory house senate comgress CBS/AP

The Republican victories in the midterm election appear to be a personal victory for President Bush, but not an affirmation of single party control, or even of many aspects of the president's own agenda, a CBS News/New York Times poll finds. Americans also have very limited expectations on what the incoming Republican Congress will accomplish.

Public opinion is at odds with some of President Bush's key objectives. His high job approval rating of 65% garners him little additional currency for some of the items on his agenda; there is little change in opinion when his name is directly associated with the policy.

ELEMENTS OF THE BUSH AGENDA
Make tax cuts permanent
Favor 45%
Oppose 44

Drilling in ANWR
Favor 39%
Oppose 55

Faster judicial confirmations
Favor 26%
Oppose 70

There is only lukewarm support for making the Bush tax cuts enacted last year permanent, and few people see much benefit of the administration's tax cuts to themselves or to the economy. The public is squarely in favor of government regulation of the environment, and opposed to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Few Americans want the Congress to rubber stamp approval of Bush's judicial appointments.

Even when it comes to the Republican Party's major issue of tax cuts, Americans are skeptical - more expect taxes to go up than to go down under Republican control.

BUSH AND THE ELECTION
However, many voters who went to the polls November 5th now say Bush was a factor in their vote, and the President's impact was positive, especially among those voters who saw their ballot as a measure of support for Bush personally, rather than for his policies.

35% of voters said their vote was for Bush while 17% saw their Congressional vote as a vote against the President. 43% said Bush was not a factor. The results were slightly less positive when it came to the influence of Bush's policies, rather than the influence of the President, personally. 30% thought of their Congressional vote as being for Bush's policies, 24% said it was against those policies, and 37% said the President's policies were not a factor.

MIDTERM VOTE: FOR OR AGAINST ...?
(Among 2002 voters)
Bush:
For 35%
Against 17
Not a factor 43

Bush's Policies:
For 30%
Against 24
Not a factor 37

Despite the election results, Americans are equivocal about the general idea of one-party control in Washington. 36% of those who voted say it is best to have a White House and Congress controlled by the same party, 41% say it is best that they are divided between the parties.

DIVIDED GOVERNMENT?
Favor one-party control 36%
Best if Congress & White House split 41
No opinion 23

EXPECTATIONS FOR THE GOP CONGRESS
By now, most Americans know that the Republican Party will retake control of both houses of Congress in January: 78% are aware of the GOP's recent victory. But that victory is accompanied by low expectations. Americans are split over whether the incoming GOP Congress is going to have any real impact on the nation's economy, or on a host of other key issues.

Many Americans say things will stay about the same with regard to the economy, taxes, their own finances, the environment and national security -- despite the changeover in Congress.

Meanwhile, of those who do foresee changes when the GOP retakes control, there is little optimism about an economic upturn or even for the reduced tax burden, which Republicans championed in the fall campaign. There is an improved outlook for defense against terrorism. The one thing that a majority of Americans do see as more likely with the GOP in control: war with Iraq.

GOP CONGRESS AND THE ECONOMY
Americans don't expect much improvement in the nation's economy. 28% of Americans think the nation's economy will improve once the GOP retakes Congress; 23% think it will get worse. 40% think things will stay about the same.

The same is true for their own family's financial situation. A majority, 54%, say their own financial outlook will stay the same with the Republicans in power. Just 20% think it will get better. Moreover, most believe their taxes are liable to either increase or stay the same with Republicans controlling Congress; only 14% think the Republican Congress will make their taxes lower.

WITH REPUBLICANS TAKING OVER CONGRESS...
The economy will:
Get better 28%
Get worse 23
Stay same 40

Your finances will:
Get better 20%
Get worse 21
Stay same 54

WITH REPUBLICANS TAKING OVER CONGRESS...
Your taxes will:
Increase 40%
Decrease 14
Stay same 40

People at different income levels hold somewhat different views on this: most people earning under $30,000 believe their taxes will now rise, while this fear is held by just under one-third of those earning over $50,000. However, even those earning over $75,000 do not believe taxes will decrease under GOP control.

GOP CONGRESS AND NATIONAL SECURITY
One consequence of the GOP victory is that it may make war with Iraq more likely. A majority of Americans believes that with the GOP in control, war with Iraq is more likely. 55% say so, while just 4% say war is now less likely.

There is less agreement that Republicans will make the nation safer from terrorism than it was before; the majority thinks the U.S.'s security against attack will stay the same. However, almost no one believes that security will now get worse.

WITH REPUBLICANS TAKING OVER CONGRESS...

U.S. security Vs. terrorism will:
Get better 29%
Get worse 8
Stay same 55

WITH REPUBLICANS TAKING OVER CONGRESS...
War with Iraq is:
More Likely 55%
Less likely 4
No change 38

THE GOP AND OTHER DOMESTIC ISSUES
Americans are divided on whether big business will now have more influence in Washington, D.C. or whether its amount of influence will hold steady. Almost no one believes it will have less influence over the next two years. 44% say big business will have more influence than it does now, and 44% say its influence will remain as it is.

Most also feel the natural environment and pollution problems will stay about the same: 59% see a GOP Congress as having no impact on this. But just over a quarter think pollution problems will now get worse, while very few think the environment will improve with the GOP at the helm.

WITH REPUBLICANS TAKING OVER CONGRESS...
Big business' influence will:
Increase 44%
Decrease 6
Stay same 44

WITH REPUBLICANS TAKING OVER CONGRESS...
The environment & pollution will get:
Better 10%
Worse 27
Stay same 59

And Americans are roughly split on what will happen to the federal courts now: 42% say the courts are poised to become more conservative, while 46% say they will stay the same. Almost no one expects them to become more liberal.

WITH REPUBLICANS TAKING OVER CONGRESS...
The federal courts will get:
More conservative 42%
More Liberal 6
Stay same 46

BUSH AND THE OUTLOOK FOR A GOP CONGRESS
Americans' outlook for the GOP Congress is generally related to their confidence in President George W. Bush's stewardship. Of those who say they have confidence in Bush's approach to the economy, 48% say the economy will now improve with the GOP congress, while only 5% say it will get worse. Of those who say they are uneasy with Bush's economic approach, 41% say the economy will get worse with the GOP in control under the Capitol dome, and only 10% think it will improve.

The pattern is somewhat similar for national security. Of those who express confidence in Bush's ability to deal wisely with an international crisis, 44% think the U.S. will now be more secure under GOP control of Congress. Of those uneasy with Bush's ability to deal with such a crisis, most (66%) think the nation's security will remain the same under GOP control, and only 11% think it will now improve.

And the GOP victory in the midterms has not inspired any great enthusiasm or disappointment. 37% are pleased with the outcome of the elections, 26% are disappointed and 31% don't care.

Those who actually voted are more likely to care about what happened, but they too are divided on how they feel about the outcome. 42% of voters are pleased with the midterm results and 36% are disappointed. Only 17% don't care one way or the other.

However, these post-election findings may show some differences in intensity between Republican and Democratic voters. 79% of Republicans who voted are pleased with the outcome, but just 66% of Democrats are disappointed.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
ARE YOU PLEASED WITH OUTCOME OF ELECTIONS?

 All votersRepublicansDemocrats
Yes, pleased

42%

79%

14%


 All votersRepublicansDemocrats
No, disappointed

36%

4%

66%


 All votersRepublicansDemocrats
Don't care

17%

13%

17%

CBSNEWS Polls


VIEWS OF THE PARTIES
In the wake of their midterm losses, the Democrats' image has taken a hit: their favorability rating has dropped ten percentage points since before the election. The Republican Party's favorability has not received any lasting bounce from its Congressional victories.

VIEWS OF THE PARTIES
% with favorable view

Republican Party
Now 51%
10/02/54
7/02 53

Democratic Party
Now 45%
10/02 55
7/02 53

The Republican party's image is, not surprisingly, linked with President Bush's: 70% of those who approve of the job Bush is doing see the Republican party in a favorable light.

BUSH'S IMPACT ON THE GOP'S IMAGE
Among all Americans, the GOP's favorability ratings tend to run along party lines, with 95% of self-identified Republicans holding a favorable image of their party, 43% of Independents viewing the GOP in a favorable light, and just 21% of Democrats doing so. However, among Americans who approve of the job Bush is doing, the GOP gains favor - even from Democrats. Of those Democrats who do approve of Bush, 39% of them also hold a favorable opinion of the GOP. Among Independents who approve of Bush, this figure also rises dramatically, as 57% also hold a favorable view of the Republican party.

BUSH AND THE GOP'S IMAGE
% Favorable toward GOP

All Americans
Republican 95%
Democrat 21
Independent 43

Those who approve of Bush's job as President
Republicans 97%
Democrat 39%
Independent 57

Pre-election, the Republican party was seen by more Americans as having a clear plan for the country - and this gap has remained: 46% now think the Republicans have a clear plan for the country, while just under one-third now believe the Democrats have one, and the majority thinks they don't.

DO THE PARTIES HAVE A CLEAR PLAN FOR THE COUNTRY?
Republican Party
Yes 46%
No 39

Democratic Party
Yes 31%
No 52

However, those who went to the polls November 5th saw themselves making a distinct choice between the parties: three-quarters of voters in the recent midterm elections said there were important differences between the Republicans and Democrats.

ARE THERE IMPORTANT DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO PARTIES?
(Among 2002 voters)
Yes 77%
No 18

Asked what the most important difference was between the parties, the responses centered around ideology and economics. The largest number of respondents, nearly one-quarter, offered ideology as the key distinction. 11% volunteered that the key difference was whether or not the parties were working for regular people, and another 10% said the parties' views on the economy was the main difference. Almost no one cited defense or approaches to terrorism as the most important difference.

TAX CUTS
The public is unclear as to the effect so far of the centerpiece of George W. Bush's economic policy - the tax cuts enacted in 2001. Few Americans see much benefit, either to themselves or to the economy, as a result of the tax cuts. And, as has been the case since June 2001, the tax cuts are not in alignment with the publics' overall spending priorities. However, there is some good news for one element of the president's tax cut agenda; elimination of the estate tax is viewed favorably.

55% of the public can't say whether the tax cuts were a good idea or a bad idea. Among those who do have a viewpoint, opinion is mixed; 23% think the tax cuts were a good idea, and 20% think they were a bad idea.

TAX CUTS WERE:
A good idea 23%
A bad idea 20
Don't know enough to say 55

People who have heard or read a lot about the tax cuts tend to be more positive about them; 49% of this group thinks they were a good idea. But those that have heard a lot about the cuts are only 15% of the public.

As has been the case since before the tax cuts were enacted, the public's priorities for using the now-vanished budget surplus would have been different. 69% would have preferred that surplus be used for programs such as Social Security and Medicare; one in four thinks the tax cuts were the best thing to do with the surplus. These views have changed little since the tax cuts were first enacted in June 2001.

BEST WAY TO USE SURPLUS:
Programs such as Social Security 69%
Tax cuts 23

There are partisan differences in these views. Republicans tend to favor having used the surplus for tax cuts (50%), although a sizable number still would prefer it had been used for Social Security (41%). Democrats overwhelmingly support use of it for Social Security (90%).

Views are mixed as to whether the government can or should have reduced the deficit while it had the chance, instead of raising taxes. Given the choice, 45% would prefer reducing the federal deficit, and 44% would choose a tax cut.

WHICH WOULD YOU PREFER?
Paying down deficit 45%
Cutting taxes 44

The partisan breakdowns on this split show that there still are a fair number of deficit hawks within the Republican ranks. 43% of Republicans, along with 53% of Democrats, would have preferred the government pay down the debt rather than cut taxes.

There is a similar divide as to whether the government can do both at the same time; 42% think it can, and 48% think the government cannot. Overall, a majority of Republicans -- 57% -- thinks both can be accomplished at the same time.

Half of Americans think the economy is in bad shape now, a figure that has changed little in recent months, and that could explain why few see many benefits to the economy from the tax cuts. Nearly two in three think the tax cuts have not made much difference, while one in five think they have been good and slightly fewer believe they have hurt the economy.

IMPACT OF TAX CUTS ON ECONOMY
Good 20%
Bad 12
No difference 61

When they were first enacted in June 2001, expectations were generally similar, although a bit more optimistic. Then, 32% expected the tax cuts would be good for the economy, and 50% thought they would make no difference.

Despite his sustained high overall popularity among Americans, the president's association with the tax cuts has little impact on the public's views of them. Even when his name is mentioned in the question, 61% still think the "Bush tax cuts" have made no difference one way or the other to the state of the economy.

Finally, few Americans have felt any direct benefit from the tax cuts. Fewer than one in five say the tax cuts have made a significant difference in the amount of money they have after taxes, while 74% say the tax cuts have made no difference.

HAVE TAX CUTS MADE A DIFFERENCE TO YOU?
Yes 17%
No 74

But that result may not have been unexpected. 62% think that rich people have been the primary beneficiaries of the tax cuts, 20% think they have benefited the middle class, and 3% think the tax cuts have helped the poor.

Given the perceptions of minimal impact of the tax cuts on both the economy and their pocketbooks, there is not much public enthusiasm for making the tax cuts permanent. 45% of Americans think they should be permanent, but just as many - 44% -- think they should not be.

SHOULD (BUSH) TAX CUTS BE MADE PERMANENT?
Tax cuts
Yes 45%
No 44

Bush's tax cuts
Yes 37%
No 52

Although a majority of Republicans (53%) support making the tax cuts permanent, 36% oppose doing so. Democrats prefer the tax cuts not be enacted permanently, by 52% to 34%.

When the president's name is associated with the tax cuts, opinion becomes even more firmly against making them permanent. In that case, 52% oppose making the "Bush tax cuts" permanent, and 37% favor doing so.

There is more public support for doing away with the estate tax. 41% think it should be abolished altogether, and 54% think it should be eliminated for all but the very largest estates. This measure enjoys bipartisan support, and shows little change regardless of whether or not the president's name is associated with it.

ABOLISH THE ESTATE TAX?
Abolish tax altogether 41%
Tax only large estates 54

THE ENVIRONMENT
Americans' views on the environment have been extremely stable over the years. Most want the government to do more, and assign it a high priority.

The President and the Republican Congress may not have the support of the public to lessen government regulation of the environment -- 62% think the federal government should be doing more to regulate the environmental and safety practices of business. 25% think it is doing enough, and 7% want it to do less.

GOVERNMENT REGULATION OF ENVIRONMENT
Should do more 62%
Should do less 7
Doing enough 25

57% think that protecting the environment is so important that requirements and standards cannot be too high and continuing improvements must be made, regardless of cost.

More than half of Americans are against opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska for oil and natural gas drilling, as the Bush Administration has proposed. Those views have not changed since April 2001.

DRILLING FOR OIL IN ANWR
Approve 39%
Disapprove 55

There is little change in public opinion when the president's name is included in the question. Then, 40% approve and 52% disapprove.

The public sees President Bush's priorities on this issue as very different from their own. 57% of the public thinks protecting the environment is more important than producing energy. Most Americans believe the president's views are the opposite; 68% think Bush believes that producing energy is more important than protecting the environment.

PRODUCING ENERGY VS. PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT
Your View:
Producing energy 29%
Protecting the environment 57

Bush's Vie
Producing energy 68%
Protecting the environment 11

JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS
Most Americans want Congress to take its time reviewing judicial appointments, and oppose Congress just rubber-stamping its approval. 70% think Congress should take as much time as it needs to review new judges, while 26% believe new judges should be reviewed and confirmed as quickly as possible.

CONGRESSIONAL REVIEW OF JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS
Confirm as quickly as possible 26%
Take its time 70

Once again including Bush's name in the question produces little change in opinion. Then, 24% think judges should be confirmed as quickly as possible, and 73% want Congress to take its time.

29% think the President will appoint judges who are more conservative than they would like, 11% believe his appointments will not be conservative enough, and 50% think his appointments will be about right. Democrats are more likely to expect his appointments will be more conservative; Republicans expect they will be about right.

PRIVATIZING SOCIAL SECURITY
Although a shrinking number of Americans expect the Social Security system to have money available for them when they retire, the recent decline in the stock market has caused some wariness of Social Security privatization. Now, just 48% think it is a good idea, and 46% think it is a bad idea. That represents a slight change from earlier this year, when 54% supported it and 39% opposed it.

PRIVATIZING SOCIAL SECURITY
Now
Good idea 48%
Bad idea 46

1/02
Good idea 54%
Bad idea 39%

This is a highly partisan issue; Republicans support privatization, and Democrats oppose it.

THE PRESIDENT
The election provided no bounce for opinions about the Republican Party, and despite his impact on the results, there was just a slight bounce for President Bush. George W. Bush's approval rating remains essentially where it was before this month's mid-term elections. Now, 65% of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing as President. Just over a quarter disapprove of his job.

The President's ratings on handling foreign policy and the economy have not changed much either. 54% approve of his handling of foreign policy, while the public remains split on his handling of the economy - 45% approve and 45% disapprove.

BUSH JOB APPROVAL
Now
Overall 65%
Foreign policy 54%
Economy 45%

10/02
Overall 62%
Foreign policy 54
Economy 46

The lower rating on handling the economy is matched by limited confidence in the President's ability to make the right decisions about it. While 47% say they have confidence in Bush's ability to make the right decisions regarding the economy, 48% are uneasy about his approach.

There is also renewed concern about his ability to deal wisely with an international crisis. Now, slightly over half of the public is confident in the President's ability, while 43% are uneasy about his approach. In June, 62% said they were confident in Bush's ability to deal wisely with an international crisis.

CONFIDENCE IN BUSH'S ABILITY TO ...
Deal wisely with international crisis 53%
Yes 53%
No 43%

Make right decisions about economy
Yes 47%
No 48

On the home front, more than six in ten Americans think George W. Bush cares at least somewhat about their needs and problems. Although this is number is high, it is down from the start of this year when 76% thought the President cared about their needs. Those under 65 are more likely to say Bush cares about their needs and problems than those over 65.

62% of the public overall say Bush cares about the needs and problems of black people, while 31% say he does not. But among blacks, just 33% say he cares about their needs (including just 6% who say he cares a lot). 67% think he does not care about their needs and problems.

DOES BUSH CARE ABOUT...
People like yourself:
A lot/some
All 64%
White 69
Black 32

Not much/not at all 34 29 67
All 34
White 29
Black 67

Black people:
All 62%
White 67
Black 33

Not much/not at all
All 31%
White 26
Black 67

Even though Bush is perceived by many as being conservative, only a small number see his administration as too influenced by the religious right. Almost four in 10 (39%) think the religious right has just the right amount of influence on the Administration. Just 22% say they have too much influence, and 20% say they have too little. Among those who consider themselves part of the religious right, 42% say they have too little influence on the Bush Administration, while just as many -- 43% -- say their influence is just about right.

INFLUENCE OF RELIGIOUS RIGHT ON THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION
Too much 22%
Too little 20
Right amount 39




This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 996 adults, interviewed by telephone November 20-24, 2002. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. Sampling error for subgroups may be higher.

For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys,
click here.
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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