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Poll: Dems Carry Big Pre-Election Lead

Democrats hold a sizeable lead over Republicans with a week to go until the critical midterm congressional elections, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll.

If the election for the House of Representatives were held today, 52 percent of likely voters would support the Democratic candidate in their district, versus just 34 percent who would vote for the Republican — an 18-point advantage for the Democrats, four points more than a month ago.

Iraq remains by far the most important issue for voters, with 27 percent naming it their top concern, followed by the economy and jobs (13 percent), illegal immigration (8 percent) and terrorism (7 percent).

(Among Likely Voters)



Opinions on Iraq are strongly associated with which way voters are leaning, particularly among those opposed to the war.

Nearly three-fourths of those who think the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq say they're voting Democratic, while most of those who support the Iraq war (61 percent) are voting Republican.

Read the complete CBS News poll results.
Which party will control Congress is an important concern for many voters with more (34 percent) saying their vote will be to put Democrats in charge than say it will be to keep Republicans in the majority (20 percent).

(Among Likely Voters)

Put Democrats in control
Keep Republicans in control
Something else

President Bush's sagging popularity is also a factor in the campaign, with 40 percent of voters saying theirs will be a vote against the president — nearly three times as many as say theirs will be a vote for Mr. Bush.

Among Democrats, fully seven in 10 say they will be voting against the president.

That's a big change from past midterm elections, when presidential influence was either neutral (Presidents Clinton and George H. W. Bush), or positive (President Reagan).

While the president is on the road campaigning for Republicans in the campaign's final days, the poll finds that Mr. Bush's support may actually hurt GOP candidates.

(Among Likely Voters)

For Bush
Against Bush
Not About Bush

One third of voters say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate the president supported, versus 11 percent who'd be more likely to vote for that candidate. A majority of voters, however, said Mr. Bush's support for a local candidate would not influence their vote.

Mr. Bush's overall job approval rating remains at 34 percent in the poll, the same as it was last month, while 58 percent disapprove of the job he's doing.

Ratings for Congress are also low, with 29 percent approving of the job Congress is doing and 56 percent disapproving.

Those numbers for Congress are much worse than before the midterm elections two years ago, but not quite as bad as before the 1994 midterms, when Republicans took control of Congress from the Democrats. Then, just 20 percent approved of the job Congress was doing.

As is typical, Americans rate their own representatives much higher: 58 percent approve of the job their own member of Congress is doing, while 26 percent disapprove.



Own Representative:

Democrats continue to be more enthusiastic than Republicans about the upcoming elections, but enthusiasm on both sides of the aisle has risen since early October. Fifty-three percent of Democrats and 42 percent of Republicans say they feel more enthusiastic about voting in this election than usual.

One explanation for Democrats' enthusiasm could be that most voters (61 percent) expect Democrats to win more seats this election. Even 38 percent of Republicans think Democrats will prevail.

Democrats' chances are getting a big boost from women and independents in this election.

Fifty percent of independents said they favor Democratic candidates, while 23 percent favor Republicans.

Among women, Democrats have a 21-point edge over Republicans; among men, the Democratic lead is 15 points.

In a troubling sign for Republicans, the poll finds some attrition from the GOP ranks since the 2004 presidential election: 17 percent who voted for President Bush two years ago say they will vote Democratic this year.

On Iraq, the poll found optimism about the war's ultimate outcome continuing to sink. Just over half of Americans said the U.S. is very likely or somewhat likely to succeed; 45 percent, the highest number ever, think the U.S. is not at all likely to succeed.

Fewer Americans than ever before, 20 percent, think the U.S. is winning the war, and two-thirds say the war's going badly.

Voters are strongly critical of President Bush's handling of Iraq. Six in 10 want the U.S. to change its strategy and tactics in Iraq, while just 8 percent want to stick with the current strategy.

About half of Americans want to see U.S. troop reductions in Iraq immediately, including one-quarter who want all U.S. troops removed. Voters overwhelmingly believe Democrats would bring troops home sooner than Republicans would.

Regardless of which party wins control of Congress, most voters think the new Congress will make Iraq its top priority.

Thirteen percent of voters believe Republicans would make fighting terrorism their top priority, compared with just 3 percent who think it would top the Democrats' priorities. But most voters think the threat of terrorism will remain the same no matter which party controls the Congress.

Nine percent of voters believe Democrats would focus on the economy, as opposed to 7 percent for Republicans. More voters also think that taxes will increase under a Democratic Congress than a Republican one.

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

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1084 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone October 27-31, 2006. The sample included 932 registered voters. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points and three points for results based on registered voters. Each registered voter is assigned a probability of voting, which is used to calculate the likely voter results. The sum of these probabilities is the effective number of likely voters. The effective number of likely voters is 598. The error due to sampling for likely voters could be plus or minus four points.