The intensity of sentiment on Bush's performance continues to run against him: Forty percent of Americans disapprove "strongly," compared with 29 percent who strongly approve. But again, that's better than in November (a record 47 percent-20 percent split). The gain chiefly is among Republicans; their strong approval of the president is up by 16 points.
The better news for Bush gives just slight aid to his party. While Americans trust the Democrats over the Republicans to handle the nation's main problems by 47 percent-42 percent, that's up slightly for the Republicans, by five points. And the Republicans have improved by seven points in trust to handle Iraq, to a near-even 47 percent-44 percent Democratic-Republican split.
At the same time, the Democrats have slightly increased their advantage, now 47 percent (to the Republicans' 38 percent), in trust to handle ethics in government, and have a 42 percent-34 percent advantage in "standing up to lobbyists and special interest groups."
These shifts haven't much changed the basic equation looking ahead to 2006. By a 10-point margin, 51 percent-41 percent, registered voters say they'd prefer the Democrat over the Republican candidate in their congressional district; it was a similar 52 percent-37 percent in November. (That four-point gain for the Republicans is within sampling tolerances.)
At the same time, given the lightening public mood, overall approval of Congress is up by six points (to 43 percent) from what had been an eight-year low. And 65 percent of Americans approve of their own representative in Congress, up five points, to the likely delight of incumbents everywhere.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Dec. 15-18, 2005, among a random national sample of 1,003 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Fieldwork by TNS of Horsham, Pa.