New Flares for GOP in 2006 Election Views

There are new warning flares for Republicans in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll: Fifty-three percent of Americans call themselves "anti-incumbent," and the fewest since 1994 approve of their own representative's performance in Washington.

Anti-incumbency is as high now as it was in the summer of 1994, before the last election in which control of Congress changed hands. And it peaks not just among Democrats and liberals but among traditional swing voters as well. Sixty-one percent of Independents, for example, say they're anti-incumbent this year.

The danger for Republicans is underscored by their deficit in voter preference. Fifty-two percent of registered voters say if the election were held today they'd support the Democrat in their congressional district, 39 percent the Republican -- a number that has held steady for nine months running. Among anti-incumbent voters, nearly two-thirds support Democrats for the House.

Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS.

Much of the Republicans' problems reflect President Bush's in general, and the Iraq War in particular. By a 15-point margin, Americans are less likely rather than more likely to vote for a candidate who supports Bush's policies in Iraq. That soars to a 44-point margin among liberals, underscoring Sen. Joseph Lieberman's trouble in his Democratic primary tomorrow. But it also reaches more broadly: Moderates are 27 points more likely to oppose a candidate who favors Bush's war policies; Independents, 25 points.

Another result -- a sharp ideology gap -- marks the Republicans' risk. While 83 percent of liberals support the Democrat in their congressional district, fewer conservatives, 60 percent, support the Republican. Indeed, three in 10 conservatives favor the Democrat in their district, substantially more than the 18 percent of liberals who voted Republican in 1994.

Still, other results are less bleak for the Republicans. While Bush's job approval rating remains weak, 40 percent, that's its best since March, and it's up seven points from its mid-May low. Approval of Congress, while just 36 percent, was much worse shortly before the 1994 election -- a dreadful 18 percent. And while a relatively low 55 percent approve of their own representative, this, too fell lower, 49 percent, in fall 1994.

The Democrats, while rich in opportunity, have yet to close the sale. Americans divide evenly on whether the party is offering the country a clear direction that's different from the Republicans. (That is, however, five points better for the Democrats than it was in May.) While most Americans don't think Bush has a clear plan for Iraq, just as many say the Democrats don't have a clear plan either. And while the Democrats have a 26-point lead as being "more concerned with the needs of people like you," the Republicans counter with an 18-point advantage as the party that offers "stronger leaders."

A steady six in 10 Americans say the war in Iraq was not worth fighting, and 62 percent disapprove of how Bush is handling it. But one key question is whether the Democrats can do any better. People roughly divide on which party they trust more to handle the situation in Iraq, the Democrats (43 percent) or the Republicans (40 percent). That's weakened from a Democratic advantage that peaked at 14 points, 50-36 percent, in May.

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