Midterm Election: Referendum on War

Iraq is not only the top issue but the Democrats' most powerful one -- people who pick it favor Democrats for Congress by 76-21 percent. Democrats also hold substantial leads on the economy, as noted, and on health care, a longtime Democratic strength.

Terrorism remains the Republicans' best issue by far; they lead by 80-17 percent among people who call this their top issue. They also hold a large lead among immigration voters. For all the attention paid to the Foley scandal, ethics is the issue that not only ranks lowest but cuts least among voters who pick it as their top issue.

Women

Men and women are equally critical of the war in Iraq, but women are more likely to call it the most important issue in their vote: Thirty-one percent of women say so, making it their top issue by far. In contrast, men divide between the economy (25 percent) and Iraq (22 percent).

Women are also 13 points more likely than men to call this election more important than past congressional elections in their lifetimes -- 62 percent say so versus 49 percent of men.

Iraq

Negative as they are, views on the war in Iraq are slightly less so than they were earlier this month: Then, 63 percent said the war was not worth fighting compared with 57 percent now. The fundamental point, though, is that a majority of Americans haven't endorsed the war since September 2004.

Beyond that rating, 55 percent of Americans are pessimistic about the situation in Iraq in the year ahead. Many more, 76 percent, say the war has damaged the United States' image throughout the rest of the world. And for the first time in ABC/Post polls, less than half, 47 percent, believe the war has improved the lives of the Iraqi people, down dramatically from 68 percent in June.

Another unsettling result on Iraq is the fact that 45 percent of Americans believe the country is heading for the same kind of involvement there that it had in Vietnam (including the 5 percent who believe that's already happened).

Blame, again, is directed at Republicans. Fifty-five percent of Americans say the Republicans in Congress should get a great deal or good amount of blame for problems relating to the war in Iraq. Far less, 35 percent, blame the Democrats.

Moreover, while 55 percent blame the Republicans in Congress for Iraq, less, 43 percent, give them credit for the fact that there hasn't been another terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001. less still, 27 percent, credit the Democrats.

Handle

Finally, in trust-to-handle ratings among registered voters, the Democrats have a 13-point lead on ethics, nine points on the economy, eight points on Iraq and seven points on handling the situation with North Korea. It's essentially a dead heat -- Dems +1 -- on trust to handle terrorism.

What's telling is that the Democrats' overall lead in congressional voter preference is larger than their leads on these individual issues. That, too, suggests that voter preferences are less about individual Democratic initiatives and more about broader discontent, grounded in public unhappiness with the war in Iraq.

Click Here to Read All The Poll Findings and Charts

This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Oct. 19-22, 2006, among a random national sample of 1,200 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

ABC News polls can be found at ABCNEWS.com at http://abcnews.com/pollvault.html.

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