Republicans Inch Closer in ’06 Election Preference

Indeed, among people who think the war in Iraq is part of the war on terrorism (a group that is disproportionately Republican), the Republican Party holds a 2-1 lead in the generic congressional horse race. Among those who say Iraq is not part of the war on terrorism, by contrast, it's a 75-16 percent Democratic lead.

OTHER ISSUES -- Most generally, 46 percent of registered voters trust the Democrats to do a better job handling the country's main problems, 40 percent trust the Republicans more. That six-point Democratic lead, again, is half what it was in May, when Bush's job approval rating skidded to a career low 33 percent (it's 42 percent now).

The Democrats maintain their leads in trust to handle the economy, by 51-41 percent, and gasoline prices, 51-31 percent. But while the economy has maintained its level of importance to voters, gas prices, as noted, have not. No small wonder: The average price of a gallon has dropped by 42 cents in the last six weeks.

Among other issues, 13 percent cite health care as the most important to their vote, 11 percent cite immigration, and just two percent education. Republicans win the support of immigration voters by 59-33 percent, while Democrats counter with the support of more than six in 10 health care voters.

CONGRESS -- There are better signs for congressional incumbents in general. Thirty-nine percent of registered voters approve of the job Congress is doing overall while 57 percent disapprove -- no great shakes, but up from a 32-65 percent rating in May (the increase was led by a nine-point advance in approval among Republicans). Similarly, 60 percent of registered voters approve of the job their own representative is doing. It was 56 percent last month, its lowest since 1994.

Approval of the Republican-controlled Congress is another important factor in the election: Among those who approve, 58 percent back their Republican candidate; among those who disapprove, 59 percent support the Democrat.

GROUPS -- After favoring their Republican House candidate by nine points in 2004, married women are now splitting their vote. Six in 10 unmarried men and women alike favor Democratic candidates; married men support Republicans, 53-38 percent (compared with 58-40 percent in 2004).

Democrats are maintaining their edge thanks largely to support among independents. Fifty-three percent of independents support the Democratic candidate in their district, just 27 percent the Republican. However, another swing voter group, white Catholics, have moved away: Last month they backed Democrats by 54-36 percent. This month they divide about evenly between the parties -- helping the Republicans narrow the gap.

METHODOLOGY -- This ABC News poll was conducted by telephone Sept. 5-7, 2006, among a random national sample of 1,003 adults, including 863 registered voters. The results have a three-point error margin for the full sample, 3.5 points for registered voters. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

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