A clear majority of Americans now disapprove of President Bush's handling of ethics in government, and three-quarters say the administration should disclose all contacts between White House officials and disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
The administration has declined to release records of Abramoff meetings, saying it will not "engage in a fishing expedition." But in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, 76 percent said the White House should produce such a list. Even 65 percent of Republicans said so.
Ethics Gone Awry?
As things stand, the ethics situation in Washington is not working to Bush's advantage. In advance of his 2006 State of the Union address, 56 percent now disapprove of the way the president is handling ethics in government, up from 49 percent in mid-December.
Beyond disapproval of Bush on ethics, there's been some weakening for the Republicans more broadly. Asked which party they trust more to stand up to lobbyists and special interest groups, just 27 percent of Americans picked the Republicans, down from 34 percent last month. More, 46 percent, preferred the Democrats.
Independents -- quintessential swing voters -- picked the Democrats over the Republicans in trust to handle ethics by 46 percent to 20 percent. But skepticism is considerable; a quarter of all Americans, and about a third of independents, volunteer that they don't trust either party on lobbying, or draw no distinction between them.
There is some belief that Congress in the next year will enact tough new regulations on lobbying, but it's muted: Nearly half, 46 percent, call this likely, while 51 percent think it's unlikely. Just 11 percent see it as "very likely" that such legislation will come to pass; 24 percent, on the other hand, call it very unlikely.
Other measures show the extent of public doubts about honesty in Washington today. Fifty-five percent -- essentially the same as last month -- think the Abramoff case is evidence of "widespread corruption" in the capital, rather than being limited to a few individuals. Republicans are much less apt than Democrats or independents to see it that way.
Moreover, 43 percent say the overall level of ethics and honesty in the federal government has fallen during Bush's presidency -- about 20 points more than Bill Clinton during the Whitewater controversy more than a decade ago.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Jan. 23-26, 2006, among a random national sample of 1,002 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.