CBS/NYT Poll Paints Dark Picture for GOP

Following yesterday's release of a USA Today-Gallup poll showing President Bush's approval rating up to 44 percent (still bad, just not terrible) and Democrats and Republicans tied on the generic congressional ballot question among likely voters, many began to fret that the Democrats' chances at big gains were flying away. Judging by the two most recent polls -- the Rasmussen Reports tracking poll, which has found the President at or below 41 percent for the past four days, and now a CBS News-New York Times survey that finds Bush at just 37 percent -- it seems pretty clear that Gallup's numbers are at least a tad bit too optimistic about Republicans' chances.

Looking specifically into the CBS/NYT poll, a few related numbers jump out. Today, just 53 percent of Americans approve of the job their own member of Congress is doing, a number that is actually lower than was registered in September or November 1994. Approval for Congress, overall, is exactly what it was in September '94.

When asked if they can remember a significant action taken by Congress in the last year, more than two-thirds of Americans responded "nothing." Unsurprisingly, then, 64 percent of Americans say that the current Congress has achieved less over the last two years than previous Congresses -- the highest that number has been since CBS/NYT began asking the question in 1994.

Given these numbers, it's no wonder than the Democrats hold as big of a generic congressional ballot lead (50-35) as they have this entire cycle. But looking deeper into the numbers, past the surface level generic congressional ballot question, the seeds of voters' unhappiness with this Congress becomes apparent. Just 39 percent of Americans believe their member of Congress deserves reelecction while 48 percent believe it's time to give someone new a chance. These numbers are worse than they have been in the past two midterm elections and are not substantially different from those found at this point in 1994 (37-45). When asked if "your own Representative in Congress understands the needs and problems of people like you," just 47 percent say yes while 45 percent say no (worse than in 1994).

Now perhaps these numbers could be chalked up to an excessively Democratic-leaning sample, right? Well, the number of self-identifying Democrats in the poll is actually as low as it has been in the CBS/NYT poll in the last nine months. And while CBS News and The Times found similar results back in May, the survey then was 37 percent Democratic and 25 percent Republicans; this month, it was 32 percent Democratic and 30 percent Republican, a 10-point net swing in the GOP's favor. Yeah, things are that bad for Republicans right now that they are way down in the polls even when they make up a significantly larger portion of the sample than in previous surveys.

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Strategic Vision Polls: comparing Bush approval a month later

Two new Strategic Vision polls tonight in Michigan and Wisconsin (http://www.strategicvision.biz/political /results.htm) and I thought it was interesting to use state polling to compare Bush's approval rating, as opposed to the national approval polls we have been debating. I don't think it's reasonable to deny there has been a bump in the past month. Both states list Bush higher than similar Strategic Vision polls in August, from 34% to 38% in Michigan and 32% to 37% in Wisconsin. These are blue states that will poll lower than the national average.

In Michigan, Bush improves 3% on terrorism, 4% on Iraq but only 1% on the economy, from 27% to 28%. I realize no one wants to hear that, that Bush's approval rating is lower on the economy than Iraq or overall. While Bush is obviously receiving a bump from lower gas prices that does not appear to be impacting the view of the economy. I'm destined to be frustrated for the balance of this campaign, looking at horrid approval ratings on the economy while we insist on never mentioning it. Just the other day Bush handed us a silver platter quote by saying the economy was in great shape and he expected the election to be a referendum on the economy. Just imagine if he said Iraq was in great shape. The blogosphere and TV pundits would have been all over that. Yet Bush polls worse on the economy than Iraq. I had a previous diary with the numbers from 9 SV polls. It's beyond incredible he thinks the economy is in great shape despite the approval ratings screaming otherwise, yet we make no attempt to pounce.

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Iraq Remains Major Political Problem for President Bush, Republicans

Since the White House's major publicity offensive began several days ago, George W. Bush's approval rating has inched up, perhaps even into the low-40s. The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, for instance, shows the President's approval rating to be up three points to 42 percent, with 53 percent disapproving. Yesterday's Gallup poll found President Bush's approval rating down three points to 39 percent, which, as Charlie Cook noted in his column this week, "matches the Gallup Poll job approval ratings for President Clinton during mid-August and early September of 1994, just weeks before that disastrous election for Democrats."

But even as President Bush's approval ratings have moved from the awful to just the terrible, the prospect for his Republican allies in Congress have not improved. On the generic congressional ballot question, Democrats still hold a 48 percent to 39 percent lead, according to that NBC/WSJ poll, statistically unchanged from July and June polling. Perhaps the biggest reason for this: Iraq.

The violence in Iraq, however, continues to be a problem for the Bush administration and the Republican-led Congress. In the poll, 57 percent of registered voters say they feel less confident that the war there will come to a successful conclusion. That's essentially unchanged from July, when 58 percent said this.

Moreover, 61 percent believe Bush's recent comparison of the Iraq war to the fight against the Nazis and fascism during World War II was inappropriate and was made only to justify his policies in Iraq.

Americans just are not buying the arguments of President Bush and Republicans in Congress on the issue of Iraq, and the news from within the US Military that the Anbar province has been all but ceded to insurgents isn't going to convince any voter that staying the course is the right strategy. As The Hotline's Chuck Todd notes in his column today, "Polls indicate that the country is divided on the definition of the Iraq war, but they aren't divided on how the effort is going there. A strong majority believes it's going badly."

This is why it is so important for the Democrats to hold firm on the issue of the Iraq. Todd puts it well, writing, "the thing the party can't do right now is blink." And while some Democratic consultants still appear to be advising their clients that they should not highlight the differences between themselves and their Republican opponents on Iraq, if the Democrats can be anywhere near as effective as this brilliant ad from VoteVets, they should be able to capitalize on the favorable political environment and make some serious inroads in November.

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Bush Still in Doldrums According to New Opinion Dynamics Poll

Despite asking some ridiculously slanted questions ("It's just crazy to announce to the enemy when you are going to stop fighting and leave the country" vs. "It's smart to let the Iraqis know a certain date when they need to be able to stand on their own"), the latest Opinion Dynamics poll (.pdf) commissioned by Fox News brings forward some fairly interesting information on the state of the race for Congress this year.

The Opinion Dynamics survey, which was in the field on Tuesday and Wednesday during the thick of administration speeches on the Iraq War and terrorism, found no bump, whatsoever, in the salience of terrorism as an issue this year. In fact, just 12 percent of voters believe it "will be the most important in deciding [their] vote for Congress this fall," behind the economy and Iraq, and only one point ahead of healthcare. These numbers seriously call into question the effectiveness of Karl Rove's strategy to wage this midterm campaign almost solely on security issues.

Other data from the poll also show that the Republican effort to paint Democrats as devoid of ideas and solely out to get the President has largely fallen on deaf ears. By a 47 percent to 30 percent margin, voters believe that should Democrats gain control of congress they will push new ideas rather than just trying to impeach President Bush. The margin among independent voters is even larger, 48 percent to 23 percent.

According to the poll, President Bush's approval rating sits at 38 percent with 56 percent disapproving, and on the generic congressional ballot question, Democrats hold a 16-point advantage, 48 percent to 32 percent. It's interesting to note that, with the exception of two outlying polls (one from Gallup, the other from CNN), Republicans have been unable to top 42 percent in any generic congressional ballot survey since February, and even with those outlying polls they haven't gotten over 45 percent since pollsters began widely asking the question last fall (source: PollingReport.com). While these numbers do necessarily not spell imminent doom for the Republicans' chances this fall, they do indicate that the Republicans have a ton of work cut out for them if they intend to hold even one chamber of Congress next year.

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Dueling Polls: Where is Bush Today?

When the USA Today/Gallup poll was released this morning showing President Bush's approval rating all of the way up to 42 percent (still terrible, but not quite as terrible as before) and the Democrats' generic congressional ballot lead down to a paltry 2 points, I was at least somewhat concerned, though notably skeptical. Charles Franklin writes of the Gallup poll, along with the CNN/Opinion Research poll that found similar results, "Give me a couple more in the 40+ range and I'll change my mind, but for now, I continue to think the trend estimate of 38% (and I'd subjectively say, 36.7-38%) is a better estimate of approval. (36.7 was the estimate before these two polls came in at 42%.)" Well, a new round of polling was released today by CBS News and The New York Times (.pdf) and it's a whole lot closer to Franklin's estimate than the couple of polls touted by conservatives as proof of a delayed Bush bounce.

The CBS/NYT poll, conducted over four consecutive days ending yesterday, found President Bush's approval rating to be unchanged since the previous week, with 36 percent approving and 57 percent disapproving. Even as the President's ratings on terrorism and the economy inched up, House Democrats actually gained ground since last month, polling a 47 percent to 32 percent lead over the Republicans. This lead is much more closely in line with the results of recent generic congressional ballot polling than the results found by Gallup.

In short, there has been a lot of fluctuation among various polls recently with different polling organizations finding numbers moving in differing directions. However it appears that President Bush's approval rating is settling in the high 30s, which is plain terrible for Republicans as they seek to maintain control of Congress. But as nationalized as the election is today, the race for control of Congress will be decided in districts around the country. So next week we'll have race-by-race outlooks of House and Governor races to compliment the great Senate Forecast compiled by Chris this week. So stay tuned.

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