02/13/2006 - Nine months before the midterm elections, the Democrats hold a sizable lead in the congressional horse race and an advantage on most major issues. Democrats lead by 50%-41% among registered voters in the test ballot, which is little changed from last September (52%-40%). While retaining a huge advantage on traditional party strengths like the environment and health care, Democrats also are seen as better able to deal with the economy (by 46%-36%) and reform the federal government (42%-29%). Terrorism, and to a lesser extent crime, remain the GOP's only strong issues among 12 tested in the survey.
President Bush's unpopularity has become a drag on his party's prospects in the fall. Roughly three-in-ten registered voters (31%) say they consider their vote for Congress as a vote against Bush, compared with 18% who say they see it as a vote for the president; 47% say Bush is not much of a factor in their decision. This represents a marked change from a comparable point in the previous midterm campaign in February 2002 when by nearly four-to-one (34% to 9%) more voters considered their vote as one in favor of, rather than against, the president.
Yet the Democratic Party also shows signs of weakness in the key area of leadership. Slightly more Americans say the GOP has better political leaders, by 41%-37%. Overall, the Democratic Party has a more favorable image than the GOP, though its advantage here is fairly modest. About half of the public (48%) say they have favorable overall opinion of the Democratic Party, while 44% have a negative impression. For the GOP, negative opinions outnumber positive ones (by 50% to 44%). Notably, both parties are viewed less favorably than they were last summer.
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Feb. 1-5, 2006, among 1,502 adults, finds that by 31% to 14%, more people say the Republican Party has greater involvement than the Democratic Party in congressional corruption. But fully a third (34%) volunteer that both parties are equally involved in corruption. And most Americans say there is nothing new about bribery and corruption in Congress. Six-in-ten say these problems are no different than in the past, compared with 36% who believe that corruption is more common today.