New Zogby Poll: Bush Up, Dems Still Lead genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Public opinion

Pundits continue to debate whether the recent increase in the President’s approval ratings is a bump or a trend and the latest Zogby poll will likely continue the discussion. The poll shows that the President's approval rating has risen to 42 percent, up only three points from the August numbers but significantly higher than his low of 31 percent in June. Democrats continue to hold a lead over Republicans on the question of whether voters intend to support the Democratic or Republican candidate in their own district.

The good news for Democrats is that, at the moment, the improved GOP numbers are not translating into gains for Republican candidates in polling of individual races. You can read the details at Zogby or from Reuters.

From Zogby:

Bush has rebounded from a low of 31% job approval in early June. Just two weeks ago, 39% gave him positive marks for his job performance. The Reuters/Zogby survey shows that members of the President’s political base are giving him better marks than they did a few months ago, as 44% of men, 44% of Catholics, 46% of married respondents, and 52% of regular WalMart shoppers rated his work well.

Just one in four – 24% – gave Congress a positive job performance rating, while 75% gave negative marks.

Democrats remain in the lead in the “generic" congressional election contest, where respondents are asked whether they intend to vote for the Republican or the Democrat in their local congressional election on Nov. 7. Their 42% to 33% edge has held steady despite Bush’s improvement in job approval. Remarkably, 20% said they are yet unsure which candidate they will support when they cast their vote – a disconcerting factor for incumbents, more than 95% of whom won re–election two years ago. Democrats appear to be more energized to support their own party’s candidate – 82% said they would vote Democratic, compared to 75% of Republicans who said they plan to vote for the GOP congressional candidate this fall. Democrats need to win 15 seats in the U.S. House in order to wrest control from Republicans for the first time since the 1994 election, and need to pick up six Senate seats to take over in the upper chamber.

The large number of undecided voters suggests that there is still plenty of room for change in the final numbers...a fact that makes the final few weeks of campaigning all the more important as well as all the more vulnerable to unforeseen events that could shift voter sentiment. Personally, I find this information troubling for Democrats since they have recently done a poor job of closing the deal with voters. Additionally, the GOP has a significant cash advantage, a superior get out the vote system, and they will likely roll out numerous negative ads intent on employing wedge issues to energize conservatives and evangelicals. Lastly, I remain concerned that the Democrats continue to lack a consistent and comprehensive message as they continue to shift positions on the war in Iraq.

Just yesterday, the headlines indicated that John Murtha stood with 10 military veterans running as Democrats in November when they called for a full withdrawal from Iraq by 2008...a far different time frame than the redeployment in six months called for by Murtha earlier this year.

From Reuters:

"The president and the Republicans are still on the ropes, but they certainly seem to have hit bottom and bounced back," Zogby said. "This is still very competitive."

The war in Iraq topped the concerns of likely voters, with 33 percent picking it as their most important issue. Security and the fight against terrorism were close behind with 30 percent, while 23 percent chose the economy and jobs as the top issue.

But 53 percent said the Iraq war was not worth the loss of lives, a slight improvement for Bush from an early September poll where 58 percent said it was not.

The poll found a majority of voters, 55 percent, believed the country was on the wrong track, usually a reliable indicator of public mood and a bad sign for incumbents.

The most notable number in the above excerpt is the fact that terrorism is now seen by 30 percent of voters as the most important issue in the midterm election. That indicates that the President and the GOP have been effective in raising fears and concerns about national security and the need to combat terrorist threats...a strategy that was successful for Republicans in 2002 and 2004. The recent media attention on terror issues is not likely to help Democrats as they benefit more from a focus on the war in Iraq. While it has been stated time and again, the Party that can frame the debate between now and November will likely be seen as the winner on November 8th.

Daniel DiRito | September 28, 2006 | 8:32 AM
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