Newsweek Post-Election Poll: Country Wants Moderate Democratic Control
The first major post-election poll, conducted by Newsweek of over a thousand adults over the last two days, finds that respondents voted against Bush and the GOP rather than in favor of the Democrats; that the country wants the Democrats to focus on a moderate agenda and initially on Iraq and national security; and that the bottom has fallen out of Bush’s approval ratings as well as the country’s preference for a GOP candidate in 2008.
President Bush’s job approval rating has fallen to just 31 percent, according to the new NEWSWEEK Poll. Bill Clinton’s lowest rating during his presidency was 36 percent; Bush’s father’s was 29 percent, and Ronald Reagan’s was 35 percent. Jimmy Carter’s and Richard Nixon’s lows were 28 and 23 percent, respectively. (Just 24 approve of outgoing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s job performance; and 31 percent approve of Vice President Dick Cheney’s.)
Worst of all, most Americans are writing off the rest of Bush’s presidency; two-thirds (66 percent) believe he will be unable to get much done, up from 56 percent in a mid-October poll; only 32 percent believe he can be effective. That’s unfortunate since 63 percent of Americans say they’re dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country; just 29 percent are satisfied, reports the poll of 1,006 adults conducted Thursday and Friday nights.
In essence, the country has deemed Bush's eight years as a failure.
Why did voters vote the way they did:
Presented with a list of factors that may have contributed to the Democrats’ success, 85 percent of Americans said the “major reason” was disapproval of the administration’s handling of the war in Iraq, 71 percent said disapproval of Bush’s overall job performance, 67 percent cited dissatisfaction with how Republicans have handled government spending and the deficit, 63 percent said disapproval of the overall performance of Republicans in Congress, 61 percent said Democrats’ ideas and proposals for changing course in Iraq. Tellingly, just 27 percent said a major reason the Democrats won was because they had better candidates.
A majority of Americans, 51 percent, believe it’s a good thing that the Democrats regained control of Congress, including 18 percent of Republicans, while only 17 percent think it is a bad thing.
But the public is worried the Democrats will move too fast on Iraq and too slow on national security. For instance, 51 percent of Americans are very concerned that Congress will push too hastily for the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq. (Only 20 percent say they are not too concerned or not at all concerned.) And 43 percent are very concerned that the new Congress may keep the administration from doing what is necessary to combat terrorism.
Keep this in mind as we figure out how to challenge Bush on his domestic surveillance programs.
The Democrats’ Agenda
And there’s massive support for much of the Democratic Congress’s presumed agenda. For instance, 75 percent of Americans say allowing the government to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies to lower drug prices for seniors should be a “top priority,” including 67 percent of Republicans. Increasing the minimum wage comes next (68 percent) on the public’s list, followed by investigating government contracts in Iraq (60 percent).
Overall, however, the public wants Congress and the president to put Iraq and national security before domestic issues like the economy and health care, by a margin of 51 to 33 percent. Fifteen percent say they should be equal priorities. But the public is not overly optimistic: 54 percent of Americans say partisan bickering will likely prevent important work from getting done, while 40 percent say the two sides will be able to work together.
Democrats have a 20-point advantage already in the 2008 presidential vote.
With just two years before the next presidential election, the Republicans have some rebuilding to do. Today 48 percent of registered voters would generally like to see a Democrat elected in ’08 (including 10 percent of Republicans and 37 percent of independents); compared to 28 percent who want a Republican (including just 3 percent of Democrats and 20 percent of independents). Twenty percent say they don’t know.