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Democrats in Congress Earn Slightly Higher Job Approval than Republicans

Democrats in Congress Earn Slightly Higher Job Approval than Republicans

Public thinks education and prescription drug plan for seniors should be most important priorities

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The year 2001 has been an eventful one in Congress, with speedy passage of a large tax cut and major proposals on education and energy currently making their way through the legislative process. A closely divided Senate has already witnessed two changes in partisan control, from a brief initial period of Democratic control in January (while Vice President Al Gore still had the tie-breaking vote) to Republican control following the inauguration of Vice President Dick Cheney, and now from Republicans to Democrats after Senator Jim Jeffords decided to leave the Republican Party and become an independent.

The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted June 8-10, finds 54% of Americans approve and 37% disapprove of the job the Democrats in Congress are doing, slightly better than the 49% to 43% rating given the Republicans. Democrats also fare slightly better in an early reading on the 2002 midterm elections, which shows that 49% of registered voters say they would vote for the Democratic candidate in their Congressional district, while 45% say they would vote for the Republican.

Although 58% of Americans approve of Jeffords' decision to leave the Republican Party and become an independent, the public is almost evenly divided as to whether Congress-- with the Senate now controlled by the Democrats and the House by the Republicans-- will be more likely (47%) or less likely (43%) to deal with the major issues facing the nation today. Interestingly, Republicans' and Democrats' opinions on this matter are mirror images of each other. Sixty-five percent of Republicans say Congress will be less likely to deal with major issues, while 65% of Democrats say Congress will be more likely to do so, no doubt a reflection of differing partisan views of the change in control of the Senate.

Similarly, the public shows mixed views on who should have more influence over the direction the nation takes in the next year. When asked to choose between President Bush and the Democrats in Congress, Bush gets the nod by 48% to 41%. However, when the choice is between the Democrats and Republicans in Congress, the Democrats are favored by 47% to 39%. Typically, the public has generally favored the president over the opposition party in Congress when confronted with this choice, perhaps deferring to the president's informal role as the "chief legislator" of the nation.

Public Not Firmly Behind Senate Leaders' Priorities

The shift in party control promises to have a major impact on the Senate's agenda. Rather than giving the primary focus to President Bush's energy plan and missile defense (as would have been the case under the Republicans), the Democratic leaders will give higher priority to raising the minimum wage and passing a patients' bill of rights. Given a list of proposals that may receive legislative consideration this year, the respondents to the most recent poll chose education and a prescription drug plan as the president's and Congress' most important priorities. (In fact, the House recently passed a major education bill, which should be signed into law later this year). A patients' bill of rights ranks near the top of the list, but increasing the minimum wage and missile defense are near the bottom.

Next, how important is it to you that the president and Congress deal with each of the following issues in the next year -- is it -- extremely important, very important, moderately important, or not that important? How about -- [ROTATED]?

 

2001 Jun 8-10

Extremely
important

Extremely/very important

%

%

Education

61

93

Prescription drugs for older Americans

49

85

Increased energy conservation

42

79

A patient's bill of rights

40

77

Increased oil and gas production

35

70

Price caps on electricity

34

65

Raising the minimum wage

31

63

Missile defense

25

54

Campaign Finance

18

40



Senate Leaders Largely Unknown to Public

The latest poll provides Gallup's first rating of new Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. About half of the public does not know the South Dakota Democrat well enough to rate him, but 34% of Americans have a favorable opinion of him and 20% have an unfavorable opinion. The public views new Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott similarly, although he gets slightly higher negative ratings than Daschle. Thirty-four percent of Americans give Lott a favorable rating and 29% rate him unfavorably, while 37% of Americans are unable to rate him. Predictable partisan differences are apparent in the ratings of both senators, with Republicans much more positive in their evaluations of Lott and Democrats much more positive in their evaluations of Daschle.

Americans are divided in their evaluation of Jeffords -- 28% view him favorably and 24% view him unfavorably, while 48% cannot rate him. Republicans are sharply critical of Jeffords, with only 12% rating him favorably and 45% unfavorably (43% have no opinion), while Democrats are much more positive in their assessment, giving Jeffords a 42% favorable and just a 9% unfavorable rating (49% have no opinion).

Survey Methods

The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,011 adults, 18 years and older, conducted June 8-10, 2001. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Do you approve or disapprove of the way [ROTATED] are handling their job?

A. The Republicans in Congress

 

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

       

2001 Jun 8-10

49

43

8

       

2000 Aug 18-19

45

44

11

2000 Jul 25-26

46

39

15

2000 Apr 28-30

42

46

12

1999 Nov 4-7

38

53

9

1999 Oct 8-10

37

55

8

1999 Aug 16-18

36

53

11

1999 Jun 25-27

40

53

7



B. The Democrats in Congress

 

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

       

2001 Jun 8-10

54

37

9

       

2000 Aug 18-19

56

34

10

2000 Jul 25-26

51

36

13

2000 Apr 28-30

46

42

12

1999 Nov 4-7

49

42

9

1999 Oct 8-10

48

44

8

1999 Aug 16-18

48

41

11

1999 Jun 25-27

46

46

8



Who do you want to have more influence over the direction the nation takes in the next year – [ROTATED: George W. Bush (or) The Democrats in Congress]?

BASED ON -- 504 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A; ±5 PCT. PTS.

 

 


Bush

Democrats
in Congress

Both/Neither (vol.)

No
opinion

         

2001 Jun 8-10

48

41

6

5

         

2001 Feb 9-11

48

41

8

3



Who do you want to have more influence over the direction the nation takes in the next year -- [ROTATED: the Republicans in Congress (or) the Democrats in Congress]?

BASED ON -- 507 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B; ±5 PCT. PTS.

 

 

Republicans
in Congress

Democrats
in Congress

Both/Neither (vol.)

No
opinion

         

2001 Jun 8-10

39

47

8

6



Next, how important is it to you that the president and Congress deal with each of the following issues in the next year -- is it -- extremely important, very important, moderately important, or not that important? How about -- [ROTATED]?

A. Campaign finance

 

 

Extremely important

Very important

Moderately important

Not that important

No
opinion

           

2001 Jun 8-10

18

22

29

28

3

           

2001 Jan 10-14

16

26

34

20

4



B. Education

 

 

Extremely important

Very important

Moderately important

Not that important

No
opinion

           

2001 Jun 8-10

61

32

6

1

*



C. Increased oil and gas production

 

 

Extremely important

Very important

Moderately important

Not that important

No
opinion

           

2001 Jun 8-10

35

35

19

10

1



D. Increased energy conservation

 

 

Extremely important

Very important

Moderately important

Not that important

No
opinion

           

2001 Jun 8-10

42

37

14

5

2



E. Price caps on electricity

 

 

Extremely important

Very important

Moderately important

Not that important

No
opinion

           

2001 Jun 8-10

34

31

21

12

2



F. Raising the minimum wage

 

 

Extremely important

Very important

Moderately important

Not that important

No
opinion

           

2001 Jun 8-10

31

32

25

11

1



G. Missile defense

 

 

Extremely important

Very important

Moderately important

Not that important

No
opinion

           

2001 Jun 8-10

25

29

27

17

2



H. A patient's bill of rights

 

 

Extremely important

Very important

Moderately important

Not that important

No
opinion

           

2001 Jun 8-10

40

37

16

5

2



I. Prescription drugs for older Americans

 

 

Extremely important

Very important

Moderately important

Not that important

No
opinion

           

2001 Jun 8-10

49

36

12

3

*



As you may know, Jim Jeffords, a U.S. Senator from Vermont, left the Republican Party and became an independent. Jeffords' decision to become an independent has now given the control of the Senate to Democrats.

Do you approve or disapprove of Jeffords' decision to become an independent?

 

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

       

2001 Jun 8-10

     

National Adults

58

34

8

       

Republicans

24

69

7

Independents

63

25

12

Democrats

86

8

6



Now that the Democrats control the Senate and the Republicans control the House of Representatives, do you think Congress will be [ROTATED: more likely or less likely] to deal with the major issues facing the nation today?

 

 


More likely


Less likely

No difference (vol.)

No
opinion

         

2001 Jun 8-10

47

43

5

5



If the elections for Congress were being held today, which party's candidate would you vote for in your Congressional district -- [ROTATE: 1) The Democratic Party's candidate or 2) The Republican Party's candidate]?

As of today, do you lean more toward -- [ROTATE: 1) The Democratic Party's candidate or 2) The Republican Party's candidate]?

 

 

Democratic
candidate

Republican
candidate

Undecided/
other

       

National Adults

     

(NA) 2001 Jun 8-10

50

43

7

       

Registered Voters

     

(RV) 2001 Jun 8-10

49

45

6



 

 

Democratic
candidate

Republican
candidate

Undecided/
other

       

Final Mid-Term Election Trend

     

(RV) 1998 Oct 29-Nov 1

50

41

9

(RV) 1994 Nov 2-6

46

46

8

(RV) 1990 Oct 25-28

50

40

10

(RV) 1982 Oct 15-18

58

40

2

(RV) 1978 Oct 27-30

55

44

1

(RV) 1974 Oct 18-21

62

35

3

(RV) 1970 Oct 22-25

46

36

18

(RV) 1966 Oct 21-26

51

41

8

(RV) 1962 Oct 19-24

56

38

6

(RV) 1958 Oct 15-20

56

42

12

(RV) 1954 Oct 15-20

--

--

--

(RV) 1950 Oct 22-27

47

45

8



* Less than 0.5%
(vol.) Volunteered response

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