updated 10/5/2006 11:28:24 AM ET 2006-10-05T15:28:24

Congressional Republicans, already struggling against negative public perceptions of Congress, now face voters who say new scandals will significantly influence their vote in November.

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With midterm elections less than five weeks away, the latest Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that about half of likely voters say recent disclosures of corruption and scandal in Congress will be very or extremely important when they cast their vote next month.

The poll of 1,501 adults, including 741 likely voters, occurred Monday through Wednesday as House Republican leaders came under increasing pressure to explain what they knew of sexually explicit messages from former Rep. Mark Foley of Florida to teenage pages.

More troubling for Republicans, the poll found that by a margin of nearly 2-to-1 likely voters says Democrats would be better at combating political corruption than Republicans.

The Foley scandal, fueled by new revelations each day, has put Republican leaders and GOP candidates on the defensive, forcing them into a political detour just as they were preparing their final offensive against Democrats to save control of Congress.

The poll also found that President Bush’s efforts to depict the war in Iraq as part of a larger campaign against terrorism and to portray Democrats as weak on national security was not altering the political landscape.

Disapproval of Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq was at 61 percent among likely voters, a slight uptick from the 58 percent who disapproved last month. A majority of likely voters also disapproved of Bush’s handling of the war on terrorism, a conclusion that mirrored past attitudes.

Similarly, recent good news on the economic front — from lower gas prices to a rising stock market — did not appear to pierce through the public’s downbeat view of the economy. Fifty-six percent of likely voters disapproved of Bush’s handling of the economy, a slight dip from the 59 percent who held that view last month.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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