WASHINGTON — The final pre-election NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll suggests that Democrats continue to have a significant advantage heading into the midterms that take place exactly one week from Tuesday.
They hold a 15-point lead — tied for the largest ever in the survey — over Republicans in voters' preference for control of Congress. President George W. Bush's approval rating remains mired below 40 percent. And more than 60 percent feel less confident that the war in Iraq will come to a successful conclusion, the largest number ever on that question.
"The basic dynamic for the 2006 campaign remains in place," says Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican Bill McInturff. "The Democrats continue to lead in this election."
Good news for Bush
That said, the poll also shows a slight uptick — although within the margin of error — on Bush's approval ratings from the previous NBC/Journal survey taken two weeks ago, indicating that the worst could be over for Republicans after the Mark Foley page scandal and further violence in Iraq.
"I think the flood waters crested two weeks ago," Hart adds. "If you're a Republican, the good news is that in the low-lying areas, the water hasn't continued the rise."
According to the poll, 52 percent of registered voters say they prefer Democrats controlling Congress, compared with 37 percent who want Republicans in charge. That 15-point advantage is unchanged from the last NBC/Journal poll released two weeks ago, and ties the largest lead ever on this particular question.
Moreover, 40 percent say that what they have seen and heard over the past few weeks — which includes the Foley scandal, the violence in Iraq and journalist Bob Woodward's unflattering portrayal of the Bush Administration's handling of the war — has given them a less favorable impression of Republicans holding onto control of Congress (that figure is down seven points since the last poll). Just 19 percent believe it has given them a more favorable impression.
By contrast, 34 percent say the events over the past few weeks have given them a favorable impression of the Democrats gaining majorities in Congress, compared with 25 percent who hold a less favorable impression.
Also in the poll, which was taken of 1,010 registered voters from Oct. 28-30 and which has a margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points, President Bush's job approval rating is at 39 percent — a one-point increase from the previous poll. And after a period of declining gasoline prices and gains in the stock market, approval of his handling of the economy has risen two points to 46 percent.
Politics of iraq
While Bush's job approval ratings have inched up, opinions about the Iraq war have plummeted to new lows. Only 27 percent say they are more confident that the Iraq war will come to a successful conclusion (which is an all-time low), while 61 percent say they are less confident (an all-time high).
In addition, just 37 percent believe that removing Saddam Hussein from power was worth the U.S. casualties and financial cost of the war. That is tied for the lowest mark on this response since the poll began asking the question in November 2003. Fifty-four percent say removing Hussein from power wasn't worth it.
McInturff, the GOP pollster, observes that these last figures are the "fulcrum of the survey." Per the crosstabs, those who believe that removing Hussein from power wasn't worth it prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, 80-12 percent. Those who believe it was worth it prefer Republicans by a 71-19 percent margin.
Mark Murray covers politics for NBC News.
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