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Filibuster Rule Change Opposed

Senate Rules Poll

A third of those interviewed (32 percent) said the economy should be the highest priority for the administration and Congress, up five points in the past month, followed by Iraq (22 percent) and health care (15 percent). Only 12 percent cited terrorism as the top issue, down five points since March.

The biggest changes in opinion came on Social Security, which Bush has made the principal domestic priority of his second term. Three in 10 (31 percent) approved of the job Bush is doing on Social Security, while 64 percent disapproved, an eight-point increase in disapproval in a month. Only a third said they trust Bush more than the Democrats to handle the Social Security issue, a new low for the president.

In little more than a month, there has been a double-digit shift in sentiment. In mid-March, 56 percent favored private accounts, compared with 45 percent in the latest poll, which marked the first time in Post-ABC News polling that less than half of the public supported allowing workers to invest some of their Social Security contributions in the stock market.

The decline in support was widespread. The poll found that support among Republicans fell by nine percentage points, among Democrats by 10 percentage points and among political independents by 12 percentage points.

Neither party is held completely blameless in the increasingly acrimonious Senate battle over judgeships, with only four in 10 saying they approved of the way Democrats or Republicans were handling the confirmation process. But other findings suggested that Senate GOP leaders risk alienating the public over their efforts to circumvent opposition to nominees who Democrats say are far too conservative.

So far, the Senate has confirmed 35 federal appeals court judges nominated by Bush, while Senate Democrats have blocked 10 others by threatening to filibuster. According to the poll, nearly half of the public said Democrats are right to block the 10 contested Bush appointees, while slightly more than a third said they are wrong.

Religious and ideological splits are now at the center of the debate over judicial appointments, and the survey found that the deep partisan divide is matched by large differences over the proper role of religion in politics. For example, more than six in 10 Republicans said they think political leaders should rely on their religious beliefs in making policy decisions, while an equally large proportion of Democrats disagreed.

Four in 10 Americans said they think religious conservatives play too large a role in the Republican Party, a view shared by about half of all Democrats and independents but only one in five Republicans. Conversely, nearly as many Americans (35 percent) said liberals have too much influence over the Democratic Party, a view held by nearly six in 10 Republicans.

Assistant polling director Claudia Deane contributed to this report.

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