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Independent Voters Favor Democrats by 2 to 1 in Poll
Independents do not limit their criticism of the war's handling to the president. Fifty-five percent of independents said congressional Republicans deserve a "great deal" or a "good amount" of the blame for problems in Iraq. Fewer, 36 percent, give congressional Republicans credit for helping prevent terrorist attacks against the United States since Sept. 11, 2001.
Bush agreed last week with a commentator's suggestion that a recent surge in violence in Iraq could be equivalent to the 1968 Tet Offensive, which marked a turning point in U.S. public support for the Vietnam War. But the percentage of Americans who believe that Iraq could be another Vietnam is no higher, at 45 percent, than it was in June.
Four in 10 Americans said the war is not worth fighting, and three in four said the war has damaged the United States' image in the rest of the world. Not quite half of those surveyed said that overall, the war has helped to improve the lives of the Iraqi people, a sharp decline since June, when roughly seven in 10 believed it had.
The small decline in the economy's ranking as a top voting issue comes at a time when Americans are increasingly upbeat about the state of the national economy. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed said the economy is "good" or "excellent," a sharp jump over the past two weeks and the highest since Bush took office.
But Republicans appear to be getting little tangible benefit from the growing economic optimism, which has come amid declining gasoline prices and a record high in the Dow Jones industrial average. Those who cite the economy as the most important issue favor Democrats by 18 percentage points, 57 percent to 39 percent.
One reason is that only a quarter of those surveyed said they are getting ahead financially. About the same number said they are falling behind. Most, however, said they are just able to maintain their standard of living. Republicans have an advantage only among those who say their financial condition is improving.
Among those voting primarily on Iraq, Democrats hold a sizable lead, 76 percent to 21 percent, in voting intentions. Democrats also are favored by voters who cite health care as their most important issue, while those voting on terrorism or immigration strongly favor Republicans.
Voters also continue to trust Democrats more than Republicans to deal with the war, the economy, North Korea and ethics in government. On terrorism, the two parties are at parity.
But independents, the key swing voter group, strongly trust the Democrats on all of those issues by margins ranging from 14 percentage points on terrorism to 23 points on Iraq and North Korea and 26 points on ethics in government.
The growing independent support for Democratic House candidates represents a significant shift in attitudes since the 2004 election, when Democrats held only a slim advantage. In winning reelection, Bush narrowly lost the independent vote, 50 percent to 48 percent, and in the vote for the House, independents split 50 to 46 for Democratic candidates.
One important question that will affect the outcome of the elections is who shows up to vote. More Democrats than Republicans, 32 percent vs. 24 percent, said they are "very closely" following the campaign, and Democrats are more likely to be very enthusiastic about voting. Independents show less enthusiasm about this election than do Democrats or Republicans.
Almost three in five respondents said this congressional election is more important than past congressional elections. A higher percentage of Democrats said this election has more significance than did Republicans or independents.
Both parties are making extraordinary efforts to turn out their voters in November. Twenty-nine percent of registered voters said they had been contacted by one party or the other for their votes, and three in 10 of those said they had been contacted by advocates for both parties.
Republicans appear to be doing a better job of contacting independents. In the poll, 45 percent of those independents who said they had been contacted said they were urged to vote for Republicans, while 17 percent said they were urged to vote for Democrats. The rest said they were contacted by both sides.
The Post-ABC News poll findings are based on telephone interviews with 1,200 adults conducted Thursday through Sunday. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.
Database editor Dan Keating contributed to this report.