TIME Poll: Registered Republicans Less Enthusiastic About Voting Than Democrats

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With just three days left until the midterm elections, a new poll commissioned by TIME shows that Republicans may be approaching voting day without one of the big advantages they enjoyed in November 2004 — their ability to motivate supporters to go out and vote. Among registered Democrats polled, 52% say they're more enthusiastic about voting than usual, compared with just 39% of Republicans. Thirty-seven percent of Republican respondents are less enthusiastic than usual, while only 29% of Democrats feel that way.

Another challenge facing the G.O.P. is a stark drop-off in support among what is usually a core constituency: white evangelical Christians. According to TIME's poll, only 54% of people in this group favor Republican candidates, with 5% undecided. Thirty-eight percent of white evangelicals polled say they'll support Democrats. In 2004, exit polls indicated that 78% of this constituency voted for Bush. While the G.O.P. won out in the poll by seven points (42-35) as the party perceived as best equipped to protect moral values, a matter especially important to this group, the party's standing among evangelicals may have been hurt by recent Congressional scandals, which have tarnished the G.O.P. especially. Forty-one percent of registered voters said Congressional scandals were extremely or very important as voting issues this campaign.

A third factor running against the G.O.P. is an improvement in men's attitudes towards the Democrats. Males provided much of the Bush victory margin in 2004: the President took 55% of the male vote while John Kerry won 44%, according to exit polls. For the 2006 midterms, the TIME poll suggests men are almost evenly split, with 43% supporting Republican candidates and 47% Democrats. Women in the TIME poll support Democratic candidates by a lopsided 59% to 33% for Republicans. In 2004, Kerry had just a three-point edge among females.

The poll indicated that the Iraq war is the most important voting issue among nine TIME tested. Thirty-five percent of registered voters labeled the war an “extremely important issue” and 44% called it a “very important issue” in deciding which Congressional candidate to support. A majority of Americans, according to this poll — 53% in both cases — say the war was a mistake in the first place and that the U.S. is losing it. Democrats held a slim five-point lead (44%-39%) on which party would do a better job of dealing with the war.

The economy came in second as a voting issue, with 29% of registered voters ranking it “extremely important” and 50% “very important. Terrorism was a close third, with 77% of those surveyed saying it was extremely or very important. Here, Republicans held their usual advantage. Forty-five percent of registered voters said Republicans would handle terrorism better than Democrats (35%).

Though Republican candidates and officials on the stump have portrayed Democrats as likely to raise taxes, the poll found that 45% of registered voters thought the opposition party would do a better job dealing with taxes than the G.O.P., which got 40% on that score. Tax policy was an extremely or very important voting issue to 70% of respondents. On managing government spending, 46% of registered voters said Democrats were to be preferred over Republicans, who got the nod of 31% of those surveyed. Overall, Democrats came out ahead in five of the seven areas TIME polled. On “standing up to lobbyists and special interests” they prevailed 41% to 23% and on “understanding the needs of people like yourself” they led 53% to 30%.

President Bush's performance is a voting issue and is likely a factor in energizing Democrats on the eve of the election. Twenty-three percent of those polled said it was an “extremely important “ element in their decision making and another 35% said it was “very important.” Fully two thirds (66%) of those who support Democratic candidates cite Bush's performance as a major factor in their vote, compared to 52% of those backing Republicans. Bush's approval rating remained in the doldrums, at 37% — essentially unchanged from our last poll, Oct.3 (36%) and the one before that, Aug.22 (38%). Sixty-five percent of those surveyed say they disapprove of the President's handling of the war; 31% approve.

Finally, in an undercurrent of unease that has been simmering since the 2000 vote-counting debacle in Florida, a large number of voters — 43% — say they're “very concerned” that votes won't be counted accurately, and another 25% say they're “somewhat concerned.”

This TIME magazine poll was conducted by telephone November 1-3, 2006 among a national random sample of 1203 adults, including 1030 registered voters, age 18 and older throughout America.

The margin of error for the entire sample is approximately +/- 3 percentage points. The margin of error is higher for subgroups. Surveys are subject to other error sources as well, including sampling coverage error, recording error, and respondent error.

The Poll's partisan breakdown is as follows:

29% Democrat 26% Republican 33% Independent

Schulman, Ronca, & Bucuvalas (SRBI) Public Affairs designed the survey and conducted all interviewing. The full TIME questionnaire and trend data may be found at: www.srbi.com.