TIME Poll: The Foley Scandal Has Hurt the G.O.P.

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President Bush walks with U.S. Rep. Mark Foley after Florida was hit by Hurricane Charlie in this August, 2004

Two-thirds of Americans aware of the lurid e-mails set to congressional pages by a G.O.P congressman believe Republican leaders tried to cover up the scandal — and one quarter of them say the affair makes them less likely to vote for Republican candidates in their districts come November. Those are among the findings of a new TIME poll conducted this week among 1,002 randomly-selected voting-age Americans.

The poll suggests the Foley affair may have dented Republican hopes of retaining control of Congress in November. Among the registered voters who were polled, 54% said they would be more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate for Congress, compared with 39% who favored the Republican. That margin may be fueled by the rolling scandal over sexually explicit e-mails sent to teenage pages by Republican Representative Mark Foley. Almost 80% of respondents were aware of the scandal, and only 16% approve of the Republicans' handling of it. Those polled were divided, however, on whether House Speaker Dennis Hastert should resign over his handling of the Foley affair, with 39% saying he should resign and 38% saying he should not.

Iraq, meanwhile, is continuing to be a problem for the Republicans. Only 38% of respondents in the TIME poll now support President Bush's decision to invade Iraq, down from 42% three months ago. A similar number believe that the new Iraqi government will succeed in forming a stable democracy, while 59% believe this is unlikely. Almost two-thirds (65%) of respondents disapprove of President Bush's handling of the war, while 54% believe he "deliberately misled" Americans in making his case for war — a figure that has increased by 6 points over the past year. President Bush's overall approval rating, according to TIME's poll, now stands at just 36%, down from 38% in August.