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July 29, 2009

MEDIA CONTACT: Nick Massella, GW

Economy, health care, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and deficit top list of voter concerns

WASHINGTON - The latest edition of The George Washington University Battleground Poll finds a majority of voters (51%) believing that the country is on the wrong track. Their top areas of concern are the economy and jobs, health care costs, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the federal budget deficit. 

Looking ahead to the 2010 Congressional Elections, the Democratic Party enjoys a three point advantage (43%-40%) on the Congressional generic ballot. However, voters are closely divided on their preference for a divided government (41%) or for a unified government (39%). In addition, a majority (57%) of voters disapprove of the job performance of Congress. 

In contrast, President Obama has a job approval rating of 53%, a personal approval rating of 72%, and a 61% favorable rating on name identification.

On other name identification scores, Republicans in Congress (37% favorable/49% unfavorable) trail the Democrats in Congress (45% favorable/44% unfavorable) though Nancy Pelosi (32% favorable/51% unfavorable) and Harry Reid (15% favorable/31% unfavorable) are well below the scores for Democrats in Congress overall. Among other figures tested, Joe Biden is ten points net positive (48% favorable/38% unfavorable) while Sarah Palin is five points net negative (42% favorable/47% unfavorable). 

A split sample series of questions asked the public to rate how well the Republicans in Congress and President Obama were handling a variety of policy issues. President Obama has an advantage on being honest and trustworthy (+30), promoting energy independence (+26), reforming health care (+22), turning the economy around (+20), defending middle class values (+18), and sharing your values (+4). Republicans in Congress enjoy an advantage over President Obama on controlling wasteful spending (+2), promoting a strong national defense (+11), and holding down taxes (+12). 

Another split sample series of questions asked the public to rate how well the two parties in Congress were handling a variety of policy issues.  Republicans in Congress have an advantage on holding down taxes (+24), promoting a strong national defense (+20), and controlling wasteful spending (+8). Democrats in Congress have an advantage on reforming health care (+21), promoting energy independence (+16), turning the economy around (+14), defending middle class values (+13), being honest and trustworthy (+11), and on sharing your values (+2). 

On a series of agree/disagree statements, one can see how fluid the potential themes for the 2010 election are. On a split sample question, a majority of voters (64% agree/34% disagree) that the Obama administration is trying to pursue too many policy initiatives too quickly and a majority (61% agree/34% disagree) that the Obama administration is spending too much money on too many major policy initiatives.  However, on another split sample question, a majority of voters (53% agree/41% disagree) that Republicans in Congress are blocking change and support Bush policies while dividing (48% agree/47% disagree) on an assertion that the GOP in Congress is blocking change and not proposing solutions.

On the economy, 63% of voters rate the economy as approaching recession (5%), recession (45%), or depression (13%).  In addition, 60% of voters indicate that they personally or someone they know has been unemployed in the last 12 months. However, 48% of voters rate their personal economic situation as excellent (7%) or good (41%). 

On some/other question about the economy, a majority (57%) of voters select that Obama and the Congress should be given a year to have their solutions really make a difference while another 33% of voters believe that enough time has passed to expect the solutions promised with the stimulus package.  
Christopher Arterton, dean of the Graduate School of Political Management, notes, "For years, the GW-Battleground Poll has provided a highly accurate measurement of American public opinion in the context of the current political landscape. After the historic 2008 presidential race, 2009 is shaping up to be a pivotal year in political support for Republicans and Democrats alike. All the more important as we head into the 2010 Congressional Elections."

Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners, states, "Voters are more optimistic about the direction of the country under Obama, but they are very worried about the economy. The President and Vice President are positive and among the most popular figures in Washington. Voters trust Obama and the Democrats on the issues that matter most - the economy, jobs, and health care. Yet while voters recognize the Administration and Congress deserve more time for their solutions to take hold, they are increasingly tax-sensitive and anxious about rising deficits. As the Democrats know, our future depends on focusing on a couple of initiatives and delivering results."

Ed Goeas, president and CEO of The Tarrance Group, says, "As Republicans look ahead to the 2010 elections, this data offers some real encouragement for the party.  Voters are anxious about the direction the country is taking.  On key measures, both voter intensity and the views of key voting groups like seniors and independents are moving in favor of Republicans."

This bipartisan GW-Battleground 2008 Poll surveyed 1,007 registered likely voters nationwide July 19-23, 2009, and yields a margin of error of + 3.1%.  First conducted in 1991, this poll has accurately portrayed the political climate through four presidential and three mid-term election cycles.  This series of scientific surveys is unique to the industry in that it offers the distinct perspectives of two top pollsters from different sides of the aisle. 

The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management is the sponsor of the poll. The university's public affairs, public policy and international affairs programs (undergraduate and graduate) frequently are ranked highly in leading publications, including recognition as the "Most Politically Active" university in the 2010 Princeton Review. The George Washington University also is one of the nation's best schools in fostering social responsibility and public service, according to the Princeton Review and Washington Monthly, which both included the university among its top-rated schools for community service in recent surveys.

For additional information please see the Democratic Strategic Analysis and GW-Battleground Poll charts.

Celinda Lake, and Ed Goeas are available for comment. For Lake, please contact Daniel Gotoff at Lake Research Partners, 202-776-9066.  For Goeas, please contact Brian Nienaber at The Tarrance Group, 703-684-6688. This data also is available online at, or

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