By 52% to 31%, Americans say they want Democrats to win the presidency next year.
Americans give the Republican Party their most negative assessment in the two-decade history of the Journal/NBC survey, and by 49% to 36% they say the Democratic Party more closely shares their values and positions on the issues.
"The political environment for Republicans continues to erode," says Republican pollster Neil Newhouse, who conducts the Journal/NBC survey with Democratic counterpart Peter Hart. A long-term worry for the party: Republican gains among the Hispanic constituency, long a target for President Bush, have vanished at a time when Washington is enmeshed in a debate over immigration policy.
The party's woes can be partly traced to the political decline of President Bush. His approval rating in the Journal/NBC survey has fallen to its lowest ever, 29%, while 66% of Americans disapprove of his performance. The telephone survey of 1,008 adults, conducted June 8-11, has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.
Mr. Bush's decline from 35% approval in April reflects diminished support from his core constituency: Among Republicans, approval of the president's job performance has dropped to 62% from 75%. It also reflects bleak assessments of his new strategy in Iraq: By 54% to 10%, Americans say the situation there has gotten worse rather than better in recent months.
The poll hardly brings reassurance for the Democrats, who control both the House and Senate. Amid political gridlock on domestic issues and inconclusive debates over Iraq, the approval rating for Congress stands lower than Mr. Bush's, at 23%.What the survey doesn't say is that the low approval rating of congressional Dems has been driven down most likely by the anti-war left angry over passage of the Iraq War supplemental without a troop withdrawal timetable. That could change in the upcoming battle to pass amendments setting deadlines in the defense appropriations bill.
Just 41% of Americans say their representative in Congress deserves re-election, comparable to levels before Democrats swept Republicans out of power in November.
Yet the Democrats' overall strategic posture as 2008 approaches remains far stronger. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, who has strengthened her lead in the race for the Democratic nomination, leads Mr. Giuliani by 48% to 43% in a potential general-election matchup after trailing by a similar margin three months ago. Despite Mr. Thompson's rise among Republican contenders, he trails the second-place Democratic candidate, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, by 50% to 31% in a hypothetical November 2008 contest.Far too early in the race to feel overly optimistic but Bush continues to weigh down the Repub presidential candidates. Too many of them sound like the Commander guy. And that's not what Americans want.