On most issues, Democrats trump the Republicans

Source: Scripps Howard News Service
Date: October 24, 2007

Most Americans trust Democrats rather than Republicans to handle the war in Iraq, to balance the federal budget and to craft federal policies on thorny issues like abortion and illegal immigration.

Republicans have hit such hard times with most of the American public that they are losing against Democrats on many of the GOP's historical core issues, according to a national survey of 811 adult residents of the United States conducted by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University.

The survey asked people from all walks of life whether they thought Republicans or Democrats were more capable of dealing with 11 national and international issues. Democrats came away with the lead in 10 out of 11 areas, with the issue of military preparedness being the single Republican strength.

"The Republicans don't have a lot going for them in terms of issues," concluded Rudy Teixeira, a joint fellow of the Century Foundation and the Center for American Progress and author of "The Emerging Democratic Majority."

Teixeira attributed Americans' faith in Democrats on illegal immigration to the recent failing of an immigration-reform bill, which President Bush supported. "Above all, (Republicans) just seem ineffective," he said.

On the issue of how to handle the federal deficit -- typically considered a conservative issue -- 36 percent said Democrats are better equipped to achieve fiscal responsibility while 25 percent sided with Republicans.

"That was one major concern, that Republicans had lapsed on fiscal stewardship," said Alison Fraser, director of economic-policy studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Fraser pointed in part to a combination of pork-barrel spending and the high cost of the Medicare prescription-drug benefit as a cause of Republicans' fall from grace in the realm of fiscal responsibility.

"Over the last 10 years, the amount of earmarks has risen substantially," she said. "And it wasn't supposed to be that way."

For each issue, at least 20 percent of the respondents said they thought neither party was capable of handling the problem.

"It's clear to me that, at large, Americans are very hesitant to trust Congress in general," Fraser said.

The Democrats' advantage over the Republicans varied from 32 percentage points on hunger and 27 percentage points on health care to 5 percentage points on immigration.

On the Iraq war, 35 percent said the Democrats could handle it best, while 26 percent said the Republicans, 27 percent said neither and 12 percent didn't know or had a similar response.

Respondents were also asked whether they felt each of 11 issues is very important, somewhat important or not important. Eighty-seven percent of Americans said public education is a very important issue, 85 percent said child abuse is and 79 percent said the Iraq war is.

The survey, which ended a few days before the first baby boomer filed for retirement benefits, also found that 72 percent of Americans responded that Social Security is a very important issue.

Forty percent said they think abortion is a very important issue. Among conservative Republicans in the survey, about 50 percent said abortion is very important to them. The issue was less important to Democrats and independents.

Democrats and Republicans agreed on the importance of the Iraq war and public education, but differed substantially on the issues of access to health care and illegal immigration. Eighty-eight percent of Democrats consider access to health care very important, compared to 65 percent of Republicans. Those roles reversed on illegal immigration, an issue thought very important by 68 percent of Republicans and 44 percent of Democrats.

The survey was conducted by telephone Sept. 24 to Oct. 10 among 811 adult residents of the United States who were selected at random. The survey was conducted by the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University under a grant from the Scripps Howard Foundation. The survey has a margin of error of about 4 percent.