Poll finds anti-incumbent mood
Americans more critical of Congress than own representatives
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A majority of Americans consider the congressional influence-peddling inquiry surrounding former lobbyist Jack Abramoff a major scandal, and they registered an anti-incumbent note in a poll released Monday.
The issue of corruption ranked high on Americans' list of concerns in the CNN/USA Today/Gallup survey, taken Friday through Sunday.
But with the entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate up for grabs in November, most of the 1,003 adults polled said they don't think their own lawmakers are corrupt.
President Bush's job approval rating remained steady at 43 percent in Monday's poll, which had a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. His disapproval rating was 54 percent. (View Bush's second-term approval ratings)
Corruption ranked among the concerns most often cited by those polled, with 43 percent telling pollsters it would be an "extremely important" issue in 2006. By comparison, the war in Iraq and terrorism were tied for first at 45 percent, and health care followed, matching corruption with 43 percent.
Only 42 percent of those polled said most members of Congress deserve re-election -- the lowest response to that question since 1994, when Republicans took over the House and Senate.
But 60 percent told pollsters their own member of Congress deserved re-election.
Only 22 percent said they considered the lawmakers who represent them corrupt, while 38 percent held that opinion about most members of Congress.
But 40 percent said they considered their own lawmakers focused on special interests rather than constituents, and 38 percent said their representatives were out of touch with the voters back home.
The poll follows a week in which Abramoff pleaded guilty and turned government witness as prosecutors investigate allegations of influence-peddling and bribery on Capitol Hill; and former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a longtime friend of the disgraced lobbyist, relinquished his claim on the leadership as he battles money-laundering charges in his home state of Texas.
Seventeen percent of those polled said they were following the Abramoff case very closely, and another 34 percent said they were following it somewhat closely. Fifty-three percent said they considered it a major scandal, and 9 percent said they did not consider it a serious matter.
Abramoff's plea agreement included allegations that he conspired to bribe a House member identified in court papers as "Representative 1."
Government sources have identified that member as Rep. Bob Ney, an Ohio Republican, the chairman of the House Administration Committee. Ney denies wrongdoing and says he is cooperating with investigators.
In another case, Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a California Republican, resigned in November after pleading guilty to taking more than $2 million in bribes from defense contractors. (Full story)
Democrats have been pounding at the GOP on ethical issues for months, accusing them of fostering a "culture of corruption" during their years at the helm of Congress. (Full story)
But 43 percent of those polled said they believe both parties will be hurt by the details of the Abramoff case once he talks to prosecutors, which he agreed to do when entering his plea on charges of fraud, conspiracy and tax evasion last week. (Full story)
Democrats led Republicans by 6 percentage points -- 49 to 43 -- when registered voters were asked whether they would back a Democrat or a Republican to represent them in Congress. The question had a sampling error of 4 percentage points.
Democrats had the edge over Republicans when respondents were asked which party would do a better job dealing with corruption. Forty-four percent of those polled said Democrats would do a better job, while 32 percent favored the GOP on that question.
Democrats held a narrower lead on whether the policies of Democratic or Republican leaders would move the country in the right direction, with 44 percent choosing Democrats and 40 percent favoring the GOP.
That's a sharp drop for Republicans since February, when 50 percent said the GOP would move the country in the right direction and 41 percent gave Democrats the edge.
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