Americans say that Republican Congressional leaders put their political interests ahead of protecting the safety of teenage pages, and that House leaders knew of Mark Foley’s sexually charged messages to pages well before he was forced to quit Congress, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
The poll, completed before North Korea announced that it had detonated its first nuclear test, also found that the war in Iraq was continuing to take a toll on President Bush and the Republican Party, and that the White House was having difficulty retaining its edge in handling terrorism.
The number of Americans who approve of Mr. Bush’s handling of the campaign against terrorism dropped to 46 percent from 54 percent in the past two weeks, suggesting that he failed to gain any political lift from an orchestrated set of ceremonies marking the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. In addition, the poll shows that Americans are now evenly divided over which party they think can better handle terrorism, the first time in the Bush presidency that Democrats have matched Republicans on national security, despite a concerted White House effort to seize the advantage on the issue this month.
Two-thirds of those in the poll said they are following the page scandal very or somewhat closely. More than half—54%—said GOP leaders who knew about Foley’s actions for months or years did not act against Foley earlier “for political reasons.” By 43%-36%, they said House Speaker Dennis Hastert should resign.
President Bush’s approval rating, which rose to 42 percent in September after an anti-terrorism offensive marking the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, registered 39 percent in the latest poll. The percentage of respondents who said they strongly disapprove of his performance is about double the number who strongly approve. This disparity in voter intensity could have implications for turnout on Nov. 7, since impassioned voters are most likely to go to the polls.
bout half of Americans believe the scandal over former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley’s contacts with teenage congressional pages should cost House Speaker Dennis Hastert his leadership post, according to a CNN poll released Monday.
The poll, conducted Friday through Sunday by Opinion Research Corp., found that 52 percent of the 1,028 adults interviewed think Hastert should step aside. Thirty-one percent said they think he should keep his post, and 17 percent had no opinion.