NPR's final 2005 national survey of American voters shows an electorate responding to recent developments on the economy and Iraq, but still poised to produce a change election in 2006. This interpretive memo is solely the product of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and does not reflect the views of Public Opinion Strategies or of National Public Radio.

This memo starts with the question: "Will 2006 still be a change election?" With 2005 coming to a close - with gas prices falling, the votes now counted in Iraq's first parliamentary election, and with President Bush finishing the year with an unprecedented two-week campaign to present his future plans and defend his security policies - it is important to see whether the structure of the change election has been shaken or damaged.

Clearly, the president has achieved an improvement in his job approval. The NPR survey shows him with 44 percent approval, which is just one point above the average of the public polls conducted over the last two weeks. This represents a 5-point improvement from his average for November. Bush's improvement comes from an improvement in the economy. The NPR survey, for example, showed an 5-point increase in the number saying the economy is doing "excellent" or "good," now 47 percent. The public polls also show a modest improvement on his handling of Iraq, up about 4 points across all the public polls to 41 percent, on average. In the NPR survey, Bush is slightly favored over the Democratic Party (48 to 43 percent) to handle the Iraq issue.

Those gains are real but have not budged the structure underlying the 2006 election. They have not translated into improvements for the Republicans, particularly in the race for Congress. They have not altered judgments about whether the Iraq war was worth it or a mistake, and they have not given the Republicans standing on the economy or national priorities. Frankly, a good 60 percent at the close of 2005, according to the NPR poll, believe the country is headed in the wrong direction.


This interpretive memo is based on a survey of 800 Likely Voters conducted December 15, 17-18, 2005 with a margin of error of +/-3.46%.

Key Findings

  • The president has improved his job approval (now at 44 percent).
  • The president's gains are real, but they have not changed the structure underlying the potential 2006 election campaign.
  • The electorate is still ready to vote for change: only 35 percent want to continue in the current direction for the country
  • The issue of corruption has not yet penetrated the public consciousness. For Democrats to take advantage of this issue in 2006, the need to run as reformers - advocating real change.