'Houston Chronicle' Poll: Support for DeLay Falling in His District

By: (AP) A new Houston Chronicle poll shows support for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has slipped drastically in his district, and a majority of his constituents disapprove of how he handled the Terri Schiavo case.

Nearly 40 percent of 501 voters questioned last week said their opinion of the powerful Sugar Land Republican was less favorable than last year, compared with 11 percent who said their view of him has improved, the newspaper reported Sunday. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.

Half of the respondents gave DeLay a somewhat or very favorable rating.

However, 49 percent said they would vote for someone other than DeLay if a congressional election in the 22nd District were at hand. Thirty-nine percent said they would stick with him.

"There seems to be no question that there has been an erosion in support for the congressman," said John Zogby, whose polling company, Zogby International, performed the survey. "He is posting numbers that one would have to consider in the dangerous territory for an incumbent. And he isn't just an incumbent, he is a longtime incumbent."

"Voters in his district have been electing Congressman DeLay for over 20 years. They do that because he's getting things done for the area. He's also earned their support because they know he's guided by principles not polls," spokesman Dan Allen said Sunday.

Seventy-eight percent of Republican voters said they picked DeLay in 2004, and 63 percent said they would do so again.

"He hasn't lost a majority of conservatives, but he has lost enough of them to pull him down," said Zogby, who has conducted public opinion polls since 1984. "These are not good re-election numbers."

But he noted that DeLay still has a year and a half before he has to seek re-election.

DeLay's district, which sprawls across the southern suburbs of Houston, changed shape for the last election because of a state redistricting effort that he promoted to elect more Republicans to the U.S. House. He won his 11th term in 2004 with 55 percent of the vote, his lowest share ever.

The poll findings come as DeLay slogs through one of the roughest years of his two decades on Capitol Hill.

He was admonished three times by the House ethics committee, questions have been raised about the financial backing for some of his overseas trips, and Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, is investigating the political fund-raising tactics of a political action committee DeLay helped set up.

Amid these controversies, about 51 percent of voters in his district have a favorable view of him and 44 percent do not, according to the poll.

In the survey, 268 people, or 53 percent, said they are Republicans; 166, or a third, identified themselves as Democrats; one is a Libertarian, and the rest are independents.

On the Schiavo issue, DeLay consistently has stated that his constituents backed his decision to lead Congress into the dispute over whether to continue nourishment to the severely brain-damaged Florida woman.

But nearly 69 percent of people in the poll, including substantial majorities of Democrats and Republicans, said they opposed the government's intervention in the long-standing family battle.

Respondents in the Chronicle survey also were critical of DeLay's individual role. Nearly 58 percent disapproved of his decision to get Congress involved.

Slightly more Republicans approved of DeLay's personal action on Schiavo than opposed it, while Democrats overwhelmingly opposed his efforts to involve Congress.

DeLay argued that his morals guided him in the case of Schiavo, who died Thursday. But nearly half of those polled said he intervened in the case for political gain.

Spurred on by DeLay, Congress passed a bill that granted a federal review of a Florida state judge's ruling that Schiavo's feeding tube be removed as requested by Michael Schiavo, her husband and legal guardian.

Zogby is a Democrat, but he describes his polling firm as "militantly independent" with clients among both major political parties.


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