A new public opinion poll includes some bad news for President Bush and his Republican allies in Congress.  But the survey also indicates that opposition Democrats are not seen as offering much of an alternative.

The Battleground Poll is sponsored by George Washington University.  It is unique because it is carried out by two top political pollsters, one a Republican, the other a Democrat.

The survey was conducted in mid-October and found declining approval ratings for President Bush and the Republican Party.  Only 44 percent of those polled approved of the job President Bush is doing.  That figure is slightly higher than some other recent polls that put the president's approval at an all-time low.

Pollster Ed Goeas is the Republican half of the Battleground team.

"The mounting casualties of American troops in Iraq, the higher gas prices certainly put a dampening on any of the good news about the economy and you had the surfacing scandals with Republicans in the House, the Senate and the White House, potential scandals," said Mr. Goeas.

Democratic pollster Celinda Lake is the other half of the Battleground team.  She says this latest survey, like other recent public opinion polls, indicates a lot of unhappiness about the direction of the country.

"And that pessimism has increased over the course of this year and reached an all time high.  Two-thirds of voters say the country is headed in the wrong direction," she noted.

The release of the new Battleground Poll came on the same day that President Bush was urging Americans to stand fast in Iraq as a major battlefield in the war on terrorism.

"Having removed the dictator who hated free peoples, we will not stand by as a new set of killers, dedicated to the destruction of our country, seizes control of Iraq by violence," said Mr. Bush.

Opposition Democrats continue to criticize the president on Iraq but seem divided over what to do there.  Only a few Democrats have called for the outright withdrawal of U.S. troops.

But many Democrats are calling on the administration for a more specific plan on getting U.S. forces out of Iraq.

Democratic Party Chairman and former presidential contender Howard Dean told ABC television that he would like to see some troops heading home soon.

"We have done our job.  We have gotten in there.  I think the president has made a terrible mess of it and created a terrorist nest where there was none before," said Mr. Dean.  "But by his criteria, he has gone there, they have a democratic process [under way]; now it is time to start figuring out how to get our folks out."

But the latest Battleground survey also suggests Democrats have done little to make themselves a viable alternative on a range of issues including Iraq, homeland security and the economy.

Once again, Democratic pollster Celinda Lake.

"There is a real void right now in terms of what the alternative is.  And right now, Democrats suffer from the fact that Americans are disillusioned and distrustful of government in general," she added.  "They tend to be feeling more negative about the Republicans, but not particularly positive about the Democrats."

Republican pollster Ed Goeas says questions about the Democrats' ability to take advantage of the president's weakened political situation should be a source of encouragement for Republicans.

"But the Democrats, whether you look at the image of the Democratic Party, whether you look at Democrats in Congress, not only did not gain anything, they actually had their negatives go up some during this period of time," he explained.

The poll indicates the president and Republicans continue to hold an advantage on issues related to terrorism and taxes.  Democrats do better on domestic issues like health care, jobs and education.

The October poll surveyed 1,000 registered likely voters nationwide and has a margin of error of plus or minus three percent.