Washington (CNN) – The health care bill signed into law by President Obama on Tuesday is dominating the debate in Washington, but with seven months until the November midterm elections, the economy remains the top concern of voters.
According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Tuesday, 48 percent of registered voters said they would vote for a Republican this November while 45 percent would vote for a Democrat, numbers that have remained relatively unchanged since January.
"It's unclear whether the health care bill will help Democrats or Republicans in November," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "But the effect of the economy is easier to figure out. If conditions stay bad or get worse, that benefits Republicans. Improving conditions may help the Democrats hold onto more seats."
In the poll, 43 percent of respondents said the economy is the most important factor in their vote this year. Health care came in a distant second, with 23 percent of respondents naming the issue as their top concern.
Health care, though, remains the top non-economic issue in this midterm election year. Among those surveyed, 43 percent named health care as the most important non-economic factor in their vote, with education, the federal deficit and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan trailing far behind.
The new poll was conducted before the House on Sunday narrowly approved the health care reform legislation favored by Obama.
Only a third of Americans approve of how congressional Democratic leaders are handling their jobs, an approval rating that has dipped 10 points since last April. The numbers aren't brighter for the Republican leadership - just 32 percent of Americans approve of their job performance, a mark that has remained relatively steady over the last year.
On the "generic ballot" question, there are early indications that the Democrats will fare poorly in competitive congressional districts where the incumbent won with less than 55 percent of the vote in 2008. In those districts, 57 percent of registered voters said they plan to vote for a Republican in November, while 31 percent said they will vote for a Democrat.
Independent voters also appear to be favoring the GOP. Among registered voters who call themselves independents, 43 percent plan to vote Republican, while 32 percent plan to vote for a Democrat.
The CNN poll was conducted on March 19-21 through telephone interviews with 1,030 adult Americans, including 953 registered voters. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.