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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

And Those Bad Bush Poll Numbers Just Keep on Coming!

The latest bad polling news for the Bushies is contained in a just-released Democracy Corps poll (be sure to check out the very nice slide presentation). Perhaps the most interesting findings are comparisons between public opinion before and after Bush’s recent Iraq speech requesting $87 billion more for the occupation and between public opinion today and before 9/11.
Start with the pre-speech/post-speech comparison. DR has pointed out previously that this speech seemed to go over like a lead balloon. Here’s more confirmation. Before the speech, 50 percent thought Bush was honest with Americans about the dangers and threats Iraq posed before the war; after the speech the same 50 percent thought so. Much worse, before the speech, by 50 percent to 44 percent, the public said they could trust what Bush is saying about WMDs in Iraq; after the speech that flipped to 53 percent saying they couldn’t trust what he said and 43 percent who said they could. In addition, before the speech, people already thought, by a margin of 4 points, that Bush didn’t have a plan to win the peace and bring the troops home; after the speech that margin widened to 12 points. Finally, on the key question of whether the war in Iraq was worth the cost of US lives and dollars, before the speech a narrow majority of the public (51 percent to 42 percent) said the war was worth these costs; after the speech that narrow majority turned into a even narrower plurality (just 49 percent to 45 percent).
It’s been remarked that Bush’s poll ratings in most respects seem to be returning to about what they were prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That’s true and in some cases they’re actually worse. The public is now 10 points less likely to think Bush is honest and trustworthy; 7 points less likely to think he is moderate, not extreme, 6 points less likely to think he is for working and middle class families and 5 points less likely to think he “cares about people like you”. In addition, the public is 12 points more likely to think he has a go-it-alone policy that hurts our relations with our allies.
Similarly, when comparing the ratings on which parties are trusted to do a better job on the issues, Democrats now have the same leads or better that they had prior to 9/11 and Republicans are not doing much better today than they did then. Democrats are favored by 35 points on the environment today (33 points before 9/11), by 26 points on Medicare (26 points previously), by 24 points on health care (21 previously), by 20 points on retirement and social security (16 previously), by 20 points on prescription drugs (22 previously), by 20 points on the federal budget and deficits (just 3 previously), by 12 points on the economy (3 previously) and by 11 points on education (7 previously). For the Republicans, they are favored by 6 points today on taxes (but were favored by 12 points before 9/11) and by 22 points on keeping America strong (but they were running a 16 point lead even before 9/11).
The conclusion is inescapable. Much of the Bush’s political capital from 9/11 has been dissipated. More than anyone would have thought a year ago, the 2004 election seems likely to be fought on the actual merits and demerits of the entire Bush presidency, not just the two months after 9/11. And, in DR’s opinion, that’s pretty bad–extremely bad–news for Bush.