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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

A Question of Trust: Part Deux

On February 9, DR reviewed results from the latest CNN/Time poll which suggested that the bond of trust between Bush and the American public is undergoing serious erosion. Today, we have results from the just-released ABC News/Washington Post poll which show the same thing, only more so.
By 12 points (54 percent to 42 percent), the public now thinks the Bush administration intentionally exaggerated its evidence that Iraq had WMD. And, by 53 percent to 35 percent, the public thinks the issue of how the administration used intelligence is more important than the accuracy of the intelligence they received.
And here are some very significant figures: just 52 percent now think Bush is “honest and trustworthy”, compared to 45 percent who don’t. That’s down from a 70/26 split on the same question right after the 2002 elcections. And even on “is a strong leader”, he is now at 61 percent yes/38 percent no, a considerable drop from a 74/25 split on the question in April of last year, after the US army took Baghdad.
Speaking of the war in Iraq, the poll finds more people saying the war was not worth fighting (50 percent) than say it was (48 percent). This is the first time this question has been net negative and is down from a 70/27 split in favor of the war being worth it in late April of last year. This is a particularly significant finding since the Post question, as with a recent Gallup finding, makes no specific mention of the costs of war (lives, money, etc.).
Turning to Bush’s approval numbers, the poll, as DR mentioned yesterday, has his overall rating down to 50 percent, with 47 percent approval. Now, since the Post poll generally runs 5 points or so higher than other public polls on his approval rating (recent example: in the middle of last month, the Post had his approval rating at 58 percent while everybody else was around 53 percent), this suggests his approval rating is really tanking.
On Iraq, his ratings have taken a huge hit, down from 60 percent approval/39 percent disapproval in the middle of last month to 47 percent approval/52 percent disapproval now. That means he’s gone from a net +21 to a net -5, a swing of 26 points, in less than two months.
His other approval ratings are also poor, with the exception of handling the US campaign against terrorism, where he still gets 64 percent approval (though even that’s down 15 points from late April of last year). For example, his rating on the economy is down to 44 percent approval/54 percent disapproval. That’s hardly a surprise when 85 percent of the public says most Americans are not better off financially than they were when Bush took office.
In addition, his rating on education is down to 47 percent approval/45 percent disapproval (by far his worst rating ever in this area), his rating on creating jobs is a horrendous 38 percent disapproval/57 percent disapproval land and on the “cost, availability and coverage of health insurance”, he is scraping the bottom with a rating that is net negative by 30 points (32/62).
No wonder John Kerry is faring so well when matched up against Bush these days. He’s preferred over Bush by 18 points on the cost, etc. of health insurance, by 14 points on creating jobs, by 9 points on education and by 8 points on the economy. And in the two areas where he currently trails Bush, the situation in Iraq and the US campaign against terrorism, he is actually doing quite a bit better than the Democrats were doing in matchups with Bush in the middle of last month (Kerry v. Bush, of course, wasn’t being asked at the time)
On Iraq, Democrats were trailing Bush by 20 points last month; Kerry trails by only 7 points (48-41). And on the campaign against terrorism, Democrats were trailing by 29 points and Kerry trails by only 16 (53-37).
Finally, as mentioned yesterday, Kerry leads Bush by 9 points among registered voters in an election trial heat (52-43). Ah, but does this really mean Kerry’s electable or are voters just talking themselves into something, as New Republic writers believe it is their mission in life to point out? (What’s next–Diary of a Kerry-o-phobe?)
DR will tackle this controversy in a future post. For the time being, however, he says to these sourpusses: turn those frowns upside down! Good news is good news and positive signs are positive signs. Sometimes the simplest explanations are the best (remember Occam’s razor?): Bush is vulnerable and Kerry could beat him (though obviously it’s a long way to November, blah, blah, blah).
OK: end of sermon. Now TNR can get back to pointing out what fools the voters are and how equally foolish the rest of us are for taking them seriously.

14 comments on “A Question of Trust: Part Deux

  1. Sara on

    Kerry is about as well tested on reproductive rights and other women’s issues as one could get. He has an excellent voting record throughout his Senate Career, and can easily argue that since his state elects “Right to Choice” members of the House and Senate — he votes the position of those who elected him.
    I also have a sneaky suspicion that this time round many people are not exactly interested in taking advice on civil policy regarding sexual issues from the Boston Archdiocese. Kerry’s record of a degree of independence over the years is probably a distinct asset.
    Single issue anti-choice voters would never vote for Democrats — we lost them 25 years ago, but in fact they are a fairly small minority. Anti-Choice voters with an equal interest in many other fairly progressive matters (War, Economy, Education, environment, etc.,) are much more numerous, and what Kerry has to do is make all the other matters so salient, his reporductive rights record does not rise to a priority matter. A near 50-50 split on one issue does not totally characterize any electorate.

  2. rt on

    Well, if the issue of how his Catholicism squares with his pro-choice issues comes up–and I don’t see why he would bring it up–doesn’t he give the answer JFK I gave? That on issues of public policy he does not speak for the Church, nor does the Church speak for him.
    Never mind that that is not a fully satisfactory answer to the question of how his faith affects his views on public policy. If this latter question becomes salient in the campaign, Bush will have to elaborate on how his faith has affected, as he has said it has, his outlook on the fight against terrorism.

  3. Hastings1066 on

    first time posting here —
    Nice topic on polls and statistics. Bush certainly is beatable, which IMHO makes any serious democratic contender a threat to him.
    One worry – America is evenly split on abortion rights, and the RR is chiseling away with “Partial birth abortion” and other tabloid tactics to nibble away around the edges of our civil liberties. Kerry has a conflict of interest when it comes to abortion – his religion says it’s a sin, but his political party says it’s a women’s right. A primary reason Edwards, Clark, Dean and Kucinich voters will swing to Kerry is to prevent Bush from appointing 2 or 3 Supreme Court Justices (who will definitely be anti-choice.) How can we convince these less centrist voters that Kerry will stand firmly behind his pro-choice position when it comes to appointing judges – not just for the SC but for lower Federal benches as well? After all, the president will be facing, at best, an evenly divided senate. Will he swing slightly to the right and appoint judges who are NOT definitely pro choice? It seems to me that there may be a LITTLE opposition to appointing pro-choice judges.
    Kerry needs to explain to the electorate how he has come to terms with his decision to be pro-choice in public, while continuing to maintain his faith as a practicing Catholic. As long as most democrats are solidly pro choice, they need to know their candidate is too.

  4. frankly0 on

    I think that Bush’s approval numbers are pretty unlikely to improve much from here until November, because there’s very little that can dramatically improve either in Iraq or with jobs. In addition, trust, when it starts to erode, never comes back in real time. I predict continued decline in Bush’s approval numbers, and increase in his negatives as the Dems continue their already highly effective attacks.
    The real danger for the Democrats is not which direction Bush’s assessments are going, but rather how it is that Kerry (whom I will make bold to assume will become our nominee) will be regarded by the American people. He is a relative unknown, and HIS approval and disapproval numbers, unlike Bush’s, can be highly volatile.
    Everything I’ve seen about Kerry so far has suggested that he and his campaign staff have exerted a VERY steady hand strategically and tactically. I’ve seen very few unforced errors on their end. And I think as matchups go, Kerry vs. Bush is very good for Dems, because Kerry has the winning argument against Bush on all the likely issues.
    But Kerry and his staff are going to have to maintain their concentration and not slip up.

  5. ARAO on

    I am aghast at Rover’s comments. The illogic, innuendo and vitriol make me think “troll alert”. For instnace, why is there anything questionable about being a war hero and then turning against the war and protesting it?
    More important, how does this (or these) accusations make Kerry remotely as nauseating a prospect as GW for another four years or lies, evasion, corporate cronyism, misadventures overseas and neoconservative assaults on civil liberties at home?

  6. ARao on

    I am aghast at Rover’s comments. The illogic, innuendo and vitriol make me think “troll alert”. For instnace, why is there anything questionable about being a war hero and then turning against the war and protesting it?
    More important, how does this (or these) accusations make Kerry remotely as nauseating a prospect as GW for another four years or lies, evasion, corporate cronyism, misadventures overseas and neoconservative assaults on civil liberties at home?

  7. Ricky Vandal on

    As a Church leader of a Church, which accepts homosexual marriages I’m disappointed in Kerry’s cynical and distasteful behaviour. He has made liberals seem sleazy, untrustworthy and unelectable. First he says he is a war hero, then I see footage of him at Hanoi Jane’s anti-war demonstration in the 70’s denouncing soldiers fighting in Vietnam as murderers and warcriminals. Kerry can’t even keep a vow to his wife, so how are we supposed to believe him when he vows to uphold the constitution? The girl was only 20 years old. Kerry is 60 for goodness sake. He was banging a baby. Isn’t Michael Jackson in court for that? But I guess Creepy Kerry can always flee the country and hide in France, like Roman Polanski. So the rumors about Kerry using Botox are true after all. Though looking at the age difference he probably wasn’t using Botox to stiffen his forehead.

  8. Diane on

    “OK: end of sermon. Now TNR can get back to pointing out what fools the voters are and how equally foolish the rest of us are for taking them seriously.”
    Thanks, Ruy, for stating the obvious (but previously unstated) about TNR. They can’t even now seem to let go of their prejudices.

  9. BrilliantIdiot on

    Personally, I think people have been voting on ‘electability’ for years. After all, what is the bandwagon effect, anyway? This is the year the press has decided to insert the ‘E’ word into the discourse in a big way.
    The most vitriolic anti-Kerry writers at TNR have rarely breathed air outside of the beltway. Unlike newspaper writers (not exactly paragons of perfection) they don’t do conventional reporting very often and therefore don’t talk to regular people. There is a widespread snideness that makes me think they’re also young.
    Their criticisms are very disconnected with public perception. There is usually a few good things in any good piece, but the overall thrust of these TNR pieces is not worth taking very seriously. In short, it probably won’t play like these deep insiders think it will play.

  10. Ron Thompson on

    Note especially the regional breakdown in this poll:
    East Midwest South West
    Bush 40 42 46 43
    Kerry 49 54 49 53
    It’s the Midwest that’s most significant. But it’s also very interesting that Kerry actually leads Bush in the South.

  11. reignman on

    There have been tyrants and murderers – and for a time they can
    seem invincible. But in the end they always fall. Think of it –
    always . . .
    -mahatma gandhi


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