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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Have Voters Been Brainwashed by the Democratic Nominating Contest or Do They Just Not Like Bush So Much Any More?

DR reports. You decide.
Here are the most interesting results from the latest Gallup/CNN/USA Today and ABC News/Washington Post polls.
1. In the ABC News poll, Kerry is leading Bush by 9 points (53-44) among registered voters. With Nader thrown in, he still leads by 4 points, with Nader drawing 3 percent. In the Gallup poll, Kerry leads by 8 points (52-44) among likely voters. He also has more “hard” support (those who say they are certain to vote for him) than Bush (45-38). With Nader thrown in Kerry still leads by Bush by 6 points (50-44), with Nader at just 2 percent.
Note that these two polls measure Nader support at 2-3 percent, while the much-publicized Ipsos/AP poll had his support at 6 percent. I suspect the Gallup/ABC News figures are better measures of his current support.
Update: Gallup has issued a report on their new poll. In the report, they break down states into red (Bush won by 5 percent or more), blue (Gore won by 5 percent or more and purple (the margin of victory for Gore or Bush was less than 5 percent; this includes of course almost all the swing states the current campaigns are likely to focus on). In blue states, Kerry is ahead of Bush 55 percent to 42 percent among likely voters. Not unexpected. But in purple, swing states, he is ahead of Bush by even more, 55-39.
And for those fretting perhaps more than they need to about Nader, here are the analagous figures with Darth Nader in the mix: 55-42 in blue states and 52-39 in purple states.
Not so bad, huh? So relax (at least about Nader).
2. Bush’s overall approval rating in the ABC News poll is 50 percent, with 48 percent disapproval (his highest ever). His rating in the Gallup poll is 49 percent, with 48 percent disapproval (tied for his highest ever).
3. Bush’s approval ratings in the ABC News poll are only above 50 percent in two areas: the US campaign against terrorism (63 percent) and protecting Americans constitutional rights and freedoms (61 percent). Significantly, his rating on the economy has now dipped below 40 percent (39 percent approval/59 percent disapproval). His other poor to very poor ratings are, in descending order: education (50 percent approval/45 percent disapproval); taxes (50/47); the situation in Iraq (46/53); the issue of same-sex marriage (44/52!); creating jobs (43/54); prescription drug benefits for the elderly (41/49); Social Security (38/55); the cost, availability and coverage of health insurance (32/62); and the federal budget deficit (30/65).
4. In the ABC News poll, Kerry is now 5 points ahead of Bush (49-44) on who would do a better job coping with the main problems the nation faces ove the next few years. He has also now caught up with and surpassed Bush on who would do a better job handling the situation in Iraq (48-47). And he has widened his lead over Bush on dealing with the economy to 12 points (53-41).
5. Also in the ABC News poll, here are voters’ choices for the single most important issue in deciding their vote for president: economy/jobs (36 percent); terrorism (17 percent); Iraq (10 percent); education (8 percent); Medicare/prescription drugs (7 percent); and health care (6 percent). And here are Kerry’s leads over Bush on dealing with these issues: the economy (+12); terrorism (-21); Iraq (+1); education (+12); Medicare/prescription drugs (no data available but a reasonable guess is that Kerry would have a substantial lead); and health care (+20).
6. In the ABC News poll, 41 percent say they want to keep moving in the direction Bush has been taking the country, compared to 57 percent who want to elect a president to take the country in a different direction.
7. Kerry beats Bush on every characteristic ABC News tested except “is a strong leader”. On “tolerant of different points of view”, he beats Bush 73 percent applies/17 percent doesn’t apply to 47/51. On “honest and trustworthy” he beats Bush 59/30 to 54/45; on “understands the problems of people like you” he beats Bush 58/34 to 41/57; and on “stands up to special interests” he beats Bush 54/30 to 51/44.
And even on “strong leader”, Kerry is virtually tied with Bush, 61/29 to 63/36.
8. In the ABC News poll, just 26 percent say Bush cares more about protecting the interests of ordinary working people, compared to 67 percent who say he cares more about protecting the interests of large business corporations. That’s his worst rating ever, including during the summer of corporate scandals in 2002. In contrast, by 60/23, the public says Kerry cares more about the protecting the interests of ordinary people.
9. In the Gallup poll, by 66/30 people say it is inappropriate for political candidates to run camapign ads using images depicting the 9/11 terrorist attacks. When asked specifically about Bush’s use of such ads, people still say by 54/42 that it is inappropriate.
10. In the Gallup poll, 40 percent of likely voters now say that they usually, almost always or always vote Democratic, compared to 36 percent who they typically vote Republican. Two months ago, Republicans had the advantage on this question, 44/37.

33 comments on “Have Voters Been Brainwashed by the Democratic Nominating Contest or Do They Just Not Like Bush So Much Any More?

  1. David in NY on

    The comments above made me realize what I think is perhaps Kerry’s real strength. Imagine yourself in one of those unarmored boats off Vietnam, getting shot at and not being able to see who was shooting and generally being scared to death. Kerry seems like the solid kind of guy you’d like to be in charge of your boat. For a lot of people, though, Bush seems like the stupid little braggart that you’d frag at the earliest opportunity. This may be why Kerry is doing relatively well in the guy vote in these polls.

  2. larre on

    61% give Bush credit for “protecting Americans’ constitutional rights and freedoms”?!
    Who ARE these people and what planet do THEY live on?

  3. Peter on

    JC, that’s my biggest fear. The Hispanic vote is key, but what reason do they have to stay with Democrats? The GOP has done a brilliant job wooing them. What have Democrats done? Had Bill Richardson speak Spanish after the State of the Union?
    Ultimately, if the Dems have to choose between gay voters and black/Hispanic voters, they will choose blacks and Hispanics in a heartbeat. Gays are now seen as a liability.

  4. JC on

    I agree that these cultural issues are sideshows, especially considering the economic realities of what this administration is doing. But I think we all agree, that if everyone ONLY voted based on a logical analysis of their economic interests, only people who make over $150 K a year would EVER vote Republican at this point. All of Walmart would be unionized, my security guard friend would embrace a union, etc. People include other things when they make their decision to vote. And I simply wanted to make the point that, as there will continue to be more and more Hispanic votes (up with my compadres!), it is important to recognize the “splitting” effect that will be attempted to be used by the Bush team. Remember that Vicente Fox has completed endorsed the recent immigration reform, so the Bush team are working their bases here.

  5. JC on

    Peter, actually, Kerry gets respect for being the hero he was in Vietnam. This story has gotten enough play that I don’t believe Kerry can be turned into a “wimp” by the right wing (or non right wing) media. At least, not among my group. A couple of my friends, in Florida, may be typical. (Just guys – one in construction, one a security guard)
    Voted for the first Bush – hated “liberals”.
    Voted for Clinton in 96. Liked what he did for the whole economy, and in general just liked him.
    Voted for Bush in 00. Bought into the myth about “the superior, arrogant” Gore, and just didn’t like him.
    After 9-11, totally supported Bush, and for a couple of years now, have thought that the Democrats couldn’t be trusted with national security. Totally supported invading Iraq, getting rid of Saddam.
    The support has only been “cracked” recently – with no WMD’s found (WMD was THE issue), and all the cash spent. Both these guys are disgusted with the lies, but also are still buying into the “disgust” with the “liberals”.
    But they do respect Kerry, so that’s a great thing.
    Most of my “normal” Hispanic friends, have no problem, and would probably welcome, a federal marriage amendment. Sad, but true.

  6. Maxcat on

    Gay Issue? Macho man? Kerry a liberal? Side shows, side shows, side shows.
    Everyone needs to stay on the real important issues and stop being played. That is all these so called issues are for, to keep the voters out of focus. The real issues are what will send Bush into (a not soon enough) retirement. Jobs, it’s the economy stupid, environment, Iraq lies, Special Interest.
    Good advice to ignore the poles and keep up the pressure all the way to November.
    By making a big deal out of the side show issues we are only playing into their strengths. We must set the agenda, not Rove.
    No one agrees with every single stance that anyone has. The Hispanic Americans must be shown that the Democrats will match up to more of their beliefs than the republicans. The Nader suporters must also be shown the same and ironically this year we will also be able to bring many very unhappy former republican votes into the democratic fold. Bye, bye, Mr. Bush!!!
    We have much work to do to set the stage for us to take back our America.

  7. Peter on

    BTW, do your friends support the Federal Marriage Amendment? If they do, that’s what would push them towards Bush, since Kerry also opposes marriage but not the amendment.
    I don’t mean to claim all minorities are anti-gay, but Hispanics and blacks have said such awful things to me over the years, have beaten my friends, and badly assaulted a former partner of mine…I just don’t even like to think about it.

  8. Peter on

    JC, how do your Hispanic friends feel about Kerry? Do they despise him or think he’s a wimp? I guess if they don’t they will soon.
    To think that gay issues will wind up costing us this election horrifies me. It’s like a sick joke from God.

  9. Peter on

    Yes, many Hispanics and blacks are extremely anti-gay, they hate gays, despise them in every way. Hispanics are so in flux now and generally supportive of Bush. They have nothing to lose by jumping to the GOP. They have such rage for gays that they probably will. This election is probably going to be lost for Democrats based on terrorism and based on terrorizing gays. And once the Hispanic voters leave Dems because of their loathing of gays, they won’t ever come back. The GOP has spent a long time making sure that all minorities have murderous rage for gays — that is going to pay off this November.
    Polls show that Pennsylvania is still very close. Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota will also be close. Bush will easily win Missouri (they’re so whacked-out there now that they want to ban evolution in schools because they think it causes homosexuality and abortion).
    Bush hasn’t even started spending his money yet. And Democrats are totally ignoring the get out the vote issue.
    This is still Bush’s election to lose. He hasn’t even begun to fight against Kerry. He’s just trying to get us complacent.

  10. Paul C on

    JC is right on. I am worried to death that Bush/Rove will exploit the cultural issues in the Hispanic community and win away a significant percentage. We had better hit Bush hard and often on our issues, such as immigration etc. or we will lose this important constituancy.

  11. JC on

    One of the things I haven’t seen mentioned (although I could have missed it, and I don’t have the book) regarding the “Emerging Democratic Majority”: Is there an assumption that the emerging Hispanic vote, will stay in the Democratic side?
    Given that I have spent most of my time in Texas, Florida, and California (live in California, raised in Texas, relatives in Florida), I think it is a major no-no to think that the “average” hispanic vote hews to the Democratic line across the board.
    For one, on social issues, such as gay marriage, there is almost a visceral reaction for most of my friends on this. There could definitely be some Hispanic movement to the Republican side because of this.
    Also, the war on terrorism. Most of my friends LOVE the fact that the United States is “macho” in the world right now. Almost all my male Hispanic friends (and quite a few female) completely approve of attacking, well, any country that Bush chooses to attack. The more the merrier. That is an exaggeration, but the United States as unapologetic warrior, is valued very highly, and the ware on terrorism is important.
    Now economically, most Hispanics I know are way democratic. But this can be swayed by the “culture” and “warrior” factors. As Hispanics become a larger and larger part of the population, there will losses of Hispanic voters on these issues, if these issues are not finessed well by Democratic candidates.
    The viewing of the “liberal” as weak, also plays in here.
    At any rate,

  12. DS on

    I’m going to have to agree with Marcos on his general point: The Purple States title doesn’t help us much.
    When you’ve got places that voted for both candidates lumped together and places with significantly different swing issues lumped together the end result is kind of a soupy mess. While I doubt Maine cares much about immigration, Florida certainly does. But who in FL really knows anything about the steel tariff issue that is close to the heart of those in PA? And we all know the environment plays very differently in OH than in OR.
    While the Purple states help us gauge how we are doing with swing states on the whole, it doesn’t help us understand either which states we have or how to frame policies to attract more states. Absent state by state results, I would like to see how the various issues break out between the blue/red/purple groupings.

  13. Ron Thompson on

    I certainly think Minnesota and Wisconsin are battleground states. I live in Wisconsin, and I can tell you that the Republican Party here is about as strong as it’s been since 1970. In Minnesota, Republicans in 2002 captured the governorship and a Democratic Senate seat. Pennsylvania is probably a good bet for Kerry this year, though they’ve tried–Bush has visited Pennsylvania more than any state that went for Gore.

  14. David in Burbank on

    And I also think that the less Kerry says about his plans the better — not becasue it doesn’t matter, but becasue the general electorate doesn’t care. At this point it is all about image and if Kerry can maintain an image of greater “manlieness” than Bush, he wins. The moment Kerry looks like he’s been stung or is afraid (like on the “are you a liberal?” question) his support slips. The goal of the campaign should be to make Bush look defensive and reactive, and the rest won’t matter.
    (right, what do i know.)

  15. Marcos on

    Great insight as always however about those “purple” states. We need to remember a lot of democratic-leaning states Gore struggled with in 2000 and didn’t vote as Dem as you would think. So purple states include states Gore won: Minnesota, Oregon, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania,Wisconsin, and maybe even Washington.
    By contrast the bush-winning states that were close were Ohio, Missouri, Tennessee, Florida(?), NH, and Nevada.
    So simply assuming the test hypothesis “red are redder, blue are bluer” theory and you’d have Kerry leading in the purple states. It’s certainly good news, but do any of us really think Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Minnesota are battleground states? I don’t. I do however think Kerry is probably much stronger than Gore in 2000 in Ohio, Florida, and Missouri and that certainly any of those would be key in winning in ’04.

  16. David in Burbank on

    And so it makes perfect sense to attack Bush on his Mis-leadership and failure to pursue terrorists. Kerry needs Dean to start attacking Bush again.

  17. LeeMelon on

    Gotta go with the concensus of guarded optimism on this one. When you spike the ball before you get to the end zone, it will be ruled a fumble.

  18. Sally on

    Where is the environment in all this? The economy, education, health care, foreign policy are all vital issues, but if Bush gets reelected, these will become secondary when environmental quality hits the wall in the not-so-distant future, and we’re struggling to breath, to survive extreme weather conditions, to find enough food and water for the populations of the earth and to battle disease. Why is this issue not even on the radar screen?

  19. Joe Zainea on

    Events will determine the outcome of this election. John Kerry and his supporters can not assume that the current poll numbers will hold. As I write, American and coalition forces in Afganistan and Pakistan are hunting down Osama bin Laden and his core leadership. Kerry should put out a statement asap to the effect that he has every confidence in our forces to find and kill or capture the perps of 9/11. That statement would do two things. First, it would immunize Kerry against backlash on him if the mission is accomplished. Second, if the mission isn’t accomplished, the backlash is on Bush. Terribly cynical, I know but the GOP will not hesitate to hail Bush as the winner of the war on terrorism if the mission is accomplished. Kerry must say something on this and fast.

  20. SqueakyRat on

    Paul C —
    Ron Thompson is right about people misrepresenting how they “usually” vote, but even putting that aside the results needn’t be nonsense. The question is addressed to people who say they are likely to vote. If fewer Republicans but more Democrats identify themselves as “likely voters,” then the numbers for the Democratic candidate are going to rise.

  21. Todd Defren on

    One more comment: it’s early, folks. If the numbers look this good in NOVEMBER, then we can relax. I fear the pendulum will swing in the other direction more than once before this is over.

  22. throCKmortEN on

    One BIG Red Flag for me here.
    the line “not so bad, huh – so relax!”
    NO NO NO – don’t relax. We have every reason to be encouraged by these polls – but frankly it’s NOT just about winning the election and its definitely not about the popular vote! It’s about the Electoral College, it’s about the Senate, it’s about the House. It’s about taking our country back! Bush has been SO bad, so outrageous, so divisive, so irresponsible fiscally – that he has produced cracks in the GOP coalition. This election has the potential to be the same sort of huge public shift in perception of the parties that 1980 was.
    It’s not enough to win – we need to produce coattails for the Democrts down ticket. We need to give Democrats the chance to govern and see if we can’t really SOLVE some of the REAL problems people in this country face. We need to win local races. We need to reshape the debate so that a MUCH wider range of voices are heard. Just winning an Pres. election isn’t enough – the GOP will come after a Kerry administration the same way they attacked and distracted the Clinton administration. We need to do a good enough job of reframing the debate that those attacks can’t stick.
    We should constantly run like we’re 10 points behind – regardless of the polls. It’s great news, but DON’T RELAX – find a House or Senate candidate and support them – make sure your friends and neighbors are registered to vote. Make sure they DO go to the polls. Find an organization like moveon, DSCC, DFA – and back them.
    I’m not a Deaniac – but he was right about one major thing – I WANT MY COUNTRY BACK!

  23. frankly0 on

    It’s hard for me to believe that Bush’s own numbers could perceptibly improve in the absence of some important good news. Any money his campaign throws at trying to build up his own image is going to fall into a black hole of irrelevance unless there’s something positive to tie an ad campaign into, and the very fruitlessness of such an effort will only reinforce the dangerous impression that Bush is a loser. He might be able to pull down Kerry’s numbers with a negative campaign, but the polls certainly have shown no movement that way so far.
    People talk as though Bush hasjust had a rough couple of months, with all kinds of negative news going down. Yet it’s hard to see how any of it is likely to change materially before the election anyway. Yes, David Kay DID only recently announce he was unable to find WMD, but that piece of news is NOT going to turn into anything else come November — in November, the WMD will still be unfound, and the American people will still have been lied to. And the job market is CLEARLY not going to turn into something other than a matter of embarrassment, not pride, come November, given the overall loss of net jobs under Bush. There is, in general, no reason to think that ANY of the bad news Bush has been getting is suddenly going to turn into good news. The continuation of this status quo will only perpetuate the death spiral of unpopularity Bush has now entered.
    Sooner or later I believe this will all dawn on Rove, and then he will realize that he has only one trick left: go as ugly on Kerry as he possibly can — kind of like a “Hail Satan” pass. My prediction is that Kerry will be less affected by such a move than will be Bush himself, who will seem desperate (which of course he would be) and vicious (surprising to some, but not others).

  24. Ron Thompson on

    Poll respondents always, uh, misstate the facts when it comes to past voting. More people remember voting for winners, and fewer for losers. In the 2000 national presidential exit poll, for example, only 31% said they voted for Dole in 1996, and only 6% for Perot.
    There was a beaut in the Kaiser Poll released over the weekend. They asked the question “As you may know, about half the public does not vote in presidential elections. How about you, did you vote in the presidential election of 2000. . .or did you skip that one?” 67% said they voted.

  25. demtom on

    The GOP Whisperers seem to have persuaded media in general to downplay these stories. ABC certainly complied — they offered the 48-44 as headline, leaving the 53-44 buried in the body.
    There’s also been widespread acceptance of “This was to be expected, since Dems have spent months attacking the president”. Umm…can anyone come up with a year where the opposition primaries DIDN’T feature incumbent-bashing? So, howcome most years the incumbent (Clinton, Reagan, even Bush I) didn’t trail at the end of the primaries?
    I wouldn’t worry much about Nader maintaining even these small numbers. The history of third parties in Spring is to run double or triple what they eventually draw when grown-up time (i.e., November) arrives. I doubt Nader will draw a single vote from anyone who wouldn’t otherwise be staying home altogether. All he does, for the moment, is mask the depth of Bush’s problem.
    About two months ago, my mother expressed the fear that Bush would win the election, and I had to acknowledge to her it was 50/50. I believe in Ruy and John’s EDM thesis, but I also believe an incumbent president can, with the right circumstances, hold on in a threading-the-neeedle way. At that point, I was presuming the widely-reported economic revival was semi-reality — that enough better feeling about the economy would give Bush just enough push for a 51% or so victory. Recent job numbers, however (and the resultant crash in consumer confidence) have tilted the playing field against Bush, perhaps permanently. Another month or two without significant change in that department, and these numbers could start to solidify.
    It is amazing that Bush, for all his vaunted high approvals, has never run much above low to mid-40s for re-elect. He may eventually find himself referred as “43” in a way he wouldn’t like.

  26. Bertie on

    Those Nader numbers are still dangerously high; if he were to get anywhere near 2-3 percent in the general election, then it will be four more years of Bush.

  27. Paul C on

    Item 10 said “In the Gallup poll, 40 percent of likely voters now say that they usually, almost always or always vote Democrats, compared to 36 percent who they typically vote Republican. Two months ago, Republicans had the advantage on this question, 44/37.” This question and the answers have to be nonsense. In two months, how can such a large percentage of people change how they “always” or “usually” vote. How many elections could there have been in the two months? Ruy, I would be very interested in your opinion on the worth of a question like this.
    Also Ruy, while I am making requests, I would be very interested in comparisons of the polling results we see now with the results from previous elections, i.e. similar questions at similar times in hte cycle.

  28. Mara on

    In my estimation these polls are more a reflection of dissatisfaction with Bush than a reflection of support for Kerry. As a Kerry supporter I hope the people at the Kerry campaign are taking note. For example, the public knows what Bush is doing in Iraq, but do they know what Kerry would do in Iraq if he wins? I’m not sure I do. The public knows what Bush has done for the economy, and it isn’t good, but do they know, specifically, what Kerry would do? I am a die hard Democrat, and Kerry’s got my vote, but I need to hear MORE about what he’s going to do not just how awful Bush is (I know that already).

  29. Frank on

    So what these results mean is that the only recourse the Rebubs have is slime. Get ready to give it back as hard as they throw it, John.

  30. CalDem on

    Shouldn’t some democrat groups be running push polls on the 9/11 ads. “Do you agree that using images of the corpses of 9/11 victims in political ads is disgusting and disqualifies one from being the Presidnt?” or something along those lines.


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