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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

New Lows in Support for Bush Policies on Iraq and the War on Terror

Kerry may or may not be ahead in the race at the current time. Head-to-head RV polls, which I’ve argued are the most important polls to look at, tended to show Kerry ahead through the end of last week (April 9) when the last batch were conducted.
We’ll probably have some new ones released this weekend and it will be interesting to see what they show. It’s within the realm of possibility that Bush’s press conference/speech this week will produce some kind of small rally effect. Or it may not.
Either way, the really significant political development in the recent period is the undercutting of support for Bush’s war in Iraq and for his handling of the war on terror. Here are some findings from recent polls that show just how seriously his standing in this area–once his ticket to sure re-election–has eroded.
The latest Annenberg Election Survey includes this question: “Has the war in Iraq reduced the risk of terrorism against the United States or increased the risk of terrorism against the United States?” Very straightforward. By about 2:1 (57-29), the public says the Iraq war has increased the risk of terrorism against the US. Wow.
The poll also asks another very straightforward question: “All in all, do you think the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over, or not?”. Note that there’s no specific mention in this question of the war’s costs–casualties, money, etc.–which has tended to produce negative responses for quite a while (e.g., the CBS News question). But, even with no mention of costs, this question still returns a negative response: 51-43 saying the Iraq situation wasn’t worth going to war about. That could represent some kind of a turning point in public evaluations of the Iraq war.
Another noteworthy recent finding comes from a recent Ipsos-AP poll. In that poll, Bush’s approval rating on “handling the war on terrorism” clocks in at just 51 percent.
These new lows suggest just how difficult it may be for Bush to run–and win–as a “war president”, as he likes to describe himself. And for further indications on this score, check out this excellent Los Angeles Times article on how reactions to the Iraq quagmire (if I may use that term) may sink his chances to carry Minnesota, very high on the Bush campaign’s list of blue states they hope to pick off in November.

11 comments on “New Lows in Support for Bush Policies on Iraq and the War on Terror

  1. Matt McIrvin on

    In general, it’s folly to compare Bush’s approval number from poll A this week with his number from poll B last week; it has to be apples and apples, or else you’re mostly looking at differences in systematic error. And even in an apples-to-apples comparison, you’re likely to spend a lot of time looking at random sampling error, unless you look at long-term trends and discount one- or two-point blips from week to week. Every time a poll comes out you see people writing elaborate post-hoc analyses of what the last week’s movements mean. This is all garbage, like those articles in the financial section in which somehow people can always justify why the previous day’s movements in the stock market made logical sense, even though they usually can’t predict them in advance.

  2. reignman on

    Fox News had Bush’s approval rating at 50%, so that means it’s really about 45%, which most other pollsters are reporting. Of course, it has gone up a little since the attack ads on Kerry, but since that affect also eliminated Kerry’s lead, Kerry is now back in the lead (“It’s Official, Kerry’s Ahead”).

  3. Paula on

    Steve, Don’t worry about Bush’s approval rating in that Annenberg poll. If you look at http://www.pollingreport.com, the Annenberg approval numbers are always about 5 points higher than everyone else. 53 percent is actually a new low for Bush in that poll.

  4. Scott on

    “The fact that Bush is so down and people have already given Kerry competitive general ratings against Kerry gives Kerry (not Bush) a lot of upside here.”
    Oops. I meant to say “The fact that Bush is so down and people have already given Kerry competitive general ratings against Bush gives Kerry (not Bush) a lot of upside here.”
    Sorry for the slip.

  5. Scott on

    Actually, I _have_ seen some numbers where Kerry’s approval on terrorism have come up slightly (I can’t remember where just off the top of my head, though).
    But I’m not too suprised or worried Bush’s approval numbers aren’t worse. They’re certainly not rising substantially.
    I’ve posted a variation on this theme here before, but it bears repeating: almost by definition by the fact we read this Web site and take the time to respond means we are totally “plugged in” on this election already. We are the minority at this point.
    For most Americans, the election is this hazy thing still seven months off. They aren’t paying the same attention we are. Kerry acknowledged the other day most people don’t really know him. That will change as Election Day approaches.
    The fact that Bush is so down and people have already given Kerry competitive general ratings against Kerry gives Kerry (not Bush) a lot of upside here.
    My bottom line: be patient. If we are still in this position after the conventions, *then* start to panic.

  6. kuros on

    just a reminder:
    “Beyond the Euphrates began for us the land of mirage and danger, the sands where one helplessly sank, and the roads which ended in nothing. The slightest reversal would have resulted in a jolt to our prestige giving rise to all kinds of catastrophe; the problem was not only to conquer but to conquer again and again, perpetually; our forces would be drained off in the attempt.”
    Emperor Hadrian AD 117-138

  7. BKW on

    It’s true that by himself, Bush’s approval ratings on specific war & terrorism issues is dropping. But when compared to Kerry (i.e. the question, “Who would do a better job defending the U.S. against terrorism” and the like), Bush still maintains a very comfortable lead. At least according to the last numbers I saw on tarrance.com. When asked about Bush’s performance by itself, it may be only a 51% approval of his actions regarding Iraq, but head to head against Kerry, they’re much higher.
    Why is this? People think Bush is bad, but Kerry is worse? People figure Bush has been at it long enough, he’s bound to figure it out eventually? People know what they’re getting with Bush, but Kerry is an unknown? I’d be curious about the reasons. It would seem to me that if you’re not satisfied with the way Bush is handling things, you’d want to hand the job over to someone else, but people seem to be indicating the opposite.
    Other question worth asking is whether the spread between Bush and Kerry on Iraq & terrorism issues is shrinking any in recent weeks / months.

  8. rover on

    If Bush’s speech/press conference doesn’t result in a drop in the polls for him, much less a bounce, we’re all screwed.
    I mean if that pathetic performance makes his numbers go up, what kind of performance makes them go down?

  9. Steve Dwight on

    DonkeyRising says “By about 2:1 (57-29), the public says the Iraq war has increased the risk of terrorism against the US. Wow.”
    The scary thing is that the same Annenberg poll shows Bush with an approval rating of 53%–and increasing! That’s “Wow”. Does this mean that the majority of Americans like Bush so much, it doesn’t matter what he does?

  10. SSJPabs on

    As a resident of Minnesota I really wish the LA Times let me read the article.
    Oh well, Bush sucks and sentiment here in MN is starting to reflect that. We’ll deliver these 10 electoral votes to Kerry, fear not.


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