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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Kerry Vs. Bush on the Issues

Gallup released a report today on Kerry vs. Bush on the issues. Based on the July 19-21 poll, their data indicates that Kerry has work to do to overcome Bush’s lead on international issues, particularly handling the Iraq situation–something I have highlighted repeatedly in my posts–as well as to capitalize on and, ideally, widen his lead on domestic issues.
According to the Gallup poll, Kerry leads (or deficits) on which candidate can best handle specific issues are: health care (+17); the economy (+8); education (+7); taxes (+2); the situation in Iraq (-5); and terrorism (-18). Compared to Gallup’s poll one month previously, Kerry’s leads on the issues are about 4-5 points smaller in this poll.
The poll also asks about specific candidate qualities and Kerry’s leads include: cares about the needs of people like you (+8); shares your values (+3); and is honest and trustworthy (tied).
Kerry’s ratings on these issues and candidate qualities are generally pretty close to what we’ve seen in other public polls recently….with one big exception: the new ABC News/Washington Post (WP) poll, which gives Kerry much more negative ratings than anyone else.
The WP poll was taken right after the Gallup poll, July 22-25, but boy are these results different. Here are Kerry’s leads over Bush on who can best handle different issues: health care (+3); education (+1); the economy (-1); taxes (-6); the situation in Iraq (-12); and terrorism (-18). And on candidate qualities, we have: understands the problems of people like you (+4); shares your values (-6); and honest and trustworthy (-6).
Amazing. In the space of a few days, the WP poll has Kerry’s leads on most issues, compared to the Gallup poll, shrinking by 7-14 points. Kerry’s leading by only 3 points on health care? And suddenly Bush is ahead by a point on the economy? Ahead by 6 points on taxes and values? By 12 points on Iraq?
It’s also worth noting that this WP poll, compared to previous WP polls in the last month, shows shifts double the size or more (8-18 points) of those contained in the Gallup poll.
In short, the results of this poll stick out like a sore thumb. Could it be that the WP poll is using registered voters (RVs) and that accounts for the difference? Nope, the WP poll’s own data show that using RVs or adults makes essentially no difference to these measures. Note also that several other recent public polls–Quinnipiac and Time–polled RVs at about the same time Gallup was polling adults on these Kerry-Bush comparisons and found results that were virtually identical to Gallup (an 8 point lead for Kerry on the economy and a 17 point lead on health care; a 4 point Kerry deficit on Iraq).
That leaves only the survey dates as a benign explanation. Did the world really change that much from July 19-21 (Gallup’s survey dates) to July 22-25 (WP’s survey dates)?
I’ve got my doubts. Big doubts.

20 comments on “Kerry Vs. Bush on the Issues

  1. demtom on

    Like Melior and Billmon, I read the muck-dog’s “strongest economy in 20 years” line, and nearly laughed out loud. It’s almost too ludicrous a statement to need response, but, for the record, as Billmon says, the quote refers to one brief three-month period. It’s like an isolated day of thundershowers in the midst of a three-year drought — any public official who went around saying “We now have our best water situation in 20 years” would be strung up.
    The economy over the Bush term has been clearly poor. The recent (undeniable) job gains held promise of at least reversing the public verdict on current conditions. But now signs are suggesting that what recovery there was is about done: the job numbers took a sudden dip, GDP for even Q1 were revised down, all other reports suggest even weaker activity in Q2 and Q3…and the oil price situation grows ominously bad (the Yukos problem may push it into crisis). At best, the economy will be a semi-negative factor for Bush, since many never bought into the recovery idea to begin with (particularly in swing states). But much worse is possible: a near-downturn prior to the election, and (as I’ve heard predicted by reputable sources) a sharp market drop. If that should come about, Bush will long for the days when he could hope for 47-49% of the vote.

  2. Keith on

    I understand that there are senarios that don’t include winning Ohio or Florida. I’m not so confident about Arizona. And, Missouri will also be very tough.
    A poll out last week in Nevada has Kerry up by 4 points. Plus, I’ll bet that New Hampshire goes for Kerry. Southern NH is the high growth area and is filled with Massachusetts Democrats moving over the boarder. He’s 2 points up in a poll from July 21.
    Unfortunately, combined with Nevada that stills comes up 1 short. So, you’ll still need West Virginia or possibly Arkansas. But, let’s face it, if places like Nevada, NH, and W. Virginia fall to Kerry, then we’re talking decisve win, because that trend will pull, at the very least, Ohio and possibly Florida with it.
    Bush has to be VERY concerned right now. There are no states that went for Gore in 2000 where he realistically has a chance. There are a number of states that went for Bush, where Kerry is either slightly ahead, or in a statistical tie.
    Hold onto your hat for the October surprise. This group will not go down easy. They will beg, borrow, cheat and steal to stay in power.

  3. Billmon on

    “Well, the economy is the strongest in 20 years…”
    If the Republican chowder heads want to run on that message in Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, I think that’s just dandy.
    (That “strongest economy in 20 years” talking point, BTW, applies to the GDP growth rate in exactly one one quarter – the third quarter of last year. And, of course, it doesn’t apply at all to employment and wage growth.)
    But like I said, if that’s how the Bush-Cheney campaign wants to commit suicide, it’s fine with me.

  4. bt on

    Good point, Ron. I’m actually feeling very optimistic about our chances of taking Arizona, more so than Missouri this time.

  5. melior on

    “Well, the economy is the strongest in 20 years…”
    Keep whistling. You must have missed the announcement this week of the return of record budget deficits, the looming spikes in oil prices, and “unexpectedly” more billions to feed the Iraq war. There is little confidence in the fundamentals by investors (who don’t just listen to Greenspan) right now, despite record valuations.

  6. Ron Thompson on

    I don’t think we’re necessarily screwed if we lose Ohio and Florida. I think Kerry will win both, but if he carries all of Gore’s states, he only needs 10 additional electoral votes, and he could get those in Missouri, or Arizona, or by winning West Virginia and Nevada.

  7. Mencken on

    as a side note, here’s a link that ought to settle the debate re kerry’s anticipated convention bounce:
    despite ed gillespie’s purposefully wrong take on the size of convention bounces historically enjoyed by candidates (he says 15 points), the truth is
    “[t]he average bounce for a convention like the current Democratic convention is 5 to 7 percentage points, said Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll.”
    now, why has the 5-7 points number been so hard to verify? I know what gillespie’s motives are but why can’t the major media outlets simply use past poll data to debunk GOP claims ?
    the answer for me is incredibly lazy journalists who are quite content to mechanically structure articles around point/counterpoint, instead of doing a little background work to verify the factual allegations they so blindly print. I guess it’s easier to parrot GOP talking points than take the few minutes to run a NEXIS search or call a polling organization to get a definitive answer.
    really, in the information age, not bothering to verify your source’s statements is unforgivable.

  8. muckdog on

    Well, the economy is the strongest in 20 years and Greenspan is already tapping on the brakes. It makes sense that folks would give Bush a good mark on the economy. It’s done really well rebounding from the 2000-2001 recession.

  9. Keith on

    Polls, polls, polls… I study them till my head spins. Am I wrong in sensing that this whole race will be decided by two states.. Ohio and Florida. If Kerry wins one of them, game is over. If he loses both, four more long years!!

  10. Lawrence on

    Net-net (if you can excuse the expression), the polls show K/E about two points ahead, and leading in the electoral college. That is, if there are ten polls in any given two week period, and eight of them show K/E ahead, that ought to be a pretty good measurement. Obviously, any one poll has a much larger margin of error.
    Remember the under-measurement of Reagan votes in 1980. And given the enthusiasm this year, I’m hoping for a good, un-measured, turnout effect.

  11. Jonathan on

    I agree that it’s got to be a party ID thing with the Post poll. It just just such an outlier in so many ways that it’s not a reasonable poll. The deltas, even with it’s own poll the previous month, is just too severe for any reasonable explanation. 10 point shifts are all over the place when not that much happened in the last month to favor bush. Also, the Post polls have always given bush much larger job approval ratings than other polls. It’s been the Post polls with the Fox ‘polls’ that are way outside the norm. I’m not sure what the Post is doing (I know what Fox is doing!), but they have consistenly produced out of the mainstream poll numbers. These latest are just another example.

  12. Billmon on

    I think the Post/ABC poll is having some problems with sample quality – first there was the huge swing towards Kerry on the terrorism issue back in June (which the Post played up a big story) then the big swing back towards Bush in the two July polls. I don’t think anybody really believes that Kerry closed to even with Bush on the GOP signature issue – and certainly none of the other polls ever showed it.
    Something else I noticed (somewhere) about the Post/ABC poll was that their latest sample was 33% Republican, which seemed awfully high to me. I don’t think Post/ABC controls for party identification, so what we’re seeing may just be some random noise – or an exaggeration of a real trend, which the Gallup poll would seem to suggest.
    Given the incredible partisan polarization on just about every issue, it seems logical to me that even a minor shift in party ID within the samples could have a big impact on the results.
    Of course, controlling for party ID has its own problems – what’s the “right” split? And I’m not going to argue that it’s the better way to do things. But the media, as usual, is doing an awful job of explaining the limitations of polling, and the fact that many of the “trends” that people think they see in the numbers are in fact just noise.

  13. demtom on

    You could make a case that the concentration on first the Edwards selection, then the 9/11 Commission, and now the convention has been marginally beneficial for Bush, as it has kept the chief source of his weakness — Iraq — from holding the center ring. It’s not like nothing’s going on over there: we’re still losing 1-2 military per day, with countless more wounded, but it’s not leading the evening news. Fiascos like today’s might reverse that, especially once we’re past the conventions. I also think (and have heard from sources) that the round number “1000 dead” will get alot of attention from the press. It’s only a number, but those things register (As analogy: Carter had the horrible break of the first anniversary of the hostage-taking occurring right before Election Day 1980. It amounted to a media-sponsored tough negative ad right before voting).

  14. reignman on

    Bush isn’t quite as vulnerable as he once was, now that there isn’t as much drama going on in Iraq. As for people talking about Kerry not re-defining himself, I don’t see why not. Gore wasn’t defining himself in the 2000 convention we he said “I want to show you who I truly am”–he was redefining himself, after everyone saying he was a dull robot. Kerry could actually give a speech as good as Edwards, provided that Edwards wrote it for him.

  15. goethean on

    Here’s a data point for you: watching the network news, all that my wife heard about the convention was that Teresa Kerry-Heinz told a reporter to “shove it”.
    Great coverage, eh?

  16. marky on

    Are you implying something? Do you think these results are not honest somehow, or simply that
    this must be an outlier poll?

  17. Joe Zainea on

    MSNBC reported the WAPO poll results because it builds viewer interest based on tension, because it is seen by conservatives as a liberal cable outlet and must therefore throw them bones and because MSNBC is tied in with Newsweek, which is also tied in with WAPO.

  18. AJS on

    and why did msnbc decide to run with the poll showing kerry behind at the start of the DNC…not only did they hype the wapo poll on their site as the main headline but they wouldn’t shutup about it on TV either


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