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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Polls Are All Singing the Same Song

Another major poll, another boatload of bad news for the Bush campaign. Here’s the latest from NBC News/Wall Street Journal on what the public thinks, very consistent with other recently-released data.
1. Bush is doing a lousy job. His overall approval rating is 45 percent, with 49 pecent disapproval, lowest ever in this poll. His approval rating on the economy is identical, an improvement from NBC News’ May rating but still net negative and about in line with their March rating, which pre-dated almost all of the recent job growth. His foreign policy rating is lower at 44/52 and his rating on “dealing with the war on terrorism” is now under 50 percent, with approval (48 percent) barely higher than disapproval (47 percent). The last time NBC News asked this question was in January and it makes for quite a contrast. In January, Bush was a net +32 on his war on terrorism approval rating (63/31). Now he’s down to +1–a big, big change.
2. The country’s not going in the right direction. In the NBC News poll, just 36 percent think so, up 3 points from May, but still down 7 points from March in this poll.
3. The economy is still in trouble. A strong majority (57 percent) continues to think that “the signs point to an economy that is going to be in trouble–jobs are moving overseas, the budget deficit is growing, and too many jobs do not have health insurance or pensions” rather than “the signs point to an economy that is going to be strong–jobs are being created, inflation is low, and the stock market is up”.
4. The war wasn’t really worth it. The number who believe removing Saddam from power was worth “the number of US casualties and the financial costs of the war” is down to 40 percent, the lowest ever in this poll, with a majority (51 percent) saying it wasn’t.
5. The war hasn’t made us safer. A majority (51 percent) thinks the threat of terrorism against the US has been increased by the Iraq war, compared to only 14 percent who think it has decreased.
6. Bush lied or at least exaggerated. A majority (53 percent) now say that Bush “exagerrate information to make the case for war” rather than provided the most accurate information (42 percent). Three months ago, this question returned a 49-49 split. Also, for the first time, a plurality (47 percent) say Bush “deliberately misled people to make the case for war” rather than gave the most accurate information (44 percent). That’s a reversal from three months ago when, by 53-41, people said Bush did not deliberately mislead people.
7. Let’s try to get out of here, shall we?. By 53-37, the public worries more that we will stay in Iraq too long than that we will leave too soon. A majority (55 percent) either want to leave immediately/as soon as possible (24 percent) or according to a specified timetable but within 18 months “regardless of the situation at the time” (31 percent). And 74 percent say that, if Iraqi civilian leaders can’t govern effectively, the US should not take back control but rather let the Iraqis work things out for themselves.
That’s what the public thinks. Over to you, John Kerry.

14 comments on “The Polls Are All Singing the Same Song

  1. Bonnie Amaya on

    I beleive that the only Americans the terrorists want
    at this time is Gorge W. and crew (Cheney,Ashcroft,
    Romsfield) If we get them out of office in November
    we will have a chance of getting our country back at least to a low security threat level. We have not, nore will we ever be totally free from the threat of terrorists plotting against us. But the ones that are really hated by the terrorists groups of today are listed above.
    If the American people put them back in office in Nov.2004, then we are all in a lot of trouble. I Pray America is Smarter than That.

  2. Marcus Lindroos on

    By the way, I think WaPo columnist Jim Hoagland explains (without recognizing it himself-) the problem with”Shrub’s” claim about being the only candidate who is “serious” about the War on Terrorism. It is no longer credible… Sure, there has been lots of resolute firebrand rhetoric and swagger since 9/11, but the actual DEEDS betray the convinction. If the terror war really is about the survival of western civilization, shouldn’t this Administration have been a little more reluctant to push for tax cuts for the rich etc. while favoring less divisive politics at home in the name of bipartisan unity against the Great Enemy abroad?

    Heck — Churchill reportedly made concessions to Labour left and right in the late 1930s. What, exactly, did the Republicans do in 2001-03? Things like suggesting moderate NC Senator Max Cleland was in cahoots with Osama and Saddam for insisting that civil servants working for the Homeland Security department have the same workplace rights as other civil servants! The GOP has consistently tried to use the War on Terror to advance partisan goals at home, and that is probably who Democrats and independents no longer believe the Administration’s arguments about Iraqi WMDs, the Saddam/Osama connection, prison torture etc..
    “The lengthening period since Sept. 11 has created a sense of virtual emergency. President Bush mobilized the armed forces to fight the war on terrorism.”
    “But he has not mobilized society on a similar war footing at home. He has not conscripted soldiers or factories and other national economic resources as most wartime presidents have. He leaves the impression that the nation does not need to devote all its resources to confronting an immediate, specific threat of destruction, whatever his rhetoric.”

  3. Brian Boru on

    From my perspective, a major terrorist attack on US soil between now and the election would be the final nail in W’s coffin: about the only thing he has going for him (apart from “nice guy”) is that he has thus far protected us from another attack. When/if one comes, he will have proven himself to be a miserable failure yet again.

  4. frankly0 on

    I do think that Kerry has an important reason to continue to “pile on” to his national security creds. ONLY an significant national security event, such as an episode of terrorism or the capture of Osama, would stand much chance to change Bush’s poor prospects in the upcoming election.
    I suppose it’s way to late in the game to weigh in on this point (not that it makes much diff anyway), but this would be all the more reason for Kerry to select Wes Clark as a VP candidate. If nothing major happens between now and the election, Kerry will have a great chance to win with virtually ANY VP; but if national security is kicked out of its current stasis, only a very strong Dem national security team will do well against Bush and Cheney.

  5. DSchultz on

    I think that a terrorist attack now will have a net negative effect for Bush. People will not think of him as the light in the storm, the steadfast commander, etc etc etc. Rather they will think “strike three” or possibly “two”, if they don’t count the Iraq Attack as a calamity for our soldiers and the country. The problem for Bush will be, should such an attack take place, that he will necessarily have to argue that he’s the one who can prevent the next attack. This isn’t going to be a position of strength, not even to the most willing suspender of disbelief.
    I don’t know about the questions concerning al Qaeda’s positions on Bush or the election. It seems to me that al Qaeda is not really too concerned about American electoral politics. Al Qaeda is focused on rejecting and ousting Western/American culture and influence from Muslim countries. Bush, because of his religiosity and shallowness, has become an icon more to his backers here than to his enemies elsewhere, I think. The fact is that al Qaeda will continue its attacks on American interests and operations in Iraq and elsewhere no matter who is elected here.

  6. Lawrence on

    I just saw a wonderful poll result on today’s Gallup homepage: Can Kerry and Bush Handle the Responsibility of being Commander in Chief?
    Yes 61%
    No 35%
    Yes 61%
    No 30%
    A critical confidence barrier met and exceeded!
    Now watch to see if Kerry gets convincingly ahead after the looming Democratic Convention!

  7. Alan on

    I remember how completely most people had written off Kerry back when Dean was surging and got Al Gore’s endorsement. He wasn’t even 2nd by most people’s calculations — behind Clarke as well.
    This game is played in such a way that you can’t tell luck from strategy from the outside, and they will never tell you which it is. In either case, Kerry’s best shot is clearly to build up now, then go for shock-and-awe after the convention.
    With one caveat: “don’t attack an opponent who is committing suicide.” By all evidence the Kerry folk seem to understand this. And boy I can’t figure out how those Bushies stand upright after shooting themselves in the foot so many times.

  8. bt on

    Marcus, you wrote:
    “On the other hand, local Iraqi insurgents may well think a Kerry presidency would be more likely to pull out simply because there would be a perceived mandate for ending an increasingly unpopular occupation. I think this group would be more likely to ramp up the violence in Iraq rather than taking the fight to America soil, though.”
    Much to the frustration of many who want him to, I haven’t heard Kerry give a date for pulling the troops. Nothing he has said so far suggests that if he wins it is, as of now, a mandate for removing our troops.
    Personally, I can readily understand why he would take this stance at this point, from the standpoint of what is the right thing to do. How can either Kerry or Bush know enough, so early after the transfer, how things are likely to play out and therefore how we should think about the question of troop deployments and withdrawal?
    And though I’m very much not a political pro, it also seems to me to be the politically smart thing for Kerry to do at this time. If he differs with a decision or course of action on Iraq he can, if he wants to and feels he can do so in good conscience, choose to do so later in the campaign when more is known about how the transfer is going–and, not incidentally, when the Administration will have less time to react before the election.
    I think he has much fatter and lower risk foreign policy targets to shoot at now–the conduct and results of the effort against al qaeda, the pre and earlier postwar conduct of the war in Iraq including the Abu Ghraib fiasco, the overextension and mismanagement of our troop commitments, the treatment of our troops by their civilian leaders, and probably North Korea come readily to mind.

  9. Mimiru on

    Of course the terrorists would say a terrorist attack would hurt Bush!
    Remember John Kerry has a secret line to Osama and they’re in cahoots!

  10. Marcus Lindroos on

    This question is a bit more complicated than it seems. I think Al Qaeda almost certainly would prefer to have a “good enemy” (=someone who offends Arab sensibilities, who proves they are right by invading Islamic countries because of WMDs and alleged connections that just didn’t exist). After all, Osama bin L. would be in much greater trouble now if “Shrub” had focused all efforts on waging a reasonably popular and relatively non-controversial war against him in Afghanistan…
    On the other hand, local Iraqi insurgents may well think a Kerry presidency would be more likely to pull out simply because there would be a perceived mandate for ending an increasingly unpopular occupation. I think this group would be more likely to ramp up the violence in Iraq rather than taking the fight to America soil, though.

  11. bt on

    My answers:
    1) Unclear. How the public would respond I would think is inevitably a great unknown. I am wondering to what extent mainstream media will voice and discuss these kinds of concerns that I think many Americans privately share. It could be that the more these concerns are discussed the more ready the public will be if there are attacks near or at election time, and the more likely swing voters will be able to think through in advance what is going on and how they will respond.
    2) Who can know how they think about this? Al qaeda certainly has demonstrated a highly sophisticated ability to exploit security vulnerabilities of the US. I dunno–have they hired an unemployed pollster or political consultant to advise them on how to play the election here? Have they assigned someone to monitor and report on the political blog scene? My guess is they would think they’d have nothing to lose if Bush is trailing late.
    3) Of course. This one is a no-brainer. Kerry would actually represent a serious threat to them because he is by far the candidate in the race with the greatest potential to effectively rally the international community to combat al qaeda.
    4) Probability of them trying it? High. Probability of success to me should be high–I mean, how can we cover absolutely every possibility here? But we’ve got some exceptional people down the food chain who are going to be giving body and soul to trying to stop them between now and then. It would be foolish either to discount the possibility of successful terrorist attacks or successful efforts to thwart them.
    Speaking of Kerry, I am hoping that his low profile in the media of late is entirely deliberate, that what is going on is that the campaign is getting all its ducks in a row for a great convention and fall ad and ground campaign. Fence-sitting indies I know perceive him to be almost in hiding of late–they are clearly wanting and expecting to hear from him and a little confused (and unimpressed) as to why they aren’t hearing much from him of late. Which may make it easier for him to get their attention at the convention and from here on out. Let’s hope.

  12. theCoach on

    1. Not sure – probaly depends on the attack. Large scale helps Bush, small scale probably hurts.
    2. Helps
    3. How could they not? – he has been almost a total pawn of theirs. Even they probably could not have wished for an internationally unpopular war in the middle east that significantly increased recruits.
    I think they will certainly try. However, the incompetence of Bush and his administration has not yet spread to all of the career service people whose job it is to protect us — so we have a decent shot of preventing it.

  13. Alan on

    OK, three hypothetical questions:
    1. Would a major terrorist event on U.S. Soil help or hurt Bush?
    2. Which answer would “the terrorists” give?
    3. Do the terrorists want Bush to remain in office?
    From the answers above, what is the probability of a terrorist attack on U.S. soil between now and November?


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