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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

From Baby Bounce to No Bounce?

Yesterday, I criticized Newsweek for passing off its poll as a measure of Kerry’s bounce from the convention, when it didn’t provide the right data for doing so–the “before” poll was too early (July 8-9) and, most important, the “after” poll wasn’t really after since half of it was conducted Thursday, before the end of the convention and Kerry’ speech. Since Newsweek‘s own poll indicated that Kerry did much better in the second half of their poll, after his speech, than before and since other data indicated that Kerry’s pre-convention support was probably less than that indicated by their July 8-9 poll, it seemed to logical to me that their measure was probably an underestimate of Kerry’s true bounce.
But now we have Gallup data that were collected entirely after the end of the convention (Friday and Saturday) and compared to a poll reasonably close to the beginning of the convention. And, quite oddly, they show, if anything, less of a bounce than that measured by Newsweek. Newsweek, in the RV Kerry-Bush matchup, had Kerry’s support level going up a point and his margin increasing by 2 points. In Gallup’s data, Kerry’s support level also goes up a point in this matchup, but his margin actually decreases by a point.
Huh? How did that happen, when Gallup’s polling on two days that should have been very good for Kerry and Newsweek only caught one of them? And beyond the bounce, how does Gallup wind up with a 50-47 Kerry lead, while Newsweek has the race at 52-44 for Kerry? After all, in early July, when these two polls were conducted at about the same time, they wound up with virtually identical results (51-45 Kerry in Newsweek; 51-44 Kerry in Gallup) in this matchup.
Apparently, there was something about that Saturday when Gallup polled. Gallup reports, consistent with the Newsweek data, that Friday was quite a good night for Kerry. But Saturday came in very differently, with quite good results for Bush–hence, the horse race results they reported.
Maybe this was just the shortest bounce on record–it only lasted one night! But I don’t know; it’s hard to think of a good reason why this would be so. What could have happened on Saturday to turn things around so quickly?
Also, just to deepen the mystery, other results from the Gallup poll suggest a good bounce for Kerry in almost all other respects. Compared to their pre-convention poll, Bush’s approval rating went down and his disapproval rating went up. By 57-39, the public now agrees that Kerry “has the personality and leadership qualities a president should have” (up from 53/41) and by 52-43, the public now says they agree with Kerry on the issues that matter most to them (up from 49-42).
On who can best handle specific issues, Kerry’s lead on the economy has gone from 8 to 11 points; on Iraq, he has gone from -5 to +2; on terrorism, from -18 to -12; on health care from +17 to +21; and on taxes from +2 to +3. Kerry has also regained the lead over Bush on who can manage the government effectively (+1); increased his lead from +8 to +15 on “cares about people like you”; reduced his deficit from -19 to -9 on who is a strong and decisive leader; took the lead over Bush on “is a person you admire” (+2); increased his lead on having an optimistic vision for the future from +3 to +11; took the lead over Bush on being honest and trustworthy (+5); and registered a large lead on “will unite the country, not divide it” (+13).
And how about this one: Kerry is now preferred over Bush, 51-46, as the candidate the public trusts more to handle the responsibilities of commander-in-chief of the military. And he has a higher net rating than Bush on being capable (or not) of handling the commander-in-chief resonsibilities (+30 vs. +21).
Heck, Kerry even went up on having a clear plan for handling the situation in Iraq, so that his net rating on having a plan (-14) is now actually a little bit better than Bush’s (-16). Before the convention, Bush’s net rating on this issue (-9) was a great deal better than Kerry’s (-23).
But, somehow, all this didn’t affect the horse race much. Hard to figure out. It must have been a very strange Saturday.
Well, we’ll see what the other polls have to say. And Gallup apparently is going to stay in the field for a third night (Sunday night), so we’ll see what happens with that. In the meantime, bounce or not, Kerry still seems to have helped his general political position by the convention which, as I’ve argued here a number of times, is the really important thing.

63 comments on “From Baby Bounce to No Bounce?

  1. Jeff on

    I too have enjoyed this little exchange. I pray that you are right. I want Kerry to win desperately. I have never said that foreign policy should be excluded from the debate – only that it was a mistake to focus almost entirely on the subject during the convention.
    Sure other issues were mentioned. But it would be disingenuous to say that foreign affairs/military affairs did not play a prominent – if not the most prominent – role at our convention.
    The argument I am making is that the exclusion of issues such as health care, the deficit/debt, job losses, etc. hurt us.
    The argument I made was that these “middle” voters or independants may support a tougher stand on foreign affairs – but they also support health reform and keeping jobs in America.
    It was an opportunity wasted.

  2. bt on

    My last word on this exchange of views with Jeff, which BTW I have enjoyed: what’s ours is ours and what’s theirs is also…ours. That’s not a “me, too”, “DLC” mindset. It’s a both/and mindset.
    Is it ambitious? You bet. But America needs an ambitious political party now, one that can walk and chew gum at the same time. That’s the way I look at it this time around.

  3. bt on

    If national security proves to be the most decisive issue in this election, the winner will not necessarily be the one who is perceived to have the “strongest” foreign policy, in the sense of who can sound most bellicose. It could be decided on the basis of which candidate is perceived to have the smarter, more effective, more tough-minded foreign policy. “Strongest” does not equate to “best”.
    I do not accept your premise that, based on the convention, the Kerry campaign is trying to make this election about national security policy. Rather, I think it recognizes, wisely, that this time around, the Commander in Chief issue is a threshold which many persuadable voters may need to have a comfort level with as a condition for voting for a candidate and possibly as a precondition for even hearing the rest of a candidate’s message. And I think it has also, again wisely, laid the groundwork for giving Kerry at least a fighting chance of winning the election if, due to events beyond the control of the Kerry campaign, this becomes the decisive issue.
    Elections are not all the same. For example, as you have pointed out, it may be the case that there are fewer votes up for grabs at this point in the campaign than has been the case in many elections, which may lead to a lower ceiling on potential Convention bumps for both candidates. We have not held an election in circumstances such as these in our history. That goes for the far more widespread use of electronic voting technologies than has ever been the case as well as the unique level of public awareness of the real possibility of attempts to disrupt the election through acts of terror. I don’t see how anyone can with any degree of confidence say that when it comes to this election, past will necessarily be prologue.
    In no way does that mean that the type of analyses of polling trends that is featured at this site is therefore less relevant. It is to say there are factors which may come into play this time around which would reduce the predictive accuracy of such analyses.

  4. Jeff on

    For everyone out there:
    Those who vote for the Republicans do so because it is in their self-interest.
    Those who vote for the Democrats do so because it is in their self-interest.
    Those who vote for the Green Party do so because it is in their self-interest.
    That’s politics. The way it always has been. The way it always will be. No matter which country you live in. No matter what time you live in.
    The important question you have to ask yourself is this: which people make up the “Democratic Coalition.” Those are the people that always vote Democrat – African American; other minorities, certain segments of Labor (excluding those th;t are morally inclined, or perhaps work for an industry that is assisted by the GOP. There are subgroups that some people consider more important than others); single mothers; etc. Think about all these people and why they vote Democrat. They do so because it is in their interest to do so.
    Same thing with Republicans. Buisnessmen, Christian fundementalists, and others vote for the Republicans because it is in their interests.
    If you happen to think that the Democrats have a better foreign policy than republicans (something I don’t necessarily disagree with), it could be that you are a Democrat first and thus are more inclined to listen to them.
    However, Republicans will support their own for the same reason. Even if they don’t agree with everything Bush may say or do – in the long run it suits their interests to continue supporting the GOP.
    Again, that leaves the 6%.
    That six percent do want a more forceful foreign policy. However, who’s more forceful than Bush? So if the issue becomes about which party will be more forceful regarding foreign affairs. They will vote for Bush. Simple. No question.
    But this group also wants health care and education. They want balanced budgets and good government. They want jobs to stay in America, etc. HERE IS WHERE BUSH IS VULNERABLE.
    The mess in Iraq and Bush’s confusing policy regarding terrorism helped us in one way. It took away the foreign policy issue from Bush. Democratic supporters who have it in their interests to support Democratic policies will not abandon the Democrats because of the “War on terrorism” simply because, as you and I already believe, Bush is making a mess of it all.
    So basically what i’m saying is that we don’t lose any ground.
    But that said, independant voters are independant. They don’t assume, as you and I do, that the Democrats will be better. The vast majority of them don’t follow politics 24/7 as we political junkies do. They are bound by “perceptions” of politics.
    Thus, if the election becomes about having a strong foreign policy – I guarantee you, they will vote for Bush.
    If the election becomes about jobs, health, etc. They will vote for Kerry.
    Joseph Kennedy, father of John F. Kennedy, once said it best, “it’s not what you are that matters. It’s what people think you are.”
    That’s how people think.
    Hence, it was a mistake.

  5. Jeff on

    bt, you are wrong friend.
    Elections are elections. Regardless of when and where they are held.
    I would say that about 92 to 94% of the population already have their minds made up.
    46% to 48% will vote for Kerry.
    44% to 46% will vote for Bush.
    2% will vote for Nader.
    That leaves about 6% to 8% who still need convincing. 6% to 8% that will ultimately decide this election.
    That 6% to 8% arguably support strong foreign policies. But they also support health reform, and protecting social security. They are also opposed to the outsourcing of jobs, etc.
    In politics, perception is reality. The perception exists that Bush has a strong foreign/military affairs record. If the election is about terrorism and going to war against God knows who, then Bush will win that 6% to 8%.
    If the election is about jobs and health care. Then Kerry will win that 6% to 8%.
    Since Kerry has made terrorism and military issues his top priority (or so it would seem), then he is basically giving that 6% to 8% to Bush. Or at the very least giving Bush the opportunity to argue that he is better than Kerry on those issues.
    We lost the initative. The most recent, and highly political terror warning is proof of that.

  6. bt on

    Jeff, for this election, I disagree. It appears to me that Commander in Chief credibility is for voters this year, including many persuadable voters, a threshold issue.
    Millions more will watch the debates than watched the Convention. My gut tells me the sequence is important. Once Kerry meets at least a threshold level of credibility on security issues in this particular election, he can more easily get a full hearing on other issues now more favorable to him.
    I also disagree that national security is a Republican issue. I don’t know about you but when I vote for Democratic candidates I don’t do so conceding that I am voting for an inferior candidate on national security issues.
    This time around, Kerry is a vastly superior candidate on national security issues. The case is there to be made, and he has now put down a large marker in the course of continuing to make it. Voter perceptions about which party is strong on which issues do change over time. But doing this requires, among other things, taking advantage of ripe opportunities to change public perceptions. And now is one great time to whack away at that, given that we have a real need this year to reassure people on that issue anyway. Saying how we are stronger on national security is not me-tooism. Kerry’s approach will be quite different from Bush’s on national security issues–and, I believe, far more effective. And what if national security turns out to be the decisive issue in this campaign? Should we in effect decide now “Oh well, I guess we’re going to lose then. We can’t win that kind of fight”?
    Jeff, I enjoy your posts and respect you and your point of view. I hope people can continue to exchange views on this board in a spirit of civility and with respect for one another. That is my intent.

  7. Jeff on

    Had Kerry come out and made the rising costs of Oil a central issue of the convention – something people understand and are increasingly frustrated by. Spent time explaining his own plan for oil independance (which is actually quite good). He would have done better.
    Had Kerry spent time focusing on Health Care and the fact that 4 million people have lost their coverage and introduce his plan to fix that (again, good). He would have done better.
    Had Kerry spent time talking about the job losses and his plan to keep jobs in American. He would have done better.
    Instead, the Democrats spent four days talking about terrorism and Kerry as a war hero. People who support Bush on terror, which outnumbers those who support us, will continue to support Bush.
    Kerry essentially made Bush’s key issue (and the only one the President leads in) the central issue of the campaign.
    How on earth does this benefit us?
    That’s what i’m saying. Kerry didn’t “define” what the election is all about. He allowed Bush to define it.
    That is why we got a minimal bounce.

  8. Jeff on

    I wasn’t talking about “bashing Bush.” I was talking about “defining” what the election is about.
    The DLC/Kerry strategy of “me tooism” is not a good idea because look at what happened on Saturday.
    The President suspiciously raises the alert status and suddenly he gets all the attention. If people thought Kerry was as good or better than Bush on that issue – he would have benefitted from it.

  9. Jeff on

    I don’t trust the Gallup poll numbers either. In fact, I never have. They always seem to err on the side of Bush, which I find suspicious.
    That said, what I was talking about before is that Kerry made a mistake trying to prove that he would be “as good as Bush” on foreign affairs/military affairs.
    People who will vote for Kerry, or any Democrat, will vote for them because of what they say on domestic or Democratic issues.
    The problem with the DLC-type strategy is that they try to out-Republican the Republicans. However, there is one fact they always seem to miss: which is that Republicans vote for Republicans and Democrats vote for Democrats. The difference is based on the small number of people in the middle.
    The trick to winning elections is to convince that middle group that your issues (Democratic issues) are more important than their issues (Republican issues). Since people already trust Democrats over Republicans on issues involving health/education, etc.
    That is what Kerry didn’t do well.
    That said, I do believe Kerry got a bounce (albeit a small one), and that he leads (albeit by about 5%). I just think he would have done better had the convention focused on job losses and keeping American jobs in America. Issues that the public trust the Democrats on.
    In 1960, Kennedy began all his foreign policy speeches saying: “We can never be strong abroad, unless we are strong at home.”
    Trying to out-Republican the Republicans is never a good strategy.

  10. bt on

    This letter to the editor in today’s NYT is part A of the succinct tack I hope Kerry takes when he gets asked in the debates about the flip-flopper charges (if he has one minute he might also be able to fit in part B, a clearer, more succinct and more persuasive explanation of his war authorization vote than I have heard him give so far):
    To the Editor:
    William Safire calls John Kerry “The Great Straddler” (column, July 28). David Brooks tells us “the Great Co-opter has to try gauzily to please everyone” (column, July 31). Pardon me while I giggle.
    President Bush opposed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Then he supported it. President Bush opposed the creation of an independent 9/11 commission. Then he supported it.
    During the election of 2000, Mr. Bush opposed the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill, denounced nation-building and said gay marriage was an issue to be decided by the states. This was before he signed McCain-Feingold into law, invaded Iraq and called for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
    It is time for the media to stop propagating the myth that John Kerry is a morally equivocal flip-flopper while excusing the president’s reversals as mere political pragmatism.
    David D. Turner
    New York, July 31, 2004

  11. Mimiru on

    I wonder how much of this bounce or non-bounce or baby-bounce or whatever is not so much as bring undecideds to Kerry, but deepening his support among people who were merely “leaning” before?

  12. Dave on

    Call me crazy…but I have strange suspicion, in a very suspicious year, that the electorate is being set up. Another “close” election with a few voting “gliches” is much more palatable to a prepared electorate, than a landslide for Kerry stolen by the Repuglicans.
    I never used to be paranoid.

  13. Frenchfries on

    Yeah, people, this is how presidents get elected: They present major accomplishments as governor of, say, Texas and thus lastingly impress the American people. How is Kerry EVER gonna match this..?!
    By the way, we are ahead in the electoral college, jack.

  14. jack on

    Can anyone tell me what John Kerry has done
    in the last 16 years in the Senate. WHAT MAJOR

  15. Paul R on

    I think the Gallup Poll numbers might be due to the recent terror alerts and the capture of a high profile Al Qaeda operative just as Kerry was giving his speech.

  16. Ed on

    I am listening to Air America Radio and someone called in to say the Zogby poll was out and Kerry was leading the electorial college vote by 130 points. I can’t get to the poll on my computer but if this is true, how great is that? Russ Limbaugh swears by this poll and has said this poll is the best. I wonder what he says now?

  17. jnagarya on

    Let’s not bias the matter as the media does: the Bushit War Crimes Family has not, in _any_ instance, “made the case”.
    Certainly they _attempted_ to make the case — Powell’s lying to the UN and the world one of more effective _efforts_ to “make the case” for WMDs.
    However, they and he have _consistently failed_ to “make” any case. Certainly they’ve tried; but in every instance they failed. That is _not_ the same as [succeeding at] “making the case”.
    All they’ve done is lie, lie, and lie, _ad nauseum_, and get variously seen thorugh and exposed at it.

  18. Lawrence on

    The only result that doesn’t have K/E leading is the Gallup likely voters – Gallups’s registered voters shows K/E in the lead. How do they calculate “likely”? I know that Ruy doesn’t like this “likely” number…

  19. Alan Snipes on

    I feel relieved. ARG and Washington Post have confirmed that Kerry has a small but solid lead. Gallup is obviously an outlier. Now if Zogby comes through tomorrow…

  20. Dan Andrews on

    Kerry in the first 5 major polls since convention is averaging 50% support (52, 49, 50, 50 and 49).
    Amazingly consistant even if you throw out the high and the low.
    Bush is averaging 44.8 (44, 47, 43, 46, and 44).
    All of these are polls of registered voters with Nader out (I agree with Zobgy that at this point there is no reason to include Nader in th ehorse race numbers, as he in not on enough ballots – 7 – to be significant).
    That gives Kerry a 5.2% lead, outside the margain of error in all polls.

  21. JJF on

    What do you mean, no bounce?
    Look at the numbers from the new ABC/WaPo poll (link here: http://abcnews.go.com/sections/politics/Vote2004/kerry_bounce_poll_040802.html ), conducted AFTER the convention was done.
    Kerry had double-digit gains in almost every area polled. That’s gotta to be considered a big success, even if the overall race is still close because of the divided electorate.
    Trust Candidate on These Areas:
    Trust to Handle / Net Change
    Health care / Kerry +16
    Terrorism / Kerry +15
    Iraq / Kerry +14
    Taxes / Kerry +12
    Education / Kerry +12
    Economy / Kerry +12
    Health care / Kerry +16
    Main Issues / Net Change
    Economy voters / Kerry +26
    Iraq voters / Kerry +13
    Terrorism voters / Bush +6
    Opinions About the Candidates
    Personal attributes / Net change
    Leadership / Kerry +13
    Security / Kerry +13
    Values / Kerry +12
    Honesty / Kerry +12
    Consistency / Kerry +11
    Empathy / Kerry +10

  22. Charles on

    Gallup does faith-based polling. LA Weekly and KFI radio personality Johnny Wendell noticed something fishy about a Gallup poll comparing the respect people had for Clinton and George aWol and mentioned it to me. On writing to Gallup, I discovered that they had asked subtly different questions regarding the two political figures, the (mis)represented them as being comparable. I tried to publish this as an interesting example of how pollsters lie but couldn’t sell the story.
    Trust nothing from Gallup.

  23. DS on

    Hmm… Saturday.
    Wasn’t that the day all the police in riot gear and barracades started showing up in NYC? Funny how a reminder of the state of terrorism can simply erase a bounce like that. Imagine what an actual incident will do.

  24. Keith on

    American Research’s monthly poll came out today. It has Kerry 49 Bush 45. Nader 2 Undecided 4. This is based on 776 RVs from July 30 – August 1. The poll from the beginning July was Kerry 47 Bush 44 Nader 3 Undecided 6.
    Obviously, there is no big bounce here, but it shows that the Gallup poll is out of line with every other poll coming out right now.
    Also, the poll has Bush’s overall approval rating at 43% with 50% disapproving. His numbers on just the economy are 42% approval and 52% disapproving.
    I certainly like these numbers at this point. With the large number of new voters, pimarily young and minority, I don’t discount what Michael Moore said on Bill Maher’s show Friday night.. he doesn’t think it will be all that close.

  25. jamie on

    Just a follow-up: I was at Harrisburg Friday night to greet Kerry/Edwards & the enthusiasm was awe-inspiring, The event began almost 3 hours late, most people had been standing out in 90 degree heat/humidity for that long & still everybody was very pumped up to hear them. Also, I used to live in central PA & it is a very conservative region that almost always votes Republican. From what I’ve read, similar turn-outs occurred in western PA & Ohio over the weekend.

  26. jamie on

    The ABC/Wash. Post poll seems most credible to me and gives confidence. The challenger leading the incumbent by 6 points at this time is good news, no matter how the GOP spins it. Where was Dole at this point in 1996? Mondale in 1984?

  27. Ed on

    5:20 p.m. Monday, August 2, 2004
    Kerry Leads Bush in Post-Convention Poll
    Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry emerged from his national convention last week with a small lead over President Bush in the race for the White House and improved his standing against the president on both the economy and on who is better qualified to serve as commander in chief, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News Poll.

  28. Brian Wilder on

    Democrats do not seem to get that they will have to the news reporting, which the corporate right-wing media and their cadre of incompetent journalists will not do.
    Bush is saying Kerry voted against the $87 B, and this indicates an unwillingness “to support the troops.” Bush is saying Kerry is the “most liberal” Senator.
    Kerry needs to acknowledge these criticisms, and expose them for being misleading. NOT refute them or answer them; just point out that Bush is misleading the American people. Just like a news reporter would do, if there were any news reporters.

  29. Debra on

    2nd try
    Kerry did one of the things he needed to do at the Convention. He reassured voters he could be commander in Chief. However the paucity of coverage by the networks did have an effect.
    He also had another job. He still has to dislodge some of the fence sitters from their undue trust in GWB. And I am concerned that the campaign has not fully understood the degree to which terrorism has kept even Bush doubters from leaving him as easily as they might think.
    If one had watched Peter Hart’s focus group on C Span one could find only 3 real Bushies out of 12 voters (initially 7-5 Bush Gore); but there were three voters with massive doubts though they still had positive views of him. These are three voters we could get but the reasons they still have good feeling about Bush are based on lies and misconceptions about Bush. We still need to pound Bush to get these guys off the fence.
    The bright side of the Kerry campaign husbanding their money in August is that the 527’s And the DNC (not in coordination with the campaign) can keep going negative on Bush.

  30. bt on

    Jeff, I understand what you’re saying. I disagree that Kerry’s foreign policy is Bush’s foreign policy for all intents and purposes. If what you’re saying is that differences on foreign policy issues were not emphasized in Kerry’s speech I’d agree. What I thought Kerry was doing was making a number of statements about how his values would lead him to conduct our foreign policy in some very different ways which not coincidentally correspond directly to some of the most serious grievances the public has with Bush. So it was more of a values and character-based pitch (emphasizing trust and good judgment) than a policy wonk approach, which I thought was smart.
    The one thing I’d hoped he would make more clear is that for him the top priority in protecting us has to be al qaeda–that, for example, a Kerry Administration would not spin its wheels and stonewall for almost three years before deciding that maybe there are some problems with our intelligence-gathering operations that need to be addressed if we are going to be able to get the job done against al qaeda.
    I agree that they were trying to hammer the Commander in Chief issue and I’m fine with that because at this time that is probably a threshold test for undecideds and some wobbly Rs. At the same time I thought he did a good job of fighting back on the tax and religion issues by reframing those issues.
    Perhaps the premise is that once swing voters have concluded they can feel safe with Kerry as CIC and as someone who probably shares their values as much as Bush, they can look at differences on other issues. I have to believe those will come out during the debates, even if the media continues to appear uninterested at the moment in covering them. I’m confident he’ll have a stinging reply to the debate question he surely will get asking him to address the perception he is a flipflopper–one where he rattles off quickly three or four big examples of Bush flipflops and does a better job of explaining and justifying his Iraq vote, which I think he can do.

  31. demtom on

    Jeff, your comment doesn’t jibe with the fact that there was a CLEAR bounce on Friday — whether you accept Newsweeks’ 13-point margin, or Gallups’ 5 (which Schneider reported yesterday), Kerry was riding high the day after the convention.
    The problem seems to come with the Saturday poll, when, again according to Schneider, Bush LED by 2. What could have caused such a turn-around? Well, maybe it’s a Saturday pro-GOP bias some have referred to. Or maybe it’s because ABC led off its 6:30 Eastern newscast with the terror warning, and everyone else was on it by the end of the evening. The issue seems to (at least temporarily) aid the Bush camp.
    As far as “bouncing” — from what I’ve seen, most of these polls began with Kerry in good field position, in fact a bit elevated by the Edwards pick. (Isn’t the VP selection frequently part of the convention bounce? Well, we got that there weeks early) And all the talk about “first since McGovern that didn’t get a bounce” — McGovern was friggin’ 20 points behind. Kerry is LEADING everywhere (except in that mythical CNN LV screen, where Dems apparently don’t much care about the election). I’ll take this over a 6-point souffle bounce any day.
    Perhaps the best news from all these polls is that Bush’s approval rating has taken a slide once again — it had been running 46-49%; now it’s 44-47%. A small adjustment, but the latter numbers put 50% more clearly out of reach, and make Bush’s position significantly more dire.

  32. Doofus on

    Jeff, I have to disagree. If Kerry and the Dems had bashed Bush more, it would have become a campaign issue. Given that Kerry is still unveiling his proposals — including yesterday’s announcement that he’ll pull the troops out by the end of his term — and Bush has nothing new to offer and instead can only attack Kerry and try to tear him down, the positive stategy employed in Boston by the Dems allows them to claim the high ground AND to continually answer GOP attacks by saying (as Edwards has already done several times), “There they go again. The same old tired, negative personal attacks. Aren’t you sick of it? ” Meanwhile, Kerry and Edwards can have it both ways by attacking Bush/Cheney relentlessly, but with civility (as they’ve also done since the convention).

  33. Jeff on

    ANother thing. I know Kerry’s strategy was to show himself as a war hero etc. But I think he missed a huge opportunity to really go after Bush on the issues most Democrats and left-leaning independants care about. Namely economic issues and health and education.
    I don’t remember hearing too much about that. It was all about foreign affairs and ultimately Kerry’s position on the war and the Bush Doctrine is not very different from Bush’s.
    The truth is that although the Dem convention was filled with some good speeches. It didn’t really give people any reason to vote for Kerry.
    That stupid DLC strategy may yet again come back to bite us in another election. Why can’t Democrats just be proud being Democrats? Be proud being the party that stands up for the little people, etc. I’m sick of having people like Al From and Joe Lieberman in charge of the party and always undermining certain segments within the party.
    If Bush comes out in his convention and begins talking about health care, education and the economy. I think he WILL get a bounce.
    The Kerry campaign messed up royally.
    For the first time, I am actually afraid and I have been the most optimistic person for more than a year now.
    Kerry should not have centred his campaign to appeal to Republicans. You’ll never be “conservative enough” for the conservatives. The liberals were not given any reason to vote for him.
    God, one day my party – Democrats – will come to realize that the reason they lose all the time is because of the DLC.

  34. Jeff on

    Has anyone considered the fact that weekend polling numbers are always skewed.
    I never expected a huge bounce. But Saturdays numbers seem lower than normal. So maybe polls out this week will show a difference.
    This is the weirdest election I remember.

  35. Ottnott on

    Ruy wrote:
    “Apparently, there was something about that Saturday when Gallup polled. Gallup reports, consistent with the Newsweek data, that Friday was quite a good night for Kerry. But Saturday came in very differently, with quite good results for Bush–hence, the horse race results they reported.”
    Oddly, the Rasmussen tracking poll gave Kerry a very good Saturday–or at least a much better Saturday than Wednesday.
    The Saturday release (Wed-Thur-Fri polling) had Kerry +1 at 47-46.
    The Sunday release (Thur-Fri-Sat polling) had Kerry +4 at 49-45.
    Monday’s release had Kery back at +1 47-46.
    All the movement is within the margin of error, so about all one can say is that none of the polls so far have shown a significant, lasting bounce.
    But who really cares about bounces in July/Aug? Trends I’m interested in.

  36. Doofus on

    Today’s edition of ABC’s “The Note” includes the following in its daily laundry list of things to track:
    “4. With all due respect to Newsweek and Gallup, hold onto your hat and hair for tonight’s ABC News/ Washington Post poll. And please say “boost” or “bump,” and not “bounce.'”
    Now, I realize that this is cryptic. It may simply be a coy device to generate buzz about the ABC/WaPo poll, which may simply reaffirm the Newsweek and Gallup results. On the other hand . . . the use of the phrases “With all due respect” and “hold onto your hat and hair” suggest that the writers have seen the new poll and that it diverges from the results reported by Newsweek and Gallup. We’ll see.

  37. Alan R. on

    For the person who inquired about day-of-week effects, this is something I compiled in 2000:
    I did my own analysis in 2000 of the volatility of the CNN/USA Today/Gallup daily tracking polls during roughly the last six weeks of the campaign (week ending 9/24 to week ending 10/29). There were some amazing day-of-week effects, suggesting that Democrats and Republicans were each disproportionately at home on different nights. The results are shown below. I must first note that even though the results were publicized as “daily” tracking polls, they are actually moving averages over the last three days. Below, where you see, for example, “Sat-Sun-Mon,” that will give you the mean for the six weekly readings of polls conducted on those days.
    Sat-Sun-Mon Bush ahead by 0.17
    Sun-Mon-Tue Gore ahead by 0.17
    Mon-Tue-Wed Gore ahead by 0.83
    Tue-Wed-Thu Bush ahead by 2.67
    Wed-Thu-Fri Bush ahead by 4.00
    Thu-Fri-Sat Bush ahead by 5.00
    Fri-Sat-Sun Bush ahead by 3.17
    (Applying these results to the recent Gallup poll that had Bush leading Kerry, there could be something to the idea that Republicans were disproportionately at home on Saturday.)
    Remember, these day-of-week patterns are averaged over six weeks, so any singular event that might have caused a shift in the polls should be diluted by the aggregation. The results suggest either that as a given week went on, Bush became more popular (which seems unlikely) or Democrats became more likely to be out of the house (particularly on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights). I acknowledge that the number of observations is small and this might all be total coincidence.
    (As an addendum, Rasmussen posted an item called “Day of Week Bias” on May 3, 2004. Their summary of their own polls said that “results suggest that there may be some day-of-week impact, but it is not as dramatic as some people believe.” The full report was available to subscribers only, of which I am not one.)
    I submit that weighting for the expected election day composition of Democrats and Republicans becomes essential if there are indeed day-of-week effects in who is home. What makes a pollster such as Zogby such a star (in national polls, at least) is that he has such a great feel for what the composition of the electorate is going to be (and thus what weights to use).
    I would encourage everyone when looking at polling results for the upcoming elections to keep an eye on what days the polls were conducted on, although if the pollster weights for partisan composition the effect of day-of-week will be eliminated.

  38. Micah68 on

    Is it even worth talking about a convention bounce when the broadcast networks devote so little time to the conventions? Really, can four hours of speechifying produce much of a bounce? Surveys say people still don’t know enough about Kerry, but the networks ignored virtually all the biographical clips and familial reminiscences. I feel like I’m making excuses but, really . . .

  39. Cal D on

    I think the really interesting thing about the Gallup poll was the 6 point difference between the LV/RV spreads. If LVs were going for Bush 50/47 and RVs for Kerry 47/50, that would mean that means that the RVs who failed Gallup’s LV screen (whatever that might have been) were trending Kerry 2:1. Of course, you don’t want to read too much into such a small subsample but it’s interesting, nonetheless.
    A couple of other points I’d like to mention are that I’ve been expecting all along that since the number of voters realistically up for grabs this year is so close to the margin of error for most national polls, its going to be very difficult to distinguish from the statistical noise floor. So I fully expect to see some pretty wildly contradictory poll results over the next week or so.
    I’d also love to see internals on the Gallup poll, because after hearing Kerry’s convention speech, I was half expecting to see him shedding a few of the less pragmatic among his support base in the near term. But if that’s the case, I’d also expect them to come back around pretty quiclky because let’s face it, where else are they going to go? Nader? It is to laugh.

  40. mark alan on

    I feel that Kerry does need to explain his positions better and fight back when attacked. We keep saying that the bush campaign commercials of a 100 million did not work, yet it seems that they did in part. They did not give bush the boost, but they raised the idea that Kerry is a flip-flopper, which seems to have stuck. I remember that this was also how bush ran against gore in 2000. Raising questions about his truthfullness (made the internet) and didn’t know who he was (changed clothing styles)
    Kerry’s answers leave me very unimpressed. Consider his views on abortion and the iraq war. They are not coherent and straight foward.
    I like the idea of running a positve campaign, but it seems to me that negative campaigns always win the day.
    How about Moveon.org or other 527’s putting out commercials
    showing Bush’s flip-flops (no nation building, steel tarrifs, for and against 9-11 commission, etc) to build up the idea that Bush flip flops all the time and there by canceling out the flip flop charges on Kerry?

  41. Andy on

    Since all of this strange negative “bounce” appears to be contained within Saturday’s data, it should be instructive to look at what they actually did on Saturday. Another source notes that they called THROUGH THE DAY on Saturday. Now, I know that calling during the day is becoming more common as pollsters try and catch the unemployed, self-employed, and young voters, but that’s during the week. Poll geeks help me out here …. I’ve never heard of calling on a weekend DAY. Isn’t this a bizarre technique? How can you predict who will be home, and thus when to call? Could this be the reason Gallup is back in the field with a more typical, weekday evening schedule?

  42. Sara on

    I suspect we need to look at that universe in the electorate sample that is still undecided at this juncture. I’d actually like to see a reasonable statistical description of this segment of the electorate — but I have my guesses.
    I suspect those undecided are people much less tuned into politics, and that many of them did not watch much or any of the convention coverage. If we comprehend in the language of Edwards stump speech that 2nd America where people work two or three jobs just so to stay afloat, infrequently read the newspapers, and use TV as entertainment and not as an information source — perhaps the lack of bounce is largely because they are still not actually following the campaign, and probably won’t till after Labor Day or sometime in October. But I can’t know that unless someone actually describes the characteristics of the undecided, or those moving from one candidate to another.
    While it is at present a disappointment that Kerry did not “bounce higher” I am convinced this year is much more about the ground game — voter registeration and GOTV planning — than it is about setting up momentum toward one condidate or anothr. It’s too close, and in many states it may be a very narrow margin that makes the difference in the outcome.

  43. howard on

    Ruy has written before that “likely” voter polling isn’t that accurate until later in the campaign, so one possibility to account for the CNN results is that the question of “likely” skewed the results in some fashion.
    Or, maybe there really is no bounce, and this is just going to be a tough, uphill fight all the way, with the underlying issues ground favoring kerry but a reflexive support of the president favoring bush….

  44. John Mcc. on

    One poster up thread made what I think is a very prescient comment – wait a week
    This is consistent with RT’s view that the convention reframed the race (“helped… general political position”)
    Kerry’s now running convention acceptance speech sound bite ads…so we shall see though Bush’s latest “terror” alert will probably muddy the picture

  45. Scott on

    I think Kerry’s support is now much more pro-Kerry as opposed to merely anti-Bush.
    This should harden Kerry’s current support and help sway more undecideds.

  46. Alan Snipes on

    While I am a partisan Democrat, I do not want to dismiss any polls outright. I of course hope the CNN-USA Today is wrong and that the Newsweek Poll is right. We will just have to wait for other polls to come out to see whether Kerry got a bounce or not. Until that happens we should not get too excited or depressed right now. My gut feeling is that Kerry will get a small bounce out of the convention. I also feel that Kerry is making small but sure incremental gains over the past few months. It’s like the tortise against the hare. There is not room to allow for a big movement in the electorate at this time. I perceive that there are more states that Bush carried (or stole) in play for Kerry than there are Gore states in play for Bush.

  47. Marcos on

    CBS News has a poll out taken July 31-Aug 1 which was Kerry-Edwards up 49-43, but their mid-July poll had them up 49-44. Not much change there. It does show them boosted among veterans and on certain issues like bringing different groups of Americans together and having a “clear plan for the country.”
    Is there any evidence that polls done on weekends have any kind of selection effect? That’s all I can think of for the Gallup poll’s strange Saturday result… this CBS poll too; done all on a weekend.

  48. Scott Pauls on

    I’ll add that NPR’s report on the Gallup data noted that Gallup was “staying in the field” for a couple of extra days to verify or rebut their own information. So, Gallup clearly is skeptical of their own Sat data and are taking appropriate steps.
    In my book, the real culprit is CNN/USAToday who put the results out despite Gallup’s reservations.

  49. Steve Cohen on

    “going non-negative” seems to be quietly transforming itself into that old Democratic disease of not answering attacks. Not answering attacks makes you smell “weak.”
    When are they going to take on the ridiculous canard that “kerry voted against the troops” by voting to oppose the $87B package? Is it really “negative” to point out that Bush threatened to veto his own package if an amendment tying the aid to reversing some of the Bush tax cuts was included? In other words, what we had was typical political negotiation over how paying the troops was to be financed. Had the vote failed a compromise version would undoubtedly have passed.
    But this is made into something sinister, something of a flip-flop. And it’s supposedly such a powerful point that Dems can only run away from it. Here was Joe Biden knifing Kerry in the back on Meet the Press saying (“I told him not to vote that way. I didn’t vote that way – but he did have a point”). Uh, what was the point, Joe? Biden did make one good point, Bush has spent almost none of this vital money even now. But it was lost in his refusal to go to bat for Kerry when it counted.
    This point has to be answered, not run away from! If that starts to happen maybe the polls would show you something.

  50. Marcus Lindroos on

    Despite the good news, I still feel nervous about this election. The Republicans are making the case that “Shrub’s” current poll numbers indicate strength rather than weakness, since he had to face more adversity in April-June than most previous presidents. And he is still only slightly behind, and in a slightly better position at this stage than his father or Gerald Ford were.

    What happens if the bad news about his national service record in 1972-73, Iraqi WMDs, the 9/11 commission, Valerie Plame, Abu Ghraib, violence in Iraq, record budget deficits, lousy job growth etc. disappears? Will his numbers rebound? Almost certainly. On the other hand, he has been hit from so many different directions that it seems quite unlikely all the clouds will suddenly disappear. Kerry’s supporters can also take heart in the fact that “Shrub’s” approval numbers only have crept upwards very little since mid-June. This period was full of relatively good news to the President (=the Reagan funeral, the transition of power in Iraq, some high profile meetings in Europe to commemorate D-Day, moderately good news about the economy and the Plame scandal) so I would have expected his poll numbers to look slightly better. A lot of people expected a post-Reagan/post-Iraq handover “bounce” but it never really happened.

  51. mj on

    These are all good comments and I think that they are very valid. I am en ex-pat living in Spain, so maybe my comments are not as “tuned in” as the others, but what I see and read is it that the country is so polarized that everyone has already made up their mind as to who will get their vote… therefore no bounce. I guess that we can see what happens when the Bush-Cheney camp (or in my mind “the real axis of evil”) has for a bounce after their convention.
    Although I think it is hornorable that the Democrats choose to go non-negative for the convention, I also think that they could have done more damage against the current administration presenting the facts. For me it was a mistake, just like the last convention when Gore distanced himself from Clinton. I think it is time for the Democrats roll up their shirt sleeves, get their hands dirty and bring the confrontation to the Republicans instead of weathering it. I know that is what I am waiting for and I am sure many others are as well.

  52. doc-a-rama on

    I agree. Network coverage is going to be a continuing problem, especially given that no matter how bad the news is regarding Iraq, terror preparation, or the economy, the media continues to give the administration a free pass regarding its competence, its truthfulness, and its strategy.
    The coverage of the Kerry campaign from here on out seems to be headed in an obligatory and perfunctory way: a minimum of video clips and sound bites placed in succession with the same sort of treatment for Bush. They are presented as two candidates whose messages are, simply, “competing.” Never mind that one of the candidates might also be to blame for just about everything that has hit the fan in the last year, and never mind that this same candidate is misinformed, underinformed, and chooses to react to the events of the day rather than lead.
    Plus, I think Gallup’s an outlier here. I wonder about the stability of the sample.

  53. frankly0 on

    This poll strikes me as one of those frequent situations in which it’s better to trust your instincts about what is going on than the poll numbers.
    The significant decline in the Saturday numbers is indeed beyond explanation. So junking them, intellectually, is the right thing to do.
    In a murky situation like this, the question is, who’s the boss, the numbers or us. I plunk down for us.

  54. shel on

    I think the saturday results in part reflect that Bush effectively stepped on Kerry’s message coming out of the convention . Not only did the networks minimize their coverage of the convention , but , monday morning, Kerry’s message was cluttered up with Bushes response and later Bushes new ” ownership society ” message . Kerry’s message didn’t get the attention of the electorate as past candidates have . the coverage I saw on friday and saturday showed much more bush that kerry .


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