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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

New Time Poll Has Race Tied

The new Time poll, conducted October 14-15, has the race tied 46-46 in a 2-way RV matchup. That’s pretty bad for an incumbent seeking re-election, but the rest of the poll has even worse news.
Start with the debates. The poll confirms that voters see Kerry as the winner of the final debate (37-28), though not by the crushing margin of the first debate (59-23). But when asked to consider all three presidential debates, voters do indeed see Kerry as the victor by a crushing margin, 57-27.
Moreover, voters give Kerry very high marks on specific aspects of the last debate, despite the fact that they were less likely to see him as the overall winner. This presumably reflects the extent to which (positive) impressions of Kerry are settling in voters’ minds.
For example, by 49-40 voters thought Kerry, rather than Bush, had the best understanding of the issues. That’s actually better than after the first debate, when voters saw the candidates tied on this attribute.
And then there’s this one: on who “took positions on issues that are closer to your own”, voters gave Kerry a wide 54-39 margin after the last debate, compared to 48-42 after the first debate.
And how about this one: after the first debate, voters gave Bush a slight one point edge on who seemed more presidential; after the last debate, voters gave Kerry the edge, 49-44.
On which candidate can be trusted more on different issues and in different areas, the poll finds little change from their post-first debate poll. Kerry’s gains after that debate have apparently stabilized.
Here are some of these gains, as summarized in the SRBI release on the poll:

Handling of the economy: Kerry has opened a 6 point lead over Bush, 49% – 43%. Just before the first debate, the candidates were even, 44% for each.
Health care: Kerry has widened his lead to 13 points, 51%-38%. Before the debates, Kerry had an 8 point edge.
Understanding people’s needs: Kerry is up by 7 points, 49% – 42%. Before the debates, he was up by just 4 points.
Commander-in-Chief: Bush is ahead by 10 points, 51%-41%, but this has narrowed from a 16 point advantage before the debates.
Providing leadership in difficult times: Bush leads by 8 points, 52%-40%. Before the debates, he dominated by as much as 21 points.
War on terrorism: Bush tops Kerry 51%-40%, after leading Kerry by as much as 18 points before the debates.

The poll also asked about some of the specific issues Kerry and Bush differed on in the last debate.
Assault weapons. By 73-22, voters favor the ban on assault weapons; by 49-8 they feel gun control laws should be more strict, not less strict; and by 41-40 they say Kerry is closer to their position on gun control than Bush.
Embryonic stem cell research: By 69-22 voter favor using discarded embryos to conduct stem cell research; by 49-34 they say Kerry is closer to their position on this issue than Bush.
Abortion. Voters say by 45-40 that Kerry is closer to their position than Bush on this issue.
Gay rights. Voters say by 44-41 that Kerry is closer to their position than Bush on this issue; by 54-41 they oppose amending the US constitution to ban same-sex couples from marrying.
Supreme Court appointments. By 43-38, voters say the issue of Supreme Court appointments makes them more likely to vote for Kerry rather than Bush.

20 comments on “New Time Poll Has Race Tied

  1. bt on

    Yes, there may be something Kerry can say before the Election to help himself even more on national security–give either a major address as a couple of others have suggested, or insert as a lead for his stump speech every day until it gets reported, Bush’s debate 3 bin laden screwup, and hammer him on it.
    They might want to keep that one in their back pocket to save for the day when we get the next terrorist attack alert. One line of attack could be along the lines of “The President can’t make up his mind. He says he’s not worried about bin laden, and he outsourced the job of capturing bin laden when our troops had him cornered in Afghanistan. But then the Administration issues terror attack alerts whenever it most wants to change the subject. The President seems confused. He seems to think issuing terror attack alerts, instead of isolating and destroying those who have attacked us, is the way to make us safer. Meanwhile, aided by this Administration’s inept foreign policy, al qaeda has many more members now than before 9/11. My Administration will never take its eye off the national security ball.”
    I’ve seen a number of posters lament how the B/C spin machine has managed to deflect a fair amount of media attention after the third debate from Bush’s loss to the flap about Cheney’s daughter.
    Just where is it written that if our side is unable to whack them hard in the first day or two of coverage after a major event that we have lost our one and only chance? The closer to the election we hammer Bush on his bin laden misstatement the better. There’s no statute of limitations on when we can use an opponent’s most eggregious mistakes against him. The same comment applies to Bush’s remarks several weeks ago saying we cannot win the war on terror. That gives K/E and the rest of us another fat target to shoot at.
    Another “theme for the day” K/E might use is stem cell research. I thought the stances of the candidates came out fuzzy in the second debate, which might explain why a far smaller percentage of voters say Kerry’s position is closer to their own than is actually the case. K/E could clarify what the difference in the positions of the candidates is on this issue and what the consequences are for the possibilities of curing many serious diseases, as well as generating good jobs in an emerging market. This issue from what I’ve seen plays extremely well for us with independents the more people get to know about it. And it can split off or help neutralize that portion of the business community which understands and covets the potential that stem cell research represents.
    Of late it looks as though K/E’s strategy is to slam Bush hard on a different, politically sensitive issue each day, to keep them on the defensive and nip in the bud their efforts to frame the story line of the day. Obviously it is not wholly succeeding but K/E clearly are on the offensive.

  2. James Young on

    By all means take up Michael Kazin’s suggestion to give us as much state-by-state data as possible. That’s what counts now.

  3. jim bob on

    the new cnn/usat/gallup has bush up 52 to 44. i have to wonder if thats with a rupublican slant in the percentages taken. seems like in the past couple of polls that they put out, they had more or less equaled to numbers of dems and repubs. a few weeks ago when they were taking samples with large repubs slants they were giving bush double diget leads.

  4. cloudy on

    sorry about the grammatical errors in my last comment — was very tired when I typed it.
    The polls at RealClear politics, not just the NEWSWEEK poll but the Gallup also, and others, show Kerry tanking badly over the past few days.
    I am certain that this is due to the much exploited Bai article and its fallout NOT Mary Cheney. There have been columns throughout the press about how Kerry is soft on terror, and Kerry has failed to respond just like his campaign did for the longest time to the flipflop spin. Then everyone else goes around pretending that there’s nothing odd going on and just justifying the lying.

  5. Father Joe on

    As we wind down to Nov 2, if you can get us some respectable state polls — FL, PA, OH, NM, NV —
    it would be appreciated.

  6. Adelaide on

    As a campaign nears its end, I always look at crowd size and enthusiasm as an awfully good indicator of how the race is going. Not prescreeened crowds, that is.
    Does anyone have some descriptions of the relative size and nature of recent campaign events?

  7. Del on

    Very good news. But I’m looking forward to your analysis of the new CNN/USA TODAY/GALLUP POLL that has Bush ahead with likely voters by 8 points, 52 to 44. I sure hope they oversampled Republicans.

  8. Ben Ross on

    Oops… I meant “extremely unlikely”, not “extremely likely”.
    The sort of mistake that happens when you are in a hurry… as pollsters are these days.

  9. Barry on

    More of a question than a comment. Any recent polling on environmental isues? This was not touched at all at the last debates, and only casually discussed at the first two debates. But it is a critical issue for many voters, particularly voters in some swing areas, e.g. Colorado. I know this issue is defining for me. I’m a one-issue voter on this issue, and you know who I’ll be voting for (and against).

  10. Michael Kazin on

    Ruy- Good news about the Time poll, of course. But then there’s the Newsweek poll– and the continuing gap in the tracking polls.
    I think it’s about time to do a state-by-state analysis rather than taking comfort in the issue breakdown, no? After all, Americans agreed with Dukakis on most of the issues as well– but that didn’t help him at all!
    Michael Kazin

  11. Ben Ross on

    There are some strange things in this poll.
    For one thing, there are errors in the tables. The number of LVs in the most recent poll exceeds the number of RVs; the numbers seem to be transposed. And in the income breakdown (and much credit to Time for giving us these numbers!) the total for the most recent poll adds up to only 92%.
    The horse race numbers for likely voters with Nader are also strange. The result is given as 45-45-3 with 1% for others, 3% undecided, and 3% refused. But the same result, with refuseds taken out, are 48 Bush, 46 Kerry, 3 Nader, with 0% others and 3% undecided. Some changes can occur as a result of rounding when you take out the refuseds, but not these. A change from 0% difference to 2% difference is extremely likely. (It should not occur unless before removing the refuseds the unrounded difference was between 0.97% and 1.0% AND the exact Kerry percentage was between 44.50% and 44.53%.) And I don’t see at all how the “others” could go from 1% to 0% as when the refuseds are removed.
    Another discrepancy is not an obvious error, but cast doubt on the results. There is a 5% Dem advantage in party identification among RVs, but only 1% among LVs. Yet the Bush-Kerry result is essentially the same among both populations.
    Here’s another way to look at it. Assume the RV/LV numbers were simply transposed and the poll had 131 “unlikely voters”. We can compute approximately that the unlikely voters consisted of 9 Republicans, 47 Democrats, and 75 independent/refused/other. (This is a pretty rough calculation because rounding errors are significant, but it should not be not wildly off.)This distribution seems unlikely. And it seems even more unlikely that such a group of voters would break evenly in the presidential race, or only slightly for Kerry, which is what the comparison of poll numbers between likely and registered voters seems to say.
    Several possible explanations occur to me. First, more errors in the tables. Second, the registered and likely voter numbers are separately weighted, and the changes are artifacts of the weighting process. (The weighting coefficients will have random fluctuations caused both by statistical fluctuations in the sample and numerical errors in the estimation process.) Third, but unlikely, the “unlikely voter” sample is a statistical outlier.
    I would like to know more.

  12. Upper left corner on

    I continue to be amazed by the “Commander and Chief” and “War on Terror” numbers. A majority of the public finally sees that Iraq had no connection to 9/11 and sees the invasion and occupation as a mistake, but many are still more comfortable with Bush. At this late date, is Kerry better off changing the subject to domestic issues, or is their anything he can say that will drive down Bush’s advantage on the security issues?
    On another issue: the most recent Newsweek poll shows a reverse gender gap (more men for Kerry, more women for Bush). Is this an anomoly? If not, what gives? Has anyone seen any good explanations?

  13. Bob H on

    Isn’t it likely that the two day blip Zogby saw was just reflecting the Lesbian flap that was boosted by CNN, et. al.? Claire Shipman argued on ABC that it meant Bush had “won” the third debate, despite all polls to contrary.

  14. Tim Livingston on

    This Time poll is good news. But on ABC “This Week” W/George S they (George will, Ron Suskind Bill Kaschich (Fox News) and Claire Shipman) paint a different picture Ms. Shipman said “Contrary tp the snap polls after the last debate” she thinks more Americans thought George Bush won. Because he had more clear answers to the questions??????!!!!! Its a GOP “LoveFest”. How can Kerrry win when corporate media is so increasingly biased. I could not believe it!!!!!

  15. Joe B on

    “By 69-22 voter favor using discarded embryos to conduct stem cell research; by 49-34 they say Kerry is closer to their position on this issue than Bush.”
    So, this discrepancy means that either 1. people are stupid and can’t connect the dots or 2. some hate Kerry so much that they can’t say anything positive about him even when he share their positions.

  16. cloudy on

    That poll is indeed very good news.
    It suggests that Kerry needs to act both defensively and offensively. Since terrorism is his weak point — he MUST act quickly in the ways described in other posts with an NYU length speech etc. to counter the Bai spin, and slam into Bush on the Osama lie and his failure on terrorism policy. Silence will only leave voters with same impression. Although not as slimy as the Swift Boat Veterans for Slime, attacking at strong suit is important to do.
    Then there is the issues where Bush is most vulnerable domestically — jobs/economy and the deficit. The way the strategic deficit is designed to be used as a lever against social security Cost of Living Adjustments, “diet COLA” they call it, is good to raise. And Kerry was right to raise the draft and can come back with “they doth protest overmuch”
    (a good line to use now in the draft context, given its myriad resonances).
    With a big enough GOTV (not simply doing what has been done in the past only bigger but something qualitatively on a whole new scale). If it is possible to confound the agenda in this election by the Democrats really pursuing it, that could make a big difference. Broadside ads against voting Repub for Congress would be good in the final stretch — something Gore never bothered to do.
    Two things from looking at poll:
    a) they didn’t ask about ‘just says what thinks people want to hear’ or ‘wishywashy’ or other character type issues
    b) heavily skewed in favor of Democrats, moreso than previous polls, but with 4-5% edge for Democrats in line with 2000 vote. With all new registrations, might be right


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