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Polls have Bush Down, but Not Out

Posted By Barry Ritholtz On July 6, 2004 @ 6:13 am In Politics | Comments Disabled

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If its the beginning of the week, it must mean a couple of bad polls for the President. Again, we turn to that left wing liberal media outlet, the Wall Street Journal. A pair of articles by the Journal’s resident political guru John Harwood lay out the road ahead for the incumbent. (It ain’t pretty):

SADDAM’S PUBLIC DISPLAY may give Bush a boost.
Despite misgivings over war costs, the poll shows majorities still believe the ousted dictator was a threat to the U.S. who possessed weapons of mass destruction. (Disinformation apparently works). A White House official says the U.S. gained some “political high ground” after transferring sovereignty with the United Nations’ blessing.
Downside: Sixty percent of voters say the war has increased Middle East violence.

VOTERS BELIEVE higher-ups were involved in Abu Ghraib abuses.
Only one in three in a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll say the decision to “abuse and torture” prisoners was limited to guards and their immediate superiors at the prison. Fifty-five percent say U.S. military leaders in Iraq or officials in Washington played a role. Americans reject arguments by conservative talk jock Rush Limbaugh and others that play down prisoner abuse. Seventy-two percent of voters — including six in 10 Republicans and military veterans — say prisoner abuse and torture are “always wrong,” even in wartime.

BROADER EXPOSURE may give Kerry an opening on the economy.
While a plurality disapproves Bush’s economic stewardship, just 29% rate Kerry highly for “having the right economic policies; 28% give him low marks and 43% are neutral or have no opinion. But when voters hear his argument about the middle-class “being squeezed,” it outpolls Bush’s message that the economy “is getting stronger” by 65% to 35%.

MIXED MESSAGES:
A 52% majority of moderates opposes a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages, which Bush has endorsed. But majorities in battleground states, and in the Midwest favor it. Catholics split evenly, 47%-47%.

HIGH IMPACT of IRAQ:
57% of voters say Iraq violence has had the greatest effect on them among recent events, while 48% say higher gas prices. That far outpaces those most affected by the Reagan funeral (20%) and news from the 9/11 commission (12%). At the bottom of the list: publication of Bill Clinton’s memoirs (2%)
(I’m surprised that Reagan’s funeral polled stronger than the 9/11 commission. . . But Bill Clinton’s memoirs? Who the hell are these people?)

NANCY REAGAN gains new clout as a counterweight to Bush on stem-cell research.
Her positive rating jumps to 70% from 53% four years ago. Seventy-one percent of voters join her in backing such research using human embryos; so far, efforts to overturn Bush-imposed restrictions have lagged in Congress. A business/academic task force including Intel’s Craig Barrett presses presidential candidates to propose increases in basic scientific research.

OLDER VOTERS give lawmakers low marks despite Medicare drug benefits.
Those aged 50-64 disapprove of Congress’s performance by wide 54%-31%, while senior citizens give thumbs down by 41%-32%. That suggests the Bush administration’s rollout of new prescription drug cards has had little impact. Younger voters are more positive but turn out at lower rates.

Women drive the Democrats’ narrow leader in congressional preference overall
By 48-38% they want Democrats to control Congress next year, while men prefer Republicans by 47%-40%. Security dominates voters’ election agenda; 47% say the war and terrorism issues will be most important in their votes, compared to 32% who point to jobs and health care. Even seniors, by 2 to 1, rate Iraq more important than prescription drugs to their votes.

And that’s just Friday’s wrap up, culled from several different polls. The “money shot” came on Thursday, when the hopefully titled “New Poll Puts Bush Down, but Not Out” [1] belied the actual data:

“A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll documents the toll that months of setbacks have taken on the president’s standing. A majority of Americans say that the Iraq war has increased terrorist threats, not reduced them, and that the U.S. economy is headed for long-term trouble. More voters want Mr. Bush defeated than want him re-elected.”

Since Bush was “elected” with less than a majority of votes cast, its not all that surprising that a majority of voters do want see him returned to the White House. The question remains whether this electoral population is distributed in states that matter to the electoral college this year.

WSJ [1]: “He goes into the summer period down, but not out,” says Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducted the Journal/NBC survey along with the organization of his late Republican counterpart, Robert Teeter. Even after a wave of political adversity, Mr. Hart adds, “There’s a whole lot of election out ahead of us.”

Here’s some more data points to digest:

“Mr. Bush’s 45% job-approval rating matches Gerald Ford’s at a similar point in 1976; since the advent of modern polling, the only White House incumbent who has survived a midsummer rating that low was Harry Truman in 1948. Mr. Bush’s standing has dropped by nine percentage points since January. The survey of 1,025 voters, conducted June 25-28, has a margin of error of three percentage points in either direction.

Mr. Bush’s handling of terrorism — which Americans applauded by 2 to 1 in January — now splits the electorate with 48% approval, 47% disapproval. An identical 48% plurality of Americans says the nation has gotten on “the wrong track. In January a 47% plurality said the nation was headed in “the right direction.”

On Iraq, the issue voters rate most important, the poll results are especially worrisome for the president. Though 56% of voters continue to approve of Mr. Bush’s decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, a 51% majority now says the war hasn’t been worth its human and financial costs.

An equivalent majority says the threat of terrorism against the U.S. has increased, not decreased, because of the war. And by a 53%-42% margin, voters say Mr. Bush “exaggerated information” to make the case for war, underscoring the toll on his credibility from the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, among other controversies.

Fascinating stuff, watching the wheels fall off the bus in slow motion . . .

Sources:
Saddam May Boost Bush [2]
By JOHN HARWOOD
WALL STREET JOURNAL, July2,2004;PageA4

http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB108873014869753834,00.html

New Poll Puts Bush Down, but Not Out [1]
By JOHN HARWOOD
WALL STREET JOURNAL, July1,2004;PageA4

http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB108864352277952443,00.html


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URL to article: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2004/07/polls-have-bush-down-but-not-out/

URLs in this post:

[1] “New Poll Puts Bush Down, but Not Out”: http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB108864352277952443,00.html

[2] Saddam May Boost Bush: http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB108873014869753834,00.html

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