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Los Angeles Times Poll Confirms Bush Difficulties

The newly-released Los Angeles Times (LAT) poll confirms the difficulties Bush is now facing in his re-election effort, including eroding support for his handling of the war on terror. The poll also presents a less-cheerful view of how Bush is faring against Kerry in election trial heats, when compared to the much-publicized Gallup poll I discussed on Tuesday.

Let's start with the horse race data. The LAT poll, which has a larger sample size (N=1,616) than the Gallup poll and was conducted more recently (March 27-30), finds Kerry ahead 49-46 among RVs. The Gallup poll, in contrast, had exactly the reverse result--Bush ahead of Kerry by 49-46.

According to the LAT data, Kerry's lead is larger among independents (49-44) than among all RVs and much larger among moderates (58-33). In addition, Kerry pulls two-thirds of the youth (18-29) vote and leads among seniors by 9 points (51-42).

It's also interesting to note that Kerry is pulling 43 percent among white men, only behind Bush by about 10 points. In 2000, Gore only drew 36 percent among this group and lost to Bush by 24 points.

The LAT poll includes a Bush-Kerry-Nader trial heat, as well as the Bush-Kerry matchup just discussed. The intruiging result here is that inclusion of Nader does not change the balance between Kerry and Bush; the margin remains exactly the same. Note that this result--Nader not changing the Bush-Kerry margin--was also observed in the Gallup poll mentioned above.

The poll finds the public saying by a wide margin that the country is off on the wrong track (55 percent), rather than going in the right direction (36 percent). And among independents, it's a stunningly negative verdict: 61 percent wrong track/29 percent right direction.

In terms of approval ratings, Bush's overall rating is 51 percent and his rating on Iraq is 49 percent, both 2 points lower than the ratings reported by Gallup on Tuesday. And his rating on "handling the war on terrorism", consistent with other recent polls, is now down to 56 percent, an underwhelming figure for what has been, by far, his strongest area (and it's only 52 percent among moderates).

Also consistent with other recent polls, the public agrees, by 52-40, that Bush failed to take the threat of terrorism seriously enough before the September 11 Al Qaeda attacks (57-38 among independents and 54-38 among moderates). The public agrees even more strongly that Bush was more focused on attacking Iraq than dealing with terrorism as his top priority (64-32 (2:1!) among independents and 61-33 among moderates).

The LAT poll gives Kerry a better favorability rating than the recent Gallup poll. His favorable rating is 48 percent with just 29 percent unfavorable, for a +19 differential. That differential rises to +24 among independents and +36 among moderates (only 19 percent of this group views Kerry unfavorably).

Bush, in contrast, is viewed favorably by 50 percent, just barely more than the 47 percent who view him unfavorably, for a narrow +3 differential. And among independents (-8 differential) and moderates (-10), he is viewed more unfavorably than favorably.

In the poll, more people believe the statement "he cares about people like me" applies to Kerry than to Bush (43-33). And independents (51-22) and moderates (53-25) prefer Kerry particularly strongly.

The poll finds the public narrowly preferring Bush to Kerry on "he will be a strong leader for the country" (46-38) and on "he has the honesty and integrity to be president (41-36), but, in each case, independents and moderates believe these statements apply more to Kerry than Bush.

And here's an interesting one. What's the quintessential GOP attack on Kerry these days?: "he flip-flops on the issues", of course. Well, in this poll, nearly as many say this statement applies to Bush (35 percent) as say it applies to Kerry (38 percent). And moderates actually say, by 38-28, that the statement applies more to Bush than Kerry!

Perhaps that line of criticism will not turn out to be quite the slam-dunk the GOP has assumed.

Tomorrow: The LAT poll on the economy and related issues.

Comments

I think it will be very important to see what happens to Bush in the polls in terms of leadership, trust, favorability and the war on terror in the wake of the Fallujah attacks Wednesday.
I think the chaos in Iraq will be far greater after June 30, and what happens to Bush's poll numbers now will be magnified by a similar effect after June 30.
Also, credibility may well really go in the tank for Bush at that time because I'd be willing to wager that many people think the June 30 deadline refers to troop withdrawls as well as transition of power. When these people find that political power has passed AND our troops are still there, Bush's numbers could fall like a stone.

I, too, have been wondering how many Americans actually believe our troops will be coming home on June 30. THAT would be an interesting poll question.

Of course, not only are the troops NOT coming home, the U.S. will no longer be in charge of the country. My guess is Americans aren't going to like that notion one bit. It sounds an awful lot like putting our troops under U.N. control--an abhorent thought to red, white, and blue Americans. I, personally, understand the difference, but I'm guess that a healthy number of my fellow citizens will not see or care about nuance. Just a guess, though...

The real reason that we can turn Iraq over to "inependent Iraqi's" but not to the United Nations is that under the "independent Iraqi's" our war profiteer friends at Halliburton can still get all the no-bid contracts. Didn't George Washington make some remark about hanging war profiteers? Perhaps Kerry can start quoting some of our founding fathers (and mothers) about a problem that is as old as the republic.

Ruy,

Thanks for the great site. You're the first person I turn to when polls come out. Your analysis is much appreciated.

Keep up the good work.