Kerry Ahead on Handling the US Campaign Against Terrorism (!)
The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll suggests rather strongly that President Bush has failed to generate much political benefit from a series of events that has included a good jobs report, some diplomatic progress on the Iraq situation and the funeral of Ronald Reagan. In the poll, conducted June 17-20, Kerry is ahead of Bush among RVs by 8 points (53-45).
Any more bounces like this one and John Kerry may not have to bother to campaign at all.
And in perhaps the poll's most startling result, the public now says it prefers Kerry over Bush on who would do a better job handling the US campaign against terrorism (48-47). That's a big change from late May when Bush was leading Kerry 52-39--which, in turn, was down from a 21 point Bush lead the month before.
I think I detect a pattern here. Kerry is also ahead of Bush on handling health care (+21), taxes (+13!), prescription drug benefits for the elderly (+12), education (+10), international affairs (+8), the economy (+5) and the federal budget deficit (+4). In fact, the only area where the public says it prefers Bush over Kerry is, interestingly enough, on handling the situation in Iraq, where Bush leads Kerry by 5 (50-45).
I say "interestingly enough" because other data in the poll show that people are not at all happy with how Bush is currently handling the situation in Iraq. His approval rating on Iraq, while improved over last month in the same poll, is still solidly negative at 44 percent approval/55 percent disapproval. Moreover, the poll has the most negative reading yet on whether "the war with Iraq was worth fighting": 47 percent say yes, compared to 52 percent who say no. And a remarkable 71 percent now say that there has been an "unacceptable number of US military casualties in Iraq"--also the most negative reading yet.
A host of other indicators also show the most negative results so far, including whether the war with Iraq has "contributed to the long-term security of the United States" (down to 51 percent), damaged US relations with other countries with other countries who opposed the war (up to 63 percent), contributed to long-term peace and stability in the Mideast (down to 42 percent) and damaged the United States' image in the rest of the world (up to 76 percent). And a high point has been reached (42 percent) in the number of Americans who say we should withdraw our military forces from Iraq "even if that means that civil order is not restored there".
Bush's approval ratings outside of the situation in Iraq are also unimpressive to downright poor. His overall approval rating has remained at 47 percent over the last month, according to the poll, while his disapproval rating has risen slightly to 51 percent.
That's bad enough for a president who had hoped to start recovering politically. But the real shocker is the drop in his approval rating on handling the US campaign against terrorism: down from 58 percent approval/39 percent disapproval last month to 50 percent approval/48 percent disapproval today.
Of Bush's other approval ratings, only one, education, breaks 50 percent, coming in at 51 percent approval/45 percent disapproval. The others are just plain bad: the economy (46/53, barely changed from the last two months); international affairs (43/55); taxes (42/54); prescription drug benefits for the elderly (40/50); the federal budget deficit (39/56); and health care (39/57).
Doesn't the public approve of anything? Sure: Bill Clinton. His approval rating is up 7 points in the last year to a healthy 62 percent rating today. It would seem that the public's increased misgivings about Bush's performance are making the Clinton era, despite Clinton's personal foibles, look pretty good by comparison.
I think they're onto something.