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Now That You Mention It, It Has Been a Pretty Lousy Three Years

Mother Jones magazine today released an interesting new poll that shows, in more detail than any other recent poll, just how negatively voters feel about the progress the country has made in the last three years and how ready they are for a change.

For example, the poll asked voters about a series of issues and whether the country is now better off, or worse off, on that issue than it was three years ago. The most lop-sidedly negative response was on the deficit where just 8 percent said the country was doing better than three years ago, compared to a stunning 80 percent who said the country was doing worse.

Perhaps the deficit rating is not a surprise, but it is impressive how negative voters were on a wide variety of other issues: job security (19/65, for a -46 net rating); incomes keeping up with the cost of living (20/65, -45); access to affordable health care (19/59, -40); personal privacy (19/59, -40); moral values (22/58, -36); creating good-paying jobs (27/62, -35); the economy (31/62, -31); public schools (27/51, -24); tolerance for people not like us (27/51, -24); special interests (20/43, -23); and even the tax burden (29/54, -25). (Note that the poll asked the same set of questions about progress in the last three years, but applied to the respondent him or herself, not the country as a whole. Somewhat surprisingly, the answers, while a bit less negative, were very close indeed to the responses for the country as a whole.)

No wonder only 30 percent of voters in this poll felt the country was going in the right direction, compared to 62 percent who felt the country was seriously off on the wrong track. Similarly, just 38 percent wanted to continue in the direction Bush is headed, compared to 57 percent who wanted to go in a significantly different direction.

In terms of winners and losers in the last three years, voters have negative views that are consistent with their views about the country's lack of progress. Voters felt overwhelmingly that the wealthy were winners, not losers (85/9), as well as big corporations (71/22) and CEOs (65/25). The poor, on the other hand, were viewed as losers, not winners (15/75), as were American workers (30/63) and the middle class (37/56).

Other interesting findings from the survey:

1. Kerry is ahead of Bush among RVs 49-44, including leads of 27 points among moderates, 23 points among young voters (18-29) and 9 points among independents.

2. Bush's approval rating is net negative in the poll (47/49) and is only 42 percent among independents.

3. Almost without exception in the poll, the views of independents and Democrats are relatively close together and the views of independents and Republicans are quite far apart. That includes views of how much progress the country has made in the last three years, who the winners and losers are and attitudes toward the Iraq war.

4. Attitudes toward labor unions were strikingly positive. Only John McCain scored better in a series of thermometer readings included in the poll (Sweeney-McCain: the dream ticket?)

5. Registered voters who were not deemed likely voters (LVs) were heavily skewed toward the Democrats in everything from party ID and vote intention to their views on how much progress has been made under the Bush administration. That suggests that if turnout is high this November--as almost all campaign interest measures so far suggest--that will be a boon to the Democrats.

6. If you include leaners, Democrats have a 10 point party ID advantage among RVs in the poll. Take that, Matthew Dowd.

Comments

The Mother Jones site has LOTS of great graphs on this data, including each question broken down by party affiliation, vote in 2000, gender, income, red state/blue state and age. Sifting through all the data, the most striking and consistent information is found under party affiliation and, specifically, independent voters. Ruy's absolutely correct, independents are much more like Democrats than like Republicans in their opinions on almost every question. In fact, on a couple issues, they're even more pessimistic and demoralized than Democrats. Pay special attention to independents' opinions about the last three years regarding, big corporations, the tax burden, personal privacy, average citizen being heard, job security and special interests. Another striking trend: "liberal or moderate Republicans" are strikingly similar to Democrats and Independents on several measures.

It brings to mind again the theory that by election day, "Bush fatique" will have completely set in and a huge rush away from Bush and toward Kerry is going to hit the electorate among Independents and liberal-moderal Republicans (much as what happened to Carter and conservative-moderate Democrats in the Carter-Reagan race of 1980). A year from now we may be discussing "kerry Republicans". On a similar topic, I encourage you to read Howard Fineman's article on MSNBC about Kerry "lying low" and staying "invisible" through most of the election cycle. This is one time I happen to agree wholeheardely with Fineman--let Bush stew in his own juices; Kerry will look all the more reasonable and be considered a worthy alternative to Bush by election day.

By the way, the Mother Jones survey was done by Stanley Greenburg's polling outfit. Greenburg wrote "The Two Americas"; if you haven't read it I strongly recommend you do so!

One thing that strikes me as extremely odd in this poll is the winners/losers series and 'women' come out at 65% winner and 26% loser. I don't understand this given the responses to others in this battery. It is right below big corporations (71% winner) and the wealthy (85%) and higher than George W. Bush (55%). Can this be right? Have women benefited tremendously under the Bush Administration and I have completely missed it? And how have women been winners over the past three years and children and the middle class have been net losers?

I also noticed that oddity in the data. First, I question the value of asking voters about "winners" and "loser" given the multiple interpretations those terms could have. For instance, respondents could be thinking of the term "winner" as a way to say they like or support that group: i.e. I like women, so I'll rate them "winners". Second, we have no older data to compare to, so it's perfectly possible that women used to be considered "winners" more in the past and less so now. I know I'd personally rank women to be "winners" now, regardless of Bush (I haven't seen much evidence that he's been any worse for women than men--he's equally bad for everyone as far as I'm concerned).

As consumers and workers and parents, women are in the same boat as men and children -- sinking. But strictly as women, they continue to kick open locked doors and to punch holes in glass ceilings. The proportion of women in college and in white collar jobs continues to rise. This is striking when we compare young black women to young black (and poor white) men. As workers, women are losers; as women, women are winners.

Something I found really interesting about this poll were responses to this question:

" Thinking ahead to the election in November, which TWO of these words best describe how you would feel if (John Kerry were elected / George Bush were re-elected) President? "

If you group the list of adjectives given as choices into positives and negatives and tally up the totals for each, then...

Among all Respondents:

Net Positive
G.W. Bush: +8%
John Kerry: +24%

G.W. Bush
Most Common Answer: "Worried" (31%)
Total Positive Answers: 76%
Total Negative Answers: 68%
Uncertain: 22%
DK/NA: 2%

John Jerry
Most Common Answer: "Hopeful" (39%)
Total Positive Answers: 79%
Total Negative Answers: 55%
Uncertain: 29%
DK/NA: 3%


In the Swing States:

Net Positive
G.W. Bush: 1%
John Kerry: 34%

G.W. Bush
Most Common Answer: "Worried" (31%)
Total Positive Answers: 75%
Total Negative Answers: 74%
Uncertain: 19%
DK/NA: 2%

John Jerry
Most Common Answer: "Hopeful" (43%)
Total Positive Answers: 84%
Total Negative Answers: 50%
Uncertain: 28%
DK/NA: 3%


Among Independents (Nationwide):

Net Positive
G.W. Bush: -39% (!!!!!)
John Kerry: +37%

G.W. Bush
Most Common Answer: "Worried" (35%)
Total Positive Answers: 52%
Total Negative Answers: 91%
Uncertain: 17%
DK/NA: 4%

John Jerry
Most Common Answer: "Uncertain" (40% -- beat "Hopeful" by 1%)
Total Positive Answers: 68%
Total Negative Answers: 31%
Uncertain: 40%
DK/NA: 11%

FYI, I regarded the following choices as positive: "Hopeful," "Confident," "Happy," "Content" and "United."

These I deemed negative: "Worried," "Pessimistic," "Depressed" and "Angry" (with "Uncertain" being regarded as neutral).

Have you guys noticed how Bush's support seems to have stuck at 44%.

No matter what poll you look at, it's always at 44%.

The differences always seem to come with Kerry's numbers - which are as high as 48 or 49% or as low as 41 or 42%. Depending whether you count the "Democratic leaners" or not.

Yes, Jeff, I have noticed Bush's "44% consistency" for quite some time now. It really makes me wonder if that's his ceiling. I certainly hope so...

New ABC/Washington Post poll (june 22):

Kerry 48%
Bush 44%

Again, another poll with Bush at 44%.

If this holds, and Nader's support softens (which I assume it will). Kerry will win the election by 10%. Since the undecideds always go to the challenger.

I suppose it's safe to say the "bounce" is over.