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July 31, 2004

Before We Pronounce on the Bounce, Let's Measure It Properly Shall We?

Newsweek is first out of the box with a poll and story on Kerry's bounce from the convention. There's just one slight problem: the data they report in the story don't really measure Kerry's bounce at all.

Check this out. Newsweek's last poll before the convention was on July 8-9 and Kerry led Bush, 51-45. In the current poll, conducted July 29-30, Kerry leads Bush, 52-44. From this they conclude Kerry got a "baby bounce" from the convention (1 point on support level, 2 points on margin or, if you look at their Kerry-Bush-Nader data, 2 points on support level, 4 points on margin).

But, as their story sheepishly admits, half of their poll was conducted on Thursday night, before Kerry had delivered his acceptance speech! Moreover, their results differ on the two nights, with Kerry leading by 2 points in the pre-acceptance speech data and by 10 points in the post-acceptance speech data.

What possible excuse can there be for presenting these data as measuring Kerry's bounce from the convention, when the effect of the most important event of the convention isn't included in half the data? Perhaps there is one, but I can't think of it.

And that's not all that's wrong with their bounce measure. To make their sin even more egregious, the previous poll they use as a point of comparison is way too long ago (July 8-9) to be a real before/after comparison. What if the race was closer before the convention than it was on July 8-9? Then using July 8-9 as a point of comparison would further contribute to understating Kerry's bounce from the convention.

And in fact that appears to be the case. In the Gallup poll, Kerry was leading 51-44 on July 8-11 but only 49-45 on July 19-21. So using July 8-9 as the comparison period probably knocks several more points off Kerry's bounce.

In short, Newsweek's analysis is totally bogus. Before we pronounce on the bounce, I suggest we wait until we've got some data that actually measures it.

July 30, 2004

So, How'd He Do?

Pretty darn good, I'd say. Kerry's speech was on the high end of my expectations, as indeed was the convention as a whole.

Let's look at what he did right. As David Kusnet puts it on The New Republic (TNR) website, he gave a "good", but not great, speech that smartly took the fight to the enemy and preemptively pushed back on the ways Bush will try (is trying) to portray him: weak on national security, too liberal on social issues and pessimistic about America. And did an excellent job of doing so.

John Judis, in his article, "Smart Defense", also on the TNR website (incidentally, kudos to TNR for having such extensive and generally very good coverage of the key speeches--which, after all, was pretty much all the real action going on at the convo), ticks off many of the specific defensive moves Kerry made: anti-pacifism (bolster military, willing to use force); anti-cultural elitism ("band of brothers", stem cell research not gay marriage); anti-tax and spend liberalism (middle class tax cut, roll back tax cuts for the rich, spend on popular programs in health and education); anti-flip flopping ("some issues just aren't that simple"); and anti-doom and gloom ("America can do better").

And, critically, he set the stage for some themes that will be key to success this fall. For example, he pointed out, in a number of different ways, how Bush is now a divider not a uniter and emphasized how he would bring Americans together.

He also dwelt very pointedly on how the country had been misled into war by Bush, how Iraq was a war of choice, not necessity and, for the first time, indicated that he could "bring the troops home" from Iraq and Bush could not. This is just the beginning, of course, of what Kerry so urgently needs to do: putting a clear plan for Iraq and bringing the troops home on the table.

But it is an important first step. If he can combine such a clear plan--and it should more be on the level of compelling, intelligible soundbites than detailed mechanics and elaborate schedules--with his solid domestic program and a catchy summary phrase about where he intends to take the country (in the manner of "putting people first"), he will be in good shape to build on whatever advantage he receives from the convention.

And that's the key thing. It's not the bounce from the convention that's important (and certainly not its exact size, which I suspect will be rather modest), but rather the extent to which Kerry has set himself up for a successful fall campaign.

Looked at from that perspective, I think it's been a very good convention indeed for Kerry and the Democrats.

July 29, 2004

How High the Bounce?

Really, who knows? The average bounce from a challenger's convention is 7 points; if you take out the outlier 1992 Clinton convention, it's 6 points. But this year there are fewer undecided voters and Kerry's already doing quite well in the polls, relative to average challenger performance, so it will be harder for him to post big gains.

But if you want a good summary of the things to think about as you listen to Kerry's speech tonight that may affect the bounce and, more importantly, the campaign in general as we move forward, you should definitely check out Frank Newport's Gallup analysis of the political context for Kerry's speech.

Newport makes a number of good points. I particularly liked his questioning of the alleged necessity for Kerry to focus heavily on assuring voters he'd be a strong leader in the fight against terrorism. Newport points out several reasons to be skeptical:

First, most recent polling shows that terrorism is in fact not the single most important issue for voters this year. Terrorism usually falls behind the economy, and in some polls, Iraq, when voters are asked to choose from a list of concerns.

Terrorism is not considered to be the most important problem facing the nation today. The top problems are the economy and Iraq.

More importantly, perhaps, is the fact that while Republicans place the greatest importance on terrorism as a campaign issue, Kerry's core Democrats and the vitally important independents do not. The latter groups are more interested in domestic issues such as the economy and healthcare.

So, Iraq, the economy and health care are all, arguably, deserving of more attention than the war on terror.

On Iraq, Newport has this to say on Kerry's handling of the issue:

....it is clear from the available poll data that Kerry has yet to take political advantage of this Bush vulnerability. For example, only 45% think that Bush has a clear plan or handling the situation in Iraq, but an even smaller 33% believe that Kerry has a clear plan for handling the situation there. Furthermore, when asked which of the two major candidates can do a better job handling Iraq, Bush edges Kerry by a 49% to 44% margin.

Thus, the data suggest that Kerry has yet to convince Americans that his approach to Iraq -- if elected -- would be that much better than Bush's.

Finally, Newport ticks off three reasons why the political payoff from emphasizing the economy could be high:

The public's rating of the economy's direction is significantly worse in states that are considered to be Democratic or battleground states than in states considered to be safe for the Republicans. In other words, the economy has a high probability of being of the most importance in precisely the states Kerry must win in order to become president.

As noted, independent voters are more likely than Republicans to say the economy is the top problem they will consider in their presidential vote.

There is evidence from data analysis from three key showdown states that voters' perceptions of the economy in their state is related to their propensity to vote for Kerry.

Is this guy right or what? Sure hope the Kerry campaign visits the Gallup website every once in a while.

It's Official: The Democrats' Party ID Advantage is Back

Last November, Pew issued a large study on "The 2004 Political Landscape", stating, among other things, that the Republicans had reached rough parity with the Democrats on party ID.

At the time, I argued:

...Pew’s figures are based on pooling data over fairly lengthy period to look at, say, “the post 9-11 period”. That’s not a problem if the attitudes in question are stable over the period and it makes theoretical sense that they would be. It is a problem if they’re not and it doesn’t.

That’s what could be happening here. DR has, in fact, noticed larger leads for the Democrats on party ID in recent public polls. A close look at the disaggregated Pew trend data confirms this. Three of the last four Pew polls, including the last two in September and October, give the Democrats a 4 point lead in party ID. That’s very close to the average Democratic lead of 5 points in Pew data covering the entire 1997-2000 time period. Moreover, when you factor in independents who say they lean toward one party or another, the Democratic lead widens to 7 points, because more independents now say they lead toward the Democrats than say they lean toward the Republicans.

If “macropartisanship”–as political scientists call the distribution of party ID among the general public–is returning to what is was before 9-11, that should come as no great surprise. First, other data from Gallup and CBS News showed a pro-Republican surge in party ID after 9-11 that ended much earlier, in fall of 2002. Second, there is a well-known relationship between presidential approval and level of partisan identification with the president’s party–that is, the higher the president’s approval rating, the more people tend to say they identify with that president’s party. Therefore, since Bush enjoyed a huge surge in his approval rating after 9-11 that lasted for an unusually long time, we would expect to see an increase in Republican party ID over that period of high approval ratings–as we did. We would also expect to see that increase melt away over time as Bush’s political advantage from 9-11 decreases and his approval rating falls to undistinguished levels–as we are today.

I am pleased to note that Pew has now issued a short report "Democrats Gain Edge in Party Identification" which completely confirms my analysis. According to the report, Democrats are now averaging a 4 point lead on unleaned party ID in the Pew data (pretty much the same as the Democrats' lead in the last three presidential election years) and a 6 point lead with leaners included. So much for parity.

The Democrats' party image and issue advantages have also improved substantially, as I noted in a recent post.

Recently-released CBS News poll data confirm this trend. The Republican party's net favorability rating is just +2 (49/47), while the Democrats are +14 (54/40).

The parties are rated about equally on "sharing your moral values", and the Republicans have a 11 point advantage on making the right decisions about terrorism. But the Democrats have advantages over the Republicans in all other areas tested by the poll: making prescription drugs for the elderly more affordable (+42); caring about "people like yourself" (+19); creating new jobs (+18); helping more people achieve the American dream (+12); ensuring a strong economy (+6); and more likely to make the right decisions about the war in Iraq (+2).

No wonder party ID isn't at parity.

July 28, 2004

Kerry Vs. Bush Among Persuadable Voters and Independents

Just-released Annenberg Election Survey data indicate that Kerry is making progress among persuadable voters and independents, who continue to be very critical of Bush.

For example, Kerry had a 7 point lead (37-30) among persuadable voters (undecideds or those who favor a candidate, but say they might change their mind) in early June as the candidate who was rated higher on "cares about people like me". Now he has a 41-27 lead.

Where Bush had advantages on candidate characteristics in early June, a number of these advantages have dimished--for example, on personal likeability and experience. And Bush had a tie on "shares my values" which has now turned into a small Kerry lead. Perhaps most intriguingly, Bush used to have an advantage on "says one thing, does another", but now Kerry has the advantage--more of these voters now think that phrase applies to Bush than think it applies to Kerry.

Independents generally favor Kerry over Bush by more than persuadables and on more characteristics (for example, "inspiring", "trustworthy" and " has the right experience to be president"). Independents also give Kerry a large advantage in favorability ratings--he gets a 41 percent favorable/31 percent unfavorable rating, for a net of +10, while Bush gets a net rating of -3 (42/45). And Cheney gets a net of -17 (29/46) while Edwards is +18 (38/20).

On a number of other measures, both independents and persuadable voters are quite negative about Bush and the results of his policies, with persuadables tending to be particularly negative. For example, persuadable voters overwhelmingly believe the country is off on the wrong track (55 percent), rather than going in the right direction (31 percent). They don't believe economy is doing well (78 percent rate economic conditions as just fair or poor). And they give Bush just a 40 percent approval rating on the economy with 54 percent disapproval.

But it is on the war with Iraq that these voters seem most disaffected with Bush and his policies. They give Bush a dreadful approval rating on Iraq of 36/59 and, even on handling the war on terrorism, they only give him a 40/54 rating. By 60-34, they don't think the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over and, by 67-20, they believe the Iraq war has increased, not decreased, the threat of terrorism.

They also overwhelmingly believe that Bush does not have a clear plan for bringing the Iraq war to a successful conclusion (69-23). Unfortunately, they strongly feel that Kerry doesn't have a clear plan for concluding the Iraq war either (54-15). And I'd have to say the Democratic convention so far has likely failed to change that opinion.

If I was Kerry, I wouldn't wait 'til October to try to bring some clarity to this issue. The future is now: persuadables and independents are waiting.

July 27, 2004

Kerry Vs. Bush on the Issues

Gallup released a report today on Kerry vs. Bush on the issues. Based on the July 19-21 poll, their data indicates that Kerry has work to do to overcome Bush's lead on international issues, particularly handling the Iraq situation--something I have highlighted repeatedly in my posts--as well as to capitalize on and, ideally, widen his lead on domestic issues.

According to the Gallup poll, Kerry leads (or deficits) on which candidate can best handle specific issues are: health care (+17); the economy (+8); education (+7); taxes (+2); the situation in Iraq (-5); and terrorism (-18). Compared to Gallup's poll one month previously, Kerry's leads on the issues are about 4-5 points smaller in this poll.

The poll also asks about specific candidate qualities and Kerry's leads include: cares about the needs of people like you (+8); shares your values (+3); and is honest and trustworthy (tied).

Kerry's ratings on these issues and candidate qualities are generally pretty close to what we've seen in other public polls recently....with one big exception: the new ABC News/Washington Post (WP) poll, which gives Kerry much more negative ratings than anyone else.

The WP poll was taken right after the Gallup poll, July 22-25, but boy are these results different. Here are Kerry's leads over Bush on who can best handle different issues: health care (+3); education (+1); the economy (-1); taxes (-6); the situation in Iraq (-12); and terrorism (-18). And on candidate qualities, we have: understands the problems of people like you (+4); shares your values (-6); and honest and trustworthy (-6).

Amazing. In the space of a few days, the WP poll has Kerry's leads on most issues, compared to the Gallup poll, shrinking by 7-14 points. Kerry's leading by only 3 points on health care? And suddenly Bush is ahead by a point on the economy? Ahead by 6 points on taxes and values? By 12 points on Iraq?

It's also worth noting that this WP poll, compared to previous WP polls in the last month, shows shifts double the size or more (8-18 points) of those contained in the Gallup poll.

In short, the results of this poll stick out like a sore thumb. Could it be that the WP poll is using registered voters (RVs) and that accounts for the difference? Nope, the WP poll's own data show that using RVs or adults makes essentially no difference to these measures. Note also that several other recent public polls--Quinnipiac and Time--polled RVs at about the same time Gallup was polling adults on these Kerry-Bush comparisons and found results that were virtually identical to Gallup (an 8 point lead for Kerry on the economy and a 17 point lead on health care; a 4 point Kerry deficit on Iraq).

That leaves only the survey dates as a benign explanation. Did the world really change that much from July 19-21 (Gallup's survey dates) to July 22-25 (WP's survey dates)?

I've got my doubts. Big doubts.


What should John Kerry say? As David Kusnet, one of the Democrats' preeminent wordsmiths, wisely points out:

Pundits are saying John Kerry's acceptance speech needs to be "the speech of his life," when he "reintroduces himself," sounding more like a "regular guy" and less like a JFK wannabe--and, Peggy Noonan helpfully adds, "He might take this opportunity to actually redefine what liberalism is."

None of this is true. Kerry need not try to give a great speech; he should try to give a good one.

And then Kusnet goes on to give a cogent summary of the ingredients for such a good speech, all sensible and all well within Kerry's rhetorical capabilities. Check it out.

And while you're at it, also check out Kusnet's excellent analysis of Clinton's excellent speech last night. A lot there for Democrats to play close attention to!

The Long-Term Strategy Debate Continues

Matt Bai's article in The New York Times Magazine, which I cited in my Sunday post, has generated a slew of commentary in Democratic circles. That's a good thing, but the tone of some of the commentary bothers me a bit. Markos Zuniga of The Daily Kos, for example, questions whether there will or should be much of a role for the Democratic party as an institution in the future, given developments like the Phoenix Group, the 527s, online fundraising, etc.

I guess I don't really see the point of discarding the party and relying entirely on the new institutions that are starting to evolve. There's no logical reason why the new and old institutions can't me made to work together and evolve in tandem (as, in fact, happened within the Republican party--see Michael Tomasky's excellent column on the Bai piece where he makes this point and others very crisply). This will take some time, but then again evolving and perfecting the new institutions that are starting to emerge will take some time as well.

In other words, a little patience may be in order--though it appears SEIU head Andrew Stern, for one, is running out of his. David Broder quotes Stern as saying "if John Kerry becomes president it hurts" chances of reforming the party and that he doesn't "know if it [efforts to create new institutions] would survive with a Democratic president".

Whoa there, Andy! That's not saying if we've got lemons, let's make lemonade, that's asking for wall-to-wall lemons! People like to win and, if Kerry does, a feeling of triumph will suffuse both the party and the emerging institutions Stern supports, giving them both a burst of energy. Losing, on the other hand, will deflate both and will be an obstacle, not an aid, to moving forward.

So, to review:

1. The party is not dying and we don't need to kill it.
2. Winning is good.

Repeat these points to yourself several times and you will find yourself feeling calmer....more peaceful....and refreshed.

July 25, 2004

Thinking Long-Term

John Kerry has an excellent chance to win the 2004 election but, even if he does (and certainly if he doesn't), Democrats' long-term project of turning their party into the nation's dominant electoral and governing force will still be far from completion.

That long-term project is the subject of an interesting symposium in Boston Review, based around a lengthy essay by Rick Perlstein. Perlstein, author an excellent study of Barry Goldwater and the rise of the conservative movement (Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus), is very unhappy indeed with today's Democratic party and offers a prescription for change that is clearly influenced by his own study of the Goldwater phenomenom.

That viewpoint is well-summarized in the last paragraph of his essay, reproduced below (though I certainly urge you to read the entire essay, if you possibly can):

Conservative political ideas are bad, and they have been winning. Liberal political ideas are good, and they can win. But this final message is for all of you who might have been nodding along with the presentation the whole time, smiling in agreement: you shouldn’t have been, at least not if you were following all my points. For this argument is for the objective necessity of political risk for irreversible commitments. And irreversible commitments are not anything to smile glibly at. If risk is not frightening, it is nothing at all. Republicans began their march to an irreversible commitment to the full conservative program in 1964. It led that year to an atrocious defeat. I’m not saying the Democrats need to embrace an economic liberalism superjumbo, and then lose, in order to win. I’m saying that they must embrace an economic liberalism superjumbo, and they must stick with it even if they lose, in order to win big. Dream again, or die.

I am not so sure this is the right prescrption and I am also not so sure the Democrats are in quite the dire position Perlstein says they are. Here's the last part of my reply to Pearlstein in this symposium (you can read the entire reply here and the other contributions to the symposium here):

I certainly agree with Perlstein that [Clinton's] populist approach, particularly in 1992, was part of his success, but so was his New Democrat approach to mending many of the image problems sketched above. Focusing on one without the other won’t do; Clinton’s success depended on a synthesis of the two approaches. As for Perlstein’s claim that his dog Buster could have beaten George H.W. Bush in 1992, I will let this unusually silly—but revealing—observation slide by without further comment.

Perlstein’s focus on the populist side of Bill Clinton without giving due credit to the New Democrat side shows he does not understand the depth of the political problems Clinton needed to deal with and that Democrats still have to deal with today. This is still a country where there is serious concern about the effectiveness of government spending, serious resistance to taxes even for worthy causes, serious concern about Democrats’ foreign policy toughness, and serious worries about Democrats’ association with non-mainstream social values. Democrats cannot overcome these problems simply by wishing them away (let’s not worry about winning, says Perlstein, let’s focus on . . . 2018).

The good news is that Democrats are gradually overcoming these problems. They are making good progress on eliminating Democratic defections to the Republican Party (a huge problem in the 1980s) and winning over political independents (who voted Republican in the 1980s but are now leaning Democratic). Building up the Democratic party-ID advantage is a longer-range project, but I believe progress can be made here too (though I am doubtful, for various reasons, that Democrats will be able to regain their pre-1984 advantage in full). But doing so depends on combining the Clinton synthesis Perlstein disdains with some of the broad, large-scale thinking he so clearly favors. But since he did not take such a nuanced approach, his call for large-scale thinking winds up seeming impractical rather than inspirational. As someone who shares his interest in big ideas and long-range strategizing, I think that’s a shame.

Obviously, I'm a bit more optimistic than Pearlstein and one of the reasons was outlined today in The New York Times Magazine by Matt Bai in an article with the somewhat histrionic title "Wiring the Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy", which you should definitely read, if you haven't already. The article covers an emerging trend among "ideological" big money Democrats (i.e., big donors who have a political agenda around revitalizing the Democratic party, rather than lobbying for parochial economic interests) to give more and give more effectively through forming pools of venture capital to promote new Democratic institutions and ideas. Here's one revealing excerpt from the Bai ariticle:

What makes these meetings [of big donors in different cities] remarkable is that while everyone attending them wants John Kerry to win in November, they are focused well beyond the 2004 election. The plan is to gather investors from each city -- perhaps in one big meeting early next year -- and create a kind of venture-capital pipeline that would funnel money into a new political movement, working independently of the existing Democratic establishment. The dollar figure for investment being tossed around in private conversations is $100 million.

''You're talking about raising a lot of money,'' I said doubtfully.

[Andy] Rappaport [a wealthy Silicon Valley venture capitalist] tilted his head to one side. He looked as if he felt sorry for me.

''A hundred million dollars,'' he said, ''is nothing.''

I like the sound of that! Anyway, check it out. While one must take Bai's breathless tone with a grain of salt (if this doesn't work the Democrats will go the way of the dinosaurs!!!), I do believe that this trend is an important one and holds great promise for the Democrats.

July 24, 2004

The White Working Class and the 2004 Election

As we head into the fall campaign, Kerry and the Democrats seem to doing very well indeed well among their key constituencies (see my last two posts). That reality is widely-appreciated and is one of the reasons why Kerry is given such a good chance of knocking off Bush this November.

But there is another development that could truly doom Bush this November and is much less widely-appreciated: his support among white working class voters, who were the bulwark of the Reagan coalition and drove the Republican victories in 2000 and 2002, has eroded quite dramatically due to the continued underperformance of the economy and, especially, disaffection with the Iraq war.

The White Working Class and the Reagan Coalition

It all goes back to the Nixon victories in the elections of 1968 and 1972. The average white working class vote for the Democrats in 1960-64 was 55 percent; the average vote for the Democrats in 1968-72 was 35 percent. That’s a drop of 20 points. The Republicans suddenly became the party of the white working class.

With the sharp economic recession and Nixon scandals of 1973-74, the Democrats were able to develop enough political momentum to retake the White House in 1976, with Jimmy Carter’s narrow defeat of Gerald Ford. But their political revival did not last long.

Not only did the Carter administration fail to do much to defuse white working class hostility to the new social movements, especially the black liberation movement, but economic events--the stagflation of the late 1970s--conspired to make that hostility even sharper. Though stagflation (combined inflation and unemployment with slow economic growth) first appeared during the 1973-75 recession, it persisted during the Carter administration and was peaking on the eve of the 1980 election. As the economy slid once more into recession, the inflation rate in that year was 12.5 percent. Combined with an unemployment rate of 7.1 percent, it produced a “misery index” of nearly 20 percent.

The stagflation fed resentments about race – about high taxes for welfare (which were assumed to go primarily to minorities) and about affirmative action. But it also sowed doubts about Democrats’ ability to manage the economy and made Republican and business explanations of stagflation – blaming it on government regulation, high taxes and spending – more plausible. In 1978, the white backlash and doubts about Democratic economic policies had helped to fuel a nationwide tax revolt. In 1980, these factors reproduced the massive exodus of white working class voters from the Democratic tickets first seen in 1968 and 1972.. In the 1980 and 1984 elections, Reagan averaged 61 percent support among the white working class, compared to an average of 35 percent support for his Democratic opponents, Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale.

The White Working Class and the Clinton Years

Cracking the GOP’s hold on the white working class was key to the Clinton election victories of 1992 and 1996. Instead of losing the white working class by the gaudy margins of the Reagan years, he actually carried white working class voters in both elections–albeit very narrowly, by a single point in each case (39-38 in 1992 and 44-43 in 1996).

In both elections, Clinton carried white working class voters with the most modest educational credentials (high school dropouts) easily (by 17 and 20 points respectively). And he even carried white voters with a high school diploma, but no college, in both elections (by 1 and 4 points respectively).

But in neither election could he carry the elite of the white working class, those with an A.A. degree or some college. In 1992 he lost them by 4 points and in 1996 actually lost them by a slightly larger margin (5 points).

It’s also worth noting that in 1994, when the Democrats lost the House and white working class voters deserted them in droves, that they sustained their greatest losses, and received their lowest support, among whites with some college.

The White Working Class and the 2000 Election

In 2000, the Democrats went backwards several steps in terms of white working class support and that was the key to Bush “victory” such as it was. Without far out-performing Dole in terms of white working class support, Bush wouldn’t have had a chance.

Gore lost white working class voters as a whole by 17 points and he did worst of all among whites with some college, losing them by 20 points, including an astonishing 32 point deficit among white men with some college (32-64).

The White Working Class and the 2002 Election

And in the 2002 election, the Democrats sank still further in terms of white working class support, losing these voters as a whole by 18 points and, once again, doing worst among whites with some college, losing them by 24 points (38-62).

The White Working Class and the 2004 Election

As these data make clear, the Republicans are thoroughly dependent on carrying white working class voters by large margins, especially the white working class elite, those with some college. Therefore, if they cannot at least replicate their levels of support from 2000, they have little chance of winning.

And therein lies the problem. Data from this election cycle suggest that working class whites, particularly those with some college–the bulwark of GOP white working class support–are not giving Bush the margins he received in 2000 due to factors such as the sluggish economy, rising health care costs and, above all, disenchantment with the war in Iraq.

Consider this analysis, taken from my new article with John Judis, "White Flight: Bush Loses His Base" in the latest New Republic.

In June 2003, according to Gallup, 65 percent of white, working-class voters thought it was "worth going to war" in Iraq, while only 33 percent disagreed. By late May 2004, only 52 percent thought the war was worth fighting, and 46 percent thought it was not. The change among workers with some college was even more dramatic. They went from 70 to 30 percent in favor of the war to only 52 to 46 percent, a 34-point swing.

Other groups, including senior citizens, minorities, young voters, and voters with postgraduate education, have also become disillusioned with the war, but they were not as supportive to begin with. White, working-class voters were the bastion of pro-war sentiment. And, unlike minority voters or postgrads, they were also thoroughly supportive of Bush's presidency. So, while the war probably hasn't reduced Bush's already slim support among minority voters, it is undermining his support among the white working class, perhaps his most crucial voting bloc.

....In late May and early June [for example], Gallup polls showed white, working-class voters, who had favored Bush over Gore by 17 percent in 2000, favoring him over Kerry by an average of only 50 to 42 percent. Moreover, Bush led among workers with some college by only 49 to 44 percent--a difference of 15 points from the 2000 election. Since these are national figures and since white workers in battleground states are substantially more Democratic than white workers elsewhere, one has to assume Bush's margins are even smaller--and perhaps nonexistent--in West Virginia and other Midwestern battlegrounds.

How significant is this? Very:

White, working-class voters make up the bulk of voters in many battleground states. In West Virginia, for example, they comprise 74 percent of the electorate; in Missouri, 64 percent; in Ohio and Pennsylvania, just over 60 percent. If Bush wins white, working-class voters in the battleground states by more than ten points, he should carry most of them. But, if his advantage falls below this margin, he will be in trouble. And that's what seems to be happening.

Indeed, if Bush can’t do better--much better--than he's currently doing among white working class voters in swing states, it is safe to say that his re-election effort is doomed. But if these voters have deserted Bush, above all, because of the Iraq war, than pumping up his support among these voters would seem to depend on convincing them that war with Iraq is going much better and accomplishing much more than it appears to be doing. Given the disillusion that has set in, and the realities on the ground in Iraq, that may be very difficult to do.

In 2002, the GOP benefitted greatly from pro-Bush sentiment among these voters generated by their perception that he was a warrior–and a successful one–against America’s enemies. In 2004, the perception that he is a less successful warrior and after the wrong enemies appears to be dragging him down considerably among these very same voters. You live by the sword, you die by the sword.

July 23, 2004

The Political Landscape on the Eve of the Convention (Continued)

Yesterday, our tour of the political landscape on the eve the convention included results from national polls and from polls of Hispanics. Today, I'll take a look at a recently-released poll of black voters and another one of college students.

The Hispanic polls discussed yesterday indicate that the Kerry-Edwards ticket is running strong among Hispanic voters and appears poised to do better than the Gore-Lieberman ticket did in 2000. The other big component of the minority vote, of course, is black voters and a new poll by BET/CBS News suggests that Democrats will replicate their traditional strong performance among these voters in this election.

The trial heat question in this poll gives Bush only 10 percent support among black voters, compared to 79 percent for Kerry. That 10 percent support is the average GOP presidential support in the last three elections and is unlikely to grow much, if at all, before election day since, based on historical patterns, pretty much all the undecided voters in this group should be allocated to the Democratic candidate.

And you can see why given the incredibly negative views of black voters on Bush and his administration. They give Bush an 11 percent approval rating, with 85 percent disapproval (!) Only 6 percent of blacks think the country is going in the right direction, compared to 92 percent who feel things are off on the wrong track. Just 9 percent think Bush has the same priorities for the country as they do, while 84 percent think he doesn't. And, by 90 percent to 8 percent, black voters don't think the result of the war with Iraq was worth the associated loss of life and other costs.

That 10 percent sounds more and more like a ceiling on Bush's support among black voters.

The new Harvard University/Institute of Politics poll of college students shows Bush in deep trouble among this group as well. Since March, Kerry's already-wide lead over Bush among students has increased by 8 points, from 53-40 to 58-37. Bush's approval rating among this group has sunk to 40 percent, while support for the US having gone to war in Iraq has fallen to 42 percent, with 56 percent opposition. And, at this point, by 50-31, college students feel the Kerry campaign is talking about issues that young people care about, while, by 61-26, they feel the Bush campaign is not.

Sounds like a tough sell for the GOP among the nation's students!

Tomorrow: the white working class and the 2004 election

July 22, 2004

The Political Landscape on the Eve of the Convention

A boatload of interesting polls have just been released which, considered together, give us a sense of how the political landscape lies on the eve of the Democratic convention. Based on both the national picture and on the leanings of key constituencies, the Democrats appear to be in excellent shape, even if much work remains to be done in converting the Democrats' many advantages into a large, durable lead for John Kerry.

Start with the new Pew Research Center poll. Perhaps the most striking findings in the poll concern the dramatically improved issue advantages and image of the Democratic party. Here are the Democrats' leads on which party can a better job on a range of issues: dealing with the economy (+27, up from +7 in mid-2003); protecting the environment (+27); improving the educational system (+16, up from -3 in early 2002); dealing with the economy (+12, up from +3 in fall, 2002); making wise decisions about Iraq (+2, up from -9 in fall, 2002); making wise decisions about foreign policy (+2, up from -10 in fall, 2002); reflecting your views on gun control (+2); improving morality in this country (-2, up from -11 in early 2002 and -23 in early 2001!); coming closest to your views on homosexuality (-2); and dealing with the terrorist threat at home (-15).

Of just as much significance are the results on party image. Five of the six image questions were on positive attributes and the Democrats lead on each one of them: is concerned with the disadvantaged (57-23); is concerned with people like me (50-30); can bring about needed changes (46-35); is able to manage the federal government well (40-37, the first lead Democrats have had on this attribute since mid-1992); and governs in an honest and ethical way (37-34). Only on "is concerned with with business and powerful groups" do the Republicans have an advantage--and a wide one (61-22).

In terms of approval ratings, Bush fares poorly in this poll. His overall approval rating is 46 percent approval/46 percent disapproval, slightly down from their June poll. Slightly down as well in the last month is his rating on the economy, now at 42/52, more evidence that Bush's happy talk on job creation and the allegedly robust economy is convincing no one. His rating on Iraq is a nearly identical 42/53, a slight increase in disapproval over last month. And his rating on "the nation's foreign policy" is actually a bit lower at 40/48 (as recently as January of this year, his rating in this area was a comparatively strong 53/36). Only on terrorist threats does his job rating break into net postive territory (54/40) but this rating too is down from last month and way down from the end of last year.

Pew's trial heat question (which includes Nader-Camejo) gives Kerry-Edwards a small 2 point lead (46-44) over Bush-Cheney among RVs. That includes a 12 point lead for Kerry-Edwards among independents and a 6 point lead in the battleground states.

The Pew data also show that voter interest is running high in this election--signficantly above interest levels in 2000 and 1996 and comparable with 1992--suggesting this will be a relatively high turnout election. And their data indicate that voters are now split on who is going to win the 2004 election, whereas before, regardless of who they personally supported, voters believed by wide margins (40 points in January, by 19 points in May and by 15 points in June) that Bush would prevail.

The wind is shifting and the voters know it!

The new Gallup poll gives Kerry-Edwards a slightly larger lead (4 points) over Bush-Cheney among RVs, with or without Nader-Camejo in the mix. Internals of the horse race question show Kerry-Edwards with a whopping 21 point lead among independents. And, just as in Gallup's last poll, Democrats are now supporting their ticket even more strongly (91-8) than the Republicans are supporting theirs (87-8).

Kerry-Edwards also have a wide 23 point lead in the solid blue states (59-36) and continue to lead in the purple, up-for-grabs states, though by smaller margin (48-44) than in Gallup's last poll.

In addition, the Kerry-Edwards ticket continues to enjoy a substantial advantage in favorability ratings over the Bush-Cheney ticket, though slightly diminished from Gallup's last poll. Kerry's favorability rating is 55 percent favorable/37 percent unfavorable (a +18 net rating), while Bush's is 52/46 (+6). Similarly, Edwards' favorability rating is 52/26 (+26), while Cheney's is 47/43 (+4).

Gallup also asked a series of questions about Kerry vs. Bush on the issues and on personal attributes. It's interesting to match them up, where you can, with the Pew results comparing the Democratic and Republicans parties. By and large, Kerry's advantages on issues and attributes tend to run about 4-10 points behind the Democrats' advantage on similar issues and atributes. Clearly there's room for improvement there for Kerry.

And speaking of room for improvement, I hate to be a broken record on this, but results like these from the Gallup poll continue to bother me. At this point, just 45 percent believe Bush has a clear plan for handling the situation in Iraq, compared to 54 percent who think he does not--a net -9 on the question. But check out the result of the same question for Kerry: 33 percent think he does have a clear plan, compared to 56 percent who think he does not--a net -23 on the question.


Turning to key groups for the Democrats in the upcoming election, today saw the release of not one, but two, major new polls of Hispanics--one from The Washington Post/Univision/Tomas Rivera Policy Institute and the other from the Pew Hispanic Center. And if you're Matthew Dowd, leading Bush-Cheney campaign strategist, who has famously remarked that "As a realistic goal, we have to get somewhere between ... 38 [percent] to 40 percent of the Hispanic vote" in 2004 for the GOP to be successful, these polls are very bad news indeed.

Start with the horse race results. Both polls give Kerry-Edwards a 30 point lead over Bush-Cheney among Hispanic RVs. This is a wider margin than Al Gore had among Hispanics in 2000, when he carried them by 27 points (62-35).

The Washington Post (WP) poll (which was conducted in the 11 states with the highest concentrations of Hispanics) has Kerry-Edwards over Bush-Cheney by 60-30, even with Nader-Camejo included. The Pew Hispanic Center (PHC) poll, which was conducted nationally, has Kerry-Edwards over Bush-Cheney by a very similar 62-32. Note that the Bush-Cheney figures of 30-32 percent aren't anywhere near the 38-40 percent target set by Dowd. And they're not likely to get much nearer since one would expect Hispanic undecideds to break toward the Democratic challenger, not the Republican incumbent.

These results are actually worse for Bush and the Republicans than earlier polls this year by the Democracy Corps and others, which gave Kerry and the Democrats healthy leads but not quite this good. So Hispanic voters, it would appear, are trending against the Republicans.

Dowd, of course, refuses to accept this evidence, offering as a counter that a few small Hispanic subsamples in conventional national polls have showed Bush's support among Hispanics in the 40 percent range. But this doesn't pass the laugh test. These samples of Hispanic voters are not only ridiculously small (perhaps 50 voters or so), but they also suffer from the well-known problem that standard telephone polls make no special efforts (use of the Spanish language, etc.) to secure Hispanics' participation and hence tend to draw more upscale, conservative samples of Hispanics than the specialized efforts discussed here.

Looking at the views of Hispanics, as captured in these polls, it's not hard to see how Kerry-Edwards could have such a commanding lead at this point. In the WP poll, Bush's overall approval rating among Hispanics is 36 percent, with 54 percent disapproval. On the economy--by far Hispanics' top voting issue--Bush's approval rating is worse, a dismal 32 percent approval/60 percent disapproval. And his rating on Iraq is worse still, 29/62. In addition, his rating on immigration is 27/55 and his rating on education is 40/46. Only on the US campaign against terrorism (54/38) does he have a net positive rating.

But even on this issue, where Bush gets his best approval rating, Hispanics still say they prefer Kerry over Bush by 43-35. And they prefer Kerry over Bush on every other issue as well: the economy (53-28); Iraq (45-34); immigration (46-26); and education (51-27). Kerry is also viewed, by 25 points (55-30), as the candidate who would do a better job coping with the main problems the nation faces over the next few years.

In addition, Hispanics give Kerry higher ratings than Bush on "understands the problems of people like you" (Kerry, 53 yes/23 no vs. Bush, 37/55); "can be trusted in a crisis" (53/21 vs. 47/44); and "is a likable person" (69/14 vs. 61/34). And even on "is a strong leader", where Kerry and Bush get about the same number of yes votes, Kerry's net rating is quite a bit higher than Bush's (57/22 vs. 58/36).

On Iraq, contrary to early media reports that Hispanics were especially supportive of the war, the reverse is clearly now true. Hispanics believe that the US is losing the war on terrorism (40-37) and that the war hasn't contributed to the long-term security of the United States (48-44), while the general public still has modest pluralities in the other direction. And Hispanics overwhelmingly believe (63-21) that, considering the costs and benefits to the US, the war with Iraq wasn't worth fighting (the general public is only 53-45 that the war wasn't worth fighting).

Finally, Hispanics in the WP poll give the Democrats a 36 point advantage as the party that has more concern for the Latino community (50-14) and a huge 41 point lead on party ID (66-23).

The results of the PHC poll are generally consistent with the WP poll, though they give the Democrats a smaller (26 point) lead on party ID. The horse race results I've already discussed and Bush's overall approval rating is similar to the WP poll (35/55), as is his rating on Iraq (32/58). The PHC poll also finds that Latinos believe the Bush administration deliberately misled the American public about how big a threat Iraq was to the US (51-35) and the US made the wrong decision, not the right decision, in using military force against Iraq (48-39).

On the Bush tax cuts, the PHC poll finds that only 17 percent believe they have been good for the economy. On health care, 86 percent believe the government should provide health insurance for those who don't have it and, by 59-32, they'd be willing to pay more--either in higher health insurance premiums or taxes--to increase the number of Americans who have health insurance. In fact, Latinos say, by 55-37, they'd be willing to pay higher taxes to support a larger government that provides more services, rather than pay lower taxes and have a smaller government with fewer services.

Sorry, Matthew Dowd, these just don't seem like the kind of voters who are eager to drink the GOP Kool-Aid. In fact, maybe you should take that 30 percent support you're getting right now and be happy you're getting that much.

Tomorrow: black voters and young voters

July 21, 2004

All in All, Kerry Is in a Pretty Good Position

I've made some criticisms of the Kerry campaign (see yesterday's post). And loose talk of a Kerry landslide makes me extremely nervous. Still, it can't be denied that, as we head into the convention, Kerry is in a pretty good position and his opponent appears to have the short end of the stick.

Charlie Cook's latest column on the National Journal website (if you don't have access to their webite, you can sign up to get his column free here) crisply summarizes why the seeming deadlock in the horse race is actually very bad news for Bush:

Last week in this space, I discounted the widely held view that the knotted polling numbers between Bush and Kerry meant that the race itself was even. I argued that given the fact that well-known incumbents with a defined record rarely get many undecided voters -- a quarter to a third at an absolute maximum -- an incumbent in a very stable race essentially tied at 45 percent was actually anything but in an even-money situation. "What you see is what you get" is an old expression for an incumbent's trial heat figures, meaning very few undecided voters fall that way.

......This is certainly not to predict that Bush is going to lose, that this race is over or that other events and developments will not have an enormous impact on this race. The point is that this race has settled into a place that is not at all good for an incumbent, is remarkably stable, and one that is terrifying many Republican lawmakers, operatives and activists. But in a typically Republican fashion, they are too polite and disciplined to talk about it much publicly.

In a funny way, if this race were bouncing around, it would probably be a better sign for President Bush. It would suggest that there was some volatility to the race and that public attitudes had not yet hardened, and were thus still an eminently fixable situation. The dynamics of a presidential race usually do not change much between July and Election Day. This year, however, the race is much more stable than usual, which is ominous for an incumbent under these circumstances. The bottom line is that this presidential race is not over, but the outlook is not so great for the players in the red jerseys.

Well said, Mr. Cook. A related analysis that I highly recommend may be found today in Salon. Written by political scientist David Gopoian, "Maxed-Out GOP" argues that:

There are many reasons for the Democrats to be hopeful heading into Boston next week, but the most important of these may be that the Bush campaign has maximized its potential and trails in the polls. There is a boundary to the limits of any political coalition, and the Bush-Cheney campaign is near the edge of its electoral reach.

The Bush campaign has mobilized its core base of conservative white male Republicans very effectively. Now what? Now is when Karl Rove wishes he were Mary Beth Cahill, John Kerry's campaign manager. From nearly every angle that the Bush strategists peer, the turf they view for expanding their coalition is decidedly less friendly than the landscape enjoyed by Team Kerry.

Exactly. Gopoian goes on to offer some very interesting analysis based on estimating expected Republican and Democratic support from key voter groups and comparing currently observed Bush and Kerry support with the expected levels of support. (He doesn't go into detail on the methodology for his estimations, but it's basically done by looking at the partisan composition of different groups and combining that with historical patterns of partisan support for Democrats and Republicans.)

Gopoian shows that Bush has large shortfalls in support among independents (15 points below expectations), moderates (6 points lower) and liberals (11 points). He is maxed out among conservatives and is unlikely to make more gains there. Kerry, on the other hand, needs to make comparativelly modest progress among Democrats and moderate-to-liberal whites. As Gopoain puts it: "...Kerry needs to make small gains among friendly voters, while Bush needs to make huge gains among relatively unfriendly voters."

Not so good for the Bush team. Gopoian also has some interesting things to say about the demographics of the friendly voters Kerry needs to make progress among. Basically, we're talking about whites of moderate-to-low levels of education--more the white working class than, say, white professionals.

I'll be posting more about this last issue in days to come.

July 20, 2004

Does John Kerry Have a Clear Plan for Iraq?

Here's The Hotline's summary of an article by John Harwood and Jacob Schlesinger, based on an interview with Kerry on Iraq, and published in The Wall Street Journal last Friday:

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, John Kerry set a 3-part test for getting the troops out of Iraq if elected, "while warning that" Pres. Bush "might commence a more rapid draw-down this fall to improve his reelection prospects." The 3 parts are "to measure the level of stability"; "to measure the outlook for the stability to hold" and "to measure the ability ... of their security forces" to defend Iraq. He added that "until each condition is satisfied," he will "provide for the world's need not to have a failed state in Iraq." Kerry "isn't preparing to spell out a timetable for rapid withdrawal, suggesting Bush "was more likely to do so." Kerry: "I've heard [it] said by many people" that the WH "might be gearing up to withdraw" troops before 11/2. More: "I'm prepared for any political move."....Kerry "doesn't contemplate 'an open-ended commitment'" of troops but "nor would he pledge to end the U.S. presence in Iraq." Kerry: "At the end of my first term I would consider it a failure of my diplomacy if we haven't reduced the number significantly," but "I certainly can't tell you numbers"

Clear? If it doesn't seem so to you, here's a link to the full article...but, I warn you, it doesn't get much more lucid.

No wonder voters can't figure out what on earth John Kerry actually proposes to do about the Iraq situation. Just-released Annenberg Election Survey data show that, while only 34 percent believe Bush "has a clear plan for bringing the situation in Iraq to a successful conclusion" and 61 percent do not, Kerry fares no better in the public's estimation: just 25 percent believe he has a clear plan and 57 percent do not. In fact, Kerry's net negative on this question (-32) is actually worse than Bush's (-27).

That's a pity because evidence continues to mount that voters--particularly independent and swing voters--have lost faith in Bush on the Iraq issue and are eager to embrace a clear alternative, if Kerry articulated one.

For example, on whether Bush has a clear plan for Iraq, independents are even more lopsided on Bush not having one (65-30) and "persuadable voters"--those who are undecided currently or who say they could change their mind--are amazingly negative (74-18).

Gallup has also recently released a report showing that the transfer of power in Iraq has had absolutely no effect on public perceptions. The public continues to believe that the war is a mistake, hasn't been worth it and is going badly. So they're naturally looking for way out.

Finally, CBS News data show that independents are tremendously negative about Bush's handling of Iraq and foreign affairs and about the Iraq war in general. They give Bush an abysmal 34 percent approval rating on foreign policy, with 59 percent disapproval, and, on Iraq, give him an incredibly negative 32/63 rating--almost 2:1 disapproval! Independents in this poll also say, by 55-42, that we should stayed out of Iraq in the first place and, by a stunning 68-26, that the result of the Iraq war hasn't been worth the associated loss of life and other costs.

Does this sound like a group of voters who will be satisfied with a lot of studied vagueness about how the US will get of Iraq? I don't think so. But if they do get what they're looking for--"a clear plan for bringing the situation in Iraq to a successful conclusion", to use Annenberg's locution--John Kerry can have them eating out of his hand.

So what is he waiting for? He should remember what happened in 2002, when voters hated what was going on with the economy, but the Democrats never offered a clear alternative. The Democrats, as a result, never really benefitted from the terrible economy in that election and that contributed (among other things) to their dismal performance that November.

Kerry, of course, is in a much better situation generally in 2004 than the Democrats were in 2002, but he can't afford to be complacent. He shouldn't assume that the negative situation in Iraq will automatically redound to his benefit. If he does, he could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

July 19, 2004

Message Re-Adjustment Time

Yesterday, I had a short post on "Is Our Wages Growing?", which highlighted newly-released data on declining real wages and a front-page New York Times article on same. (I should also mention that the the Sunday Times also had a good Edmund Andrews column on how the shortfall of jobs is actually much worse than the Kerry campaign says, since there are millions of discouraged job-seekers out there who left the labor force in the last few years and who are only now starting to re-enter it. Their large numbers help keep the unemployment rate up and real wages down.)

And, lo and behold, today's Washington Post bring this news--that leading GOP pollster, Bill McInturff, is now recommending that Republicans re-adjust their economic message. According to McInturff, "voters are far more responsive to Sen. John F. Kerry's economic message that talks about a middle-class squeeze than to President Bush's efforts to change public perceptions by talking up recent economic statistics" Therefore, instead of dwelling on these statistics and asserting the economy is doing great (or, as a certain leading Republican politician puts it "strong and getting stronger"), Republicans, McInturff says, need to highlight their concrete plans to make the economy work better.

Of course, the devil's in the details on these concrete plans. McInturff claims that voters will swoon over the GOP message of "additional tax cuts for businesses or tax cuts to help small businesses provide health insurance to their workers". I'm not so sure. While perhaps better than talking about economic statistics, this prescription sounds suspiciously like the economic medicine the Bush administration has been peddling for years. Why would voters get that excited about more of the same? And isn't it interesting that this is the best recommendation one of their smarter strategists can come up with?

But perhaps he has some constraints. Today's GOP is not noted for its open-mindedness and they are, after all, his clients.

July 18, 2004

Can There Be Such a Thing as Too Much Bad News for President Bush?

I didn't think so. So, rather than feeling guilty for piling on, let's take a peek at the new CBS News/New York Times survey. Here are the key findings.

1. Bush's favorable/unfavorable rating is net negative for their fifth survey in a row (going back to the beginning of April).

2. Kerry-Edwards beats Bush-Cheney by 5 points (49-44), including an 8 point lead among independent voters. Note that this 49-44 lead is the identical result that CBS News obtained in their overnight poll after Kerry selected Edwards as his running mate, suggesting that the Edwards bounce has some staying power.

3. Bush's overall approval rating is net negative (45 percent approval/48 percent disapproval) for their fourth survey in a row, going back to late April. His 45 percent rating, while a slight improvement over his late May and late June ratings, keeps him well into the danger zone for incumbents.

4. Right direction/wrong track is at 36/56, essentially unchanged since their last survey about three weeks ago.

5. His approval rating on foreign policy is his worst ever at 39/55, as is his rating on handling the campaign against terrorism (51/43). (Note: this latter trend contradicts a recent Post finding suggesting an improvement in Bush's rating in this area.) His approval rating on the economy is still going nowhere fast and, at 42/51, has still failed to reach the exalted heights of mid-February, when his economic rating reached 44/50. And his approval rating on Iraq is 37/58, practically a carbon copy of his dismal ratings in their late June and late May polls.

6. The Democrats have a 9 point advantage in the generic congressional contest, consistent with the Democracy Corps poll I covered on Friday.

7. John Edwards has a net +22 in his favorability rating, while Dick Cheney is now at -9, his worst rating ever.

8. For the first time, a majority (51 percent) says we should have stayed out Iraq, rather than we did the right thing by taking military action (45 percent). And the highest number ever (62 percent) says the result of the war with Iraq wasn't worth the loss of life and other costs of attacking Iraq.

9. With all the brouhaha in the Senate about the gay marriage constitutional amendment, the number who think gays should be allowed to either marry or form civil unions continues to climb--from 55 percent in March, to 57 percent in May to 59 percent in this latest survey.

10. The highest number ever (60 percent) think the US should not attack another country unless the US is attacked first.

11. The Democrats have an 8 point advantage in party ID without leaners and a 14 point advantage with leaners. Shades of the much-maligned Los Angeles Times poll. This party ID advantage, if it holds, gives the Democrats a built-in advantage on election day, which the Republicans then have to try to desperately counter by maximizing turnout of their base.

For the likelihood that this strategy will work, see my July 15 post.

Is Our Wages Growing?

...as the president might ask. Nope, they're not. This EPI economic snapshot points out that real hourly and weekly earnings not only fell last month, but they have now fallen in six out of the last seven months. All the basic data on these trends can be found in this nifty new release from Bureau of Labor Statistics on "Real Earnings in June 2004". And there is a substantial article on the real wage decline problem in today's New York Times. The trend that dared not speak its name is starting to be heard.

Note that the 1.1 percent drop in real hourly earnings in June is actually the largest drop in hourly earnings since mid-1991, when Bush's father was at the nation's helm.

I think I'm starting to detect a pattern here......

July 16, 2004

No Matter How You Pick Your Horse Race, It's Still Pretty Good News

The good folks at D-Corps have released their latest survey, along with an accompanying analysis memo, "Report on the Stable Framework Favoring John Kerry’s Election". One of the features of the new survey is that they provide not one, not two, not three, but four different horse race results for your edification (all among likely voters).

Kerry-Edwards vs. Bush-Cheney (split sample): 52-45
Kerry vs. Bush (split sample): 50-47
Kerry vs. Bush (combining split samples): 51-46
Kerry vs. Bush vs. Nader: 48-45-4

So pick whichever one suits your methodological fancy, secure in the knowledge that Kerry's ahead in all of 'em.

The D-Corps survey also shows the Democrats up by 7 points (49-42), in the generic congressional contest, another good sign.

The poll, in fact, is full of good signs "favoring John Kerry's election", as they put it in the title of their analysis memo.

For example, the poll has right direction/wrong track at 41/54 and has DCorps' related question "do you think the country should continue in the direction Bush is headed or go in a significantly different direction?" at 43 Bush's direction/54 significantly different direction.

Moreover, when this question is applied to 9 different specific issue areas, voters only want to continue in Bush's direction on one area, the war on terrorism (54/43), but even here Bush's net of +11 is sharply down from a net of +33 in January. In all other areas, Bush is net negative on which direction the country should go in: prescription drug coverage for seniors (-27); jobs in America (-12); middle class living standards (-11); education (-11); foreign policy (-10); Iraq (-10); the economy (-8); and taxes (-6).

The poll also asked about whether voters preferred Kerry or Bush on handling a wide variety of issues. Bush has a lead on the war on terrorism (11 points) and on Iraq (4 points) and is tied on foreign policy. On all other issues, ranging from the economy, education and taxes to jobs, middle class living standards an energy policy, Kerry is ahead by from 3-11 points.

Consistent with other recent polls, the survey finds negative sentiment about Iraq continuing to worsen. By 15 points (56-41), voters now say the war in Iraq was not worth the cost of US lives and dollars. And, by a 52-45 margin, voters now believe that the Iraq war has made us less, not more, secure.

On the economy, it's worth quoting the DCorps analysis memo at length:

In the great majority of areas, people are worried more, not less – particularly about health care costs, which jumped 8 points this month alone (to 54 percent very worried). While worry about gas prices has fallen off a little, the dominant pattern is growing worries about health care costs and employers cutting back benefits, particularly for health care.

Not surprisingly, Democrats continue to win the essential economic debate between a middle class squeezed and the evidence of economic progress. By 59 to 38 percent, voters believe that the middle class faces stagnant incomes, scarce jobs, cuts in benefits as health care costs are rising; not as the economists say, that the economy is showing signs of success, with increased employment, high home ownership, stock values and the like. That outcome of that debate remains largely unchanged, with the slightest of narrowing. Giving stability to this structure are the 51 percent who “strongly” reject the economic progress argument, down only 2 points from June and 5 points from May. Still, a majority of the electorate, on the eve of the Democratic convention, strongly reject Bush’s core case for progress.

I realize D-Corps' analysis can seem a bit over-optimistic at times, making even DR seem like kind of a grumpy Gus. But, on the other hand, as these and other data accumulate, it does seem like a measure of real optimism may be in order.

July 15, 2004

Bah, We Don' Need No Stinkin' Swing Voters!

Is this great or what? The Washington Post had a front-page article today on "Bush Fortifies Conservative Base: Campaign Seeks Solid Support Before Wooing Swing Voters". According to the story--which is certainly consistent with the Bush campaign's recent choice of rhetoric and audience--the campaign is concentrating single-mindedly on shoring up its conservative base and getting it revved up for the election. As for the swing voters and independents....well, they're just hoping that the same hardline approach they're taking to tax cuts and terrorism to reach GOP partisans will, as kind of an ancillary benefit, somehow also yield a reasonable number of swing voters.

It's the Zen approach to reaching swing voters! You can't hit the target if you're aiming at it!

Or, as James Carville is quoted as saying in the article: "It's a new way to run for president...usually you quietly shore up your base and aggressively court the swing voter, Bush is aggressively shoring up his base and quietly courting the swing voter."

The former approach, of course, is what Kerry is pursuing--he's taking advantage of the exceptionally united Democratic base to go out there and assiduously cultivate swing voters and independents. And the polling data suggest these voters are very open to the Kerry message and are leaning heavily in his direction (see, for example, my many posts over the last several months on independent voters, this post on persuadable voters in swing states and these two recent memos by Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio on undecided voters in battleground states and on “approval gap” voters in battleground states).

These well-known facts have led some GOP partisans to run up the white flag on swing voters, arguing that they are few in number anyway, and put their faith in high turnout of "their people". The reliably hardline, but influential, Grover Norquist has this to say:

How much time and energy do you give to picking up the 10 percent, who are disengaged from politics, and how do you communicate with them even if you want to? You can go to the 45 percent [who already support Bush] and ask them to bring a brother or a sister or a friend to the polls.

Does any of this make any sense or is it properly viewed as an adjustment to political weakness (disunity in the conservative ranks and unfriendly swing voters) that is perhaps congealing into a foolish strategy (the heck with those swing voters, let's call Aunt Mary and get her to the polls!). I believe it's the latter.

Consider this analysis. The article asserts that Republicans have been supporting Bush at about the 90 percent level in this campaign. Averaging the last four Gallup polls, that's about true. But it's also true that, averaging the last four Gallup polls, that Democratic support for Kerry has been running near that level and that the margins of support each candidate enjoys among their partisans are pretty close. Therefore, it appears unlikely that Bush will have as much of an advantage as he did in 2000 from a wider margin among Republicans than his opponent had among Democrats.

If that's true, then Bush is toast unless he erases the Democrats' traditional turnout advantage in Presidential election years (Democrats generally run 3-4 points higher as a proportion of voters), since that advantage won't be offset much by the Republicans' superior margin among their partisans. (That could be part of the reasoning behind their base mobilization strategy.)

But then there are those pesky independent voters! You can erase the Democrats' turnout advantage--which I am, incidentally, quite skeptical they can do, based on recent party ID trends and apparent mobilization levels among Democrats and Democratic organizations--and still wind up losing handily because the independent voters break the tie against you.

And in the last four Gallup polls, independents are averaging a 14 point margin against Bush. To make up that deficit, Republicans would have to not only equalize their turnout with Democrats--against historical patterns--but actually beat the Democrats by about 4 points as a proportion of voters.

I don't think this is remotely plausible. Such a scenario is only possible with high mobilization of Republicans that is not counterbalanced at all by mobilization of Democrats. That just isn't going to happen this year (memo to Rove, Dowd and loveable ole Grover: we're not in 2002 any more); to think it might is a complete fantasy.

But I hope they keep believing it! And let Kerry-Edwards have the swing voters and independents all to themselves.

July 14, 2004

Now That You Mention It, I Guess It Wasn't Such a Good Idea

Bush today reiterated that the war with Iraq was the right call and said he'd happily do the same thing again.

The American public, on the other hand, has its doubts. In the Gallup poll I reported on yesterday, the public, by 54 percent to 45 percent says that sending troops to Iraq was a mistake. And, by 50-47, the public believes it wasn't worth going to war with Iraq.

The new Washington Post poll tells the same story: 53 percent now think the war with Iraq wasn't worth fighting, compared to 45 percent who believe it was. That's the Post poll's most negative finding on this question.

These findings are big, big trouble for the Bush-Cheney campaign. They indicate that the transfer of power to the new Iraqi government isn't fooling anyone. Voters believe--rightly--that the situation in Iraq isn't getting much better, that we're still militarily and financially responsible for keeping the situation under control and that our initial involvement in Iraq was based on allegations and intelligence that have turned out to be mostly wrong.

No wonder Bush's approval rating on Iraq isn't going anywhere. In the Post poll, it has slightly declined over the last three weeks to 43 percent approval/55 percent disapproval (40/57 among independents). And, over the same period, Kerry has moved into a tie with Bush (47-47) over who could do a better job handling the Iraq situation, up from a 5 point deficit three weeks ago. (Note, though, in a bit of good news for Bush, his approval rating on handling the campaign against terrorism improved 5 points to 55/43 and he re-opened a 9 point advantage over Kerry on who would do the best job handling the anti-terrorism campaign.)

On the economy, the poll shows no gain for Bush--in fact, a small slide--in his economic approval rating. He's down a couple of points in the last three weeks to 43/51 and the poll--in contrast to some recent Gallup data--shows only 35 percent saying the nation's economy is getting better, about the same number as were optimistic in their mid-April poll. And only a about a quarter (26 percent) say their family financial situation is better than it was a year ago. In addition, Kerry has widened his lead over Bush on handling the economy to 8 points from a 5 point advantage three weeks ago.

The poll also shows some significant gains for Kerry on key personal characteristics. Since late April, Bush has remained rock steady at 42 percent yes/57 percent no on understanding "the problems of people like you". Kerry in contrast has gone from 52 yes/43 no to 55/38.

On being "a strong leader", Bush has declined several points to 59 yes/40 no, while Kerry has move up from 52/38 to 55/35. That actually gives Kerry a higher net rating (+20) than Bush (+19). Similarly, on "can be trusted in a crisis", Bush has declined a bit to 57/41, while Kerry has climbed significantly to 53/34 from 46/42. Again, this gives Kerry a higher net rating (+19) than Bush (+16).

And just to add insult to injury for the Bush campaign, Kerry is now deemed "likeable" by more of the public (72 percent) than Bush (68 percent).

One final note on the horse race: the Post, for whatever reason, only provides a three way matchup in this poll, rather than both the two way and three way, as they had previously. In that three way matchup among RVs, Kerry and Bush are dead-even (46-46). I'd be tempted to ascribe Kerry's lack of advantage at least partially to the inclusion of Nader, but when compared to the Gallup poll (discussed yesterday), that turns out to explain absolutely nothing. In the Gallup poll, the RV horse race with Nader included actually gives Kerry an slightly larger advantage (8 points) than the straight Kerry-Bush matchup. And the survey dates for Gallup and the Post are exactly the same (July 8-11).

So we have RVs, Kerry-Bush-Nader, July 8-11 in one poll (Gallup) giving Kerry an 8 point lead and RVs, Kerry-Bush-Nader, July 8-11 in another poll (Post) giving Kerry no lead at all.

Go figure.

July 13, 2004

Kerry-Edwards Up By 7

The latest Gallup poll, consistent with the analysis I posted yesterday, shows the Kerry-Edwards ticket getting a warm reception from voters. In the poll, Kerry-Edwards leads Bush-Cheney by 7 points (51-44) among RVs. That's up from a 4 point lead in Gallup's last poll about three weeks ago.

Internals of this horse race question also look very good for the Democratic ticket. Kerry-Edwards have a very healthy 13 point lead among independents (50-37). And Democrats are supporting their ticket even more strongly (92-6) than the Republicans are supporting theirs (87-9); the reverse has generally been true in the campaign up 'til now.

Kerry-Edwards also have a wide 19 point lead in the solid blue states (58-39) and, even more important, a substantial 10 point lead in the purple, up-for-grabs states (51-41).

In addition, the Kerry-Edwards ticket enjoys a substantial advantage in favorability ratings over the Bush-Cheney ticket. Kerry's favorability rating is 56 percent favorable/34 percent unfavorable (a +22 net rating), while Bush's is 52/46 (+6). Similarly, Edwards' favorability rating is 55/24 (+31), while Cheney's is 46/42 (+4).

Guess those attack ads didn't work so well after all.

July 12, 2004

Bounce or Not, It Looks Like the Kerry-Edwards Ticket Is Playing Very Well Indeed

The overnight polls taken last Tuesday (see my July 7 post) suggested Kerry's selection of Edwards as his running mate gave the Democratic ticket a bit of a bounce. But right after that, a couple of polls were released that cast doubt on that supposition, since neither poll showed Kerry doing particularly well compared to their earlier surveys (though these earlier surveys were about a month before in each case, so not exactly ideal for measuring a before-and-after bounce).

The Ipsos-AP poll (July 5-7) actually showed Bush ahead by 4 points, whether against Kerry or teamed with Cheney against Kerry-Edwards. On the other hand, the Ipsos-AP poll has the dubious distinction of never having shown Kerry ahead, despite fairly frequent polling.

The Zogby poll (July 6-7) showed Kerry ahead by 2 points, whether against Bush or teamed with Edwards against Bush-Cheney--exactly the margin Kerry had a month before. But then again, despite fairly frequent polling, Kerry has been ahead of Bush by a remarkably stable 2-3 points in all Zogby polls this year, with just one exception (early May).

So who knows what the results of those two polls really mean about the Edwards bounce. Besides, we now have two more recent polls that underscore the basic idea that, bounce or not, the Kerry-Edwards ticket is getting a pretty warm reception.

In the Time magazine poll (July 6-8), Kerry leads Bush among RVs by 5 points (48-43). Bush's low support in that horse race question is re-inforced by his identically low support (43 percent) in the related re-elect question (does Bush "deserve to be re-elected?").

Consistent with previous polls, those who say Edwards' selection will make them more likely to vote for the Kerry ticket (24 percent) far outnumber those who say his selection will make them less likely (6 percent). That's in contrast to Cheney, where 23 percent of voters say his position on the ticket makes it less likely they will vote GOP, compared to just 11 percent who say it will make them more likely.

Other contrasts with Cheney in this poll: Edwards' favorability rating is 39 percent favorable/12 percent unfavorable; Cheney's is 41 percent/40 percent. By about 2:1, the public feels positively about Kerry's choice of Edwards (52/27); but more feel negatively (50 percent) than positively (45 percent) about Bush's choice of Cheney. Over half of the public (51 percent) feels less favorable about Cheney because he is the ex-CEO of Halliburton; but, by more than 2:1 (55/26), the public feels Edwards' background means he will fight for the average person, rather than contribute to frivolous lawsuits.

And perhaps most important, when asked who would make a better president, 47 percent of the public chooses Edwards and just 38 percent pick Cheney.

The new Newsweek poll (July 8-9) has a number of similar and, in some cases, stronger findings. Kerry-Edwards leads Bush-Cheney among RVs by 6 points, 51-45 (annoyingly, the clear lead for Kerry-Edwards in this poll is portrayed as a "tie" in the Newsweek online headlines; guess that's the party line at the magazine these days).

The horse race results also show Kerry-Edwards leading Bush-Cheney by 19 points (!) among independents (even with Nader in the mix), a catastrophic number for the Bush campaign if anything close to this lead holds up for the Democrats. Other bad signs for the Bush campaign (all results with Nader in the mix; no analabous data were provided on the 2-way matchup): Bush-Cheney only have a 3 point lead among men; Kerry-Edwards leads by 13 among 18-29 year olds and even by 6 among 30-49 year olds; and Kerry-Edwards actually has a 2 point lead among whites outside the south.

Note that Bush's re-elect in this poll is identical with his poor showing in the Time poll: a mere 43 percent say they would like to see Bush re-elected.

In terms of whether Edwards is qualified to be president, 51 percent in the poll say yes and 30 percent say no--and that rises to 62/23 among independents. Also, when asked who they would vote for if they could vote separately for vice-president 52 percent of voters choose Edwards, compared to 41 percent for Cheney (59/33 among independents.

Based on these data, I'd have to say Kerry's selection of Edwards looks like it's playing very well indeed. And the contrast with Cheney very much looks like it's in the Democratic ticket's favor.

July 9, 2004

Young Voters Moving Democratic (Even Before Edwards!)

It seems plausible that adding Edwards will enhance the Democratic ticket's appeal to young voters. And that's on top of Kerry's already-strong performance among these voters--a trend I have repeatedly flagged in DR. Here are some more findings underscoring that trend, this time from the Newsweek GenNext poll, on how well the Democrats are poised to do with young voters, gathered before Edwards was added to the ticket.

1. Young voters give Democrats a 10 point edge on party ID (50-40).

2. Young voters give Bush a 43 percent approval rating, with 55 percent disapproval, his worst rating yet among young voters in this poll. And all his other approval ratings among young voters are net negative as well and mostly worse than his overall approval rating: the economy (43/56); domestic issues like health care, education, the environment and energy (40/56); foreign policy issues and the war on terrorism (47/52); and the situation in Iraq (39/60).

3. The Democrats have a 10 point lead in the generic Congressional contest (50-40).

4. Kerry has a 9 point lead over Bush in the presidential trial heat (49-40), even with Nader drawing 7 percent support. And note that Nader's support appears to be falling among young voters--every one of these surveys since March, when Nader peaked at 12 percent, has recorded a drop in Nader's support.

Really, the only problem for the Democrats here is if young voters have exceptionally low turnout in November. But the opposite appears likely to happen, according to a just-released analysis by the Pew Research Center.

That's good for democracy--and very good for the Democrats.

July 8, 2004

Oh, So Bush Is Going to Lose, Is He?

At least that's if you believe Matthew Dowd's assertion that "historical analysis suggests John Kerry should have a lead of more than 15 points coming out of his convention". That assertion of Dowd's has been mentioned again and again in recent news stories on the campaign, particularly since Edwards was selected by Kerry and appeared to give the ticket a bounce.

Every time I've seen this Dowd prediction, I've scratched my head and thought: "that's completely nuts--it can't possibly be true that a 15 point lead is normal". But I've been a bit busy and never got around to doing the spadework to show how nuts that prediction is.

And now I don't have to. Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio has helpfully provided the relevant data in a piece on the National Review website, blasting Dowd for, essentially, predicting Bush is going to lose.

This is because:

1. Since 1960, no incumbent president has come back from being 15 points down at the beginning of August to win re-election. In fact, no incumbent's come back from being 10 points down to win.

2. The average bounce from an incumbent president's convention since 1960 is about 6 points. Therefore--contrary to Dowd's assertion that the Republican convention would even things up--a 15 point lead after the Democratic convention would likely leave Bush still 9 points behind after his convention.

Another interesting angle on the Dowd prediction: given that the average bounce from a challenger's convention is about 7 points, does that mean Dowd now believes Kerry is up by 8 points--since otherwise how could Kerry come out of his convention with a 15 point lead based on "historical analysis"?

I suppose it's all about the expectations game: predict some outlandish bad outcome for your candidate and then when it doesn't occur claim things are going your way. But has it come to this: to make their candidate look good, Republican spinners now have to predict that his situation will soon be hopeless?

July 7, 2004

Edwards Polling Roundup

A number of polls were released today indicating a positive reaction to Kerry's selection of Edwards as his running mate and suggesting an immediate boost to the Democratic ticket. CBS News, for example, found the Kerry-Edwards ticket besting Bush-Cheney by 5 points (49-44) among RVs, while Kerry alone was leading Bush by only a point (45-44) 10 days ago.

That poll also finds Cheney with a heavily net negative (-20) favorability rating--only 27 percent favorable, compared to 47 percent unfavorable. Edwards is not rated by many respondents but those who do view him favorably by an even larger margin (38 percent favorable/9 percent unfavorable, for a +29 net rating) than Cheney is viewed unfavorably.

Even more impressive, in NBC News' overnight poll, Kerry-Edwards leads Bush-Cheney by 11 points (54-43). Moreover, 24 percent day Edwards' selection makes them more likely to vote for Kerry, compared to just 7 percent who say that selection makes them less likely.

Could Edwards be president? The public thinks so, even if Bush ("Cheney can be president, next") does not. By 45 percent to 38 percent, voters pick Edwards over Cheney as the one who do the better job running the country. And, by 49 percent to 28 percent, voters pick Edwards over Cheney as one who is more optimistic about the future of the country.

The poll also finds Bush's approval ratings still languishing at 45 percent approval/48 percent disapproval. But at least he's doing better than Cheney who only receives a 44 percent approval rating.

Gallup's polling doesn't include a horse race question, but has some very interesting data anyway, particularly comparisons with earlier years. For example, 28 percent of voters rate Kerry's choice of Edwards as "excellent" and 36 percent as "very good", for a 64 percent positive rating. By contrast, Bush's selection of Cheney was rated positively by 55 percent (including just 10 percent excellent) and Gore's selection of Lieberman was rated positively by 53 percent (including 18 percent excellent).

In addition, 22 percent of voters (40 percent of Democrats) say they are "enthusiastic" about Kerry's choice of Edwards and 48 percent of voters (also 48 percent of Democrats) are "satisfied".

In an identical finding to the NBC News survey, 24 percent say they are more likely to vote for Kerry because of Edwards' selection, compared to 7 percent who say they are less likely. That's a more positive effect than either the Lieberman or Cheney selection elicited in 2000 (though not as good as the Kemp selection in 1996 or the Gore selection in 1992--a pattern that runs through much of the other data).

Edwards also is rated qualified to serve as president by as many voters as rated Cheney qualified in 2000 (57 percent) and by more than rated Lieberman qualified (52 percent).

Similarly, Kerry's choice of Edwards is rated favorably by as many voters as rated Bush's selection of Cheney favorably (64 percent) and by more voters than rated Gore's selection of Lieberman favorably (57 percent).

Finally, are voters going to look askance at Edwards because he's a trial lawyer? On the contrary, according to the Gallup data people overwhelmingly (67 percent) see Edwards' trial lawyer experience as a strength (major/26 percent; minor/41 percent), rather than a weakness.

So score that opening round for Kerry-Edwards.

All Hail Steve Rosenthal!

The Washington Post on Tuesday had a long profile of Steve Rosenthal, the head of America Coming Together and former political director of the AFL-CIO. I have some acquaintance with Rosenthal and I think the article fairly captures both his personality and his devastating effectiveness as an organizer.

So, if you're wonder where else to send your money besides the Kerry-Edwards campaign, send off a check to Rosenthal's organization. Believe me, they will use your money well.

July 6, 2004

If You Don't Believe Me, Read Paul Krugman

On July 2nd, I posted my rant on "About That 'Booming' Economy", taking off from the poor June job numbers. If I didn't quite convince you, Paul Krugman's column today, "Bye-Bye, Bush Boom" should.

Here's the key section of the article, but you should read the whole thing:

When March's numbers came in much better than expected, I cautioned readers not to make too much of one good month. Similarly, we shouldn't make too much of June's disappointment. The question is whether, taking a longer perspective, the economy is performing well. And the answer is no.

If you want a single number that tells the story, it's the percentage of adults who have jobs. When Mr. Bush took office, that number stood at 64.4. By last August it had fallen to 62.2 percent. In June, the number was 62.3. That is, during Mr. Bush's first 30 months, the job situation deteriorated drastically. Last summer it stabilized, and since then it may have improved slightly. But jobs are still very scarce, with little relief in sight.

Bush campaign ads boast that 1.5 million jobs were added in the last 10 months, as if that were a remarkable achievement. It isn't. During the Clinton years, the economy added 236,000 jobs in an average month. Those 1.5 million jobs were barely enough to keep up with a growing working-age population.

In the spring, it seemed as if the pace of job growth was accelerating: in March and April, the economy added almost 700,000 jobs. But that now looks like a blip — a one-time thing, not a break in the trend. May growth was slightly below the Clinton-era average, and June's numbers — only 112,000 new jobs, and a decline in working hours — were pretty poor.

What about overall growth? After two and a half years of slow growth, real G.D.P. surged in the third quarter of 2003, growing at an annual rate of more than 8 percent. But that surge appears to have been another blip. In the first quarter of 2004, growth was down to 3.9 percent, only slightly above the Clinton-era average. Scattered signs of weakness — rising new claims for unemployment insurance, sales warnings at Target and Wal-Mart, falling numbers for new durable goods orders — have led many analysts to suspect that growth slowed further in the second quarter.

And economic growth is passing working Americans by. The average weekly earnings of nonsupervisory workers rose only 1.7 percent over the past year, lagging behind inflation.

In short, things aren't all that great and--as I've repeatedly pointed out--voters know this. And now, of course, we have John Edwards on the ticket, who can make the reality behind these numbers come alive on the campaign trail. That should further intensify the Bush campaign's trouble defending their economic record.

Good Move, John Kerry!

I only wrote one post about the vice president issue and it was this one: "Edwards for Vice President". Guess it worked.

I'm pleasantly surprised that Kerry had the good sense to do what seemed like the obviously best thing to do. For months, I've been joking with people that Edwards as vice president is such a good idea that of course Kerry will never do it. I couldn't be happier to be proved wrong.

My views on why this move is likely to pay off haven't changed much since I wrote the post linked to above, so allow me the liberty of quoting myself:

I believe [Edwards] would make a substantial contribution to increasing the ticket's appeal among white working class voters in culturally conservative swing states, especially where it is most necessary--outside of the unionized working class. Even if one assumes that Gephardt has appeal to the unionized rank-and-file of the working class, as opposed to labor leaders, that still leaves out the vast majority of the white working class--well over four-fifths. And it is among these non-unionized white working class voters that Democrats have had the most trouble and where Gore got really hammered in 2000.

One particular trouble spot is among those with some college--the upwardly striving working class. Because of severe underperformance among whites with this educational credential, Gore lost the group as a whole by 6 points in 2000. Bill Clinton, on the other hand, won them by 8 points in 1996.

If John Edwards can help Kerry get close to Bill Clinton's 1996 performance with these voters, there's the election.

July 5, 2004


What should John Kerry do? I wrote recently on the recent jobs report and how that and other factors suggest that voters' views of the economy are unlikely to brighten fast enough to be a net plus for Bush's re-election efforts.

That said, the level of economic pessimism as we approach the election is highly unlikely to be as low as that Bush's father had to struggle with. Kerry, as Louis Uchitelle pointed out in an excellent article in the Sunday New York Times, is therefore likely to have to emphasize domestic proposals like his health care plan rather than simply dwell on how bad the economy is. Uchitelle goes on to give perhaps the best and most complete summary of Kerry's domestic program and its relation to Kerry's macroeconomic strategy, including deficit reduction, that I have seen. Highly recommended.

New Annenberg Election Survey Data

The Annenberg Election Survey recently released their latest batch of data, covering June 16-30. Their theme for this release is the under-rated marriage gap--which, as they note, in some cases is larger and more significant than the more familiar gender gap.

But not in all. Careful scrutinizing of their own data reveals that the gender gap is larger than the marriage gap on some important issues (guns, right direction/wrong track, the Iraq war) and, generally speaking, married women are more liberal than married men and single women are much more liberal than single men.

But, if they don't quite make their case about the marriage gap overwhelming the gender gap, they're still right that the marriage gap desevers more serious attention than it generally gets.

The latest Annenberg data also show Bush's approval rating sinking in the second half of June, wrong track going up and views that the Iraq situation wasn't worth going to war over strengthening--all consistent with other recently-released public polls (except for that zany bunch down at Fox News, of course).

July 2, 2004

About That "Booming" Economy

I have devoted some effort to debunking the administration's claims of a booming economy and the deplorable tendency of the press to fall into line and parrot these claims without putting them into context. Now here comes the new jobs report which should tax the ability of the administration and the press to claim the economy is going like gangbusters.

Here are the key findings:

1. The economy only added 112,000 jobs in June, well below expectations and far short of the numbers generated in the last three months (which, incidentally, were revised downward slightly). As Representative Pete Stark (D-Calif) correctly points out: "Despite 10 months of job growth, there are still 1.1 million fewer non-farm payroll jobs than there were when President Bush took office. There are 1.8 million fewer private payroll jobs, including 2.7 million fewer manufacturing jobs".

2. Manufacturing employement contracted by 11,000 jobs, ending a short spurt of job growth in that sector.

3. Average hourly wages went up only .1 percent in nominal terms last month. That means real wages (wages adjusted for inflation) almost certainly went down last month--again. As EPI's Job Picture points out, that means "real hourly earnings will be down in real terms over the past year, and will have fallen in six of the past seven months". In fact, as a recent EPI Economic Snapshot observes, real wages are now the lowest they've been in two years.

But what does President Bush have to say? You guessed it: "...the economy is strong and getting stronger". Trouble for him is, voters, living as they do in the real economy, don't agree.

The recent NBC News poll asked voters how strongly they agreed, on a five point scale where 5 is totally agree and 1 is totally disagree, with the following statement, which is, almost verbatim, the standard Bush riff on the economy:

Our economy is strong and it is getting stronger. America has added more than one-point-four million new jobs since last August. The rate of home ownership in America is at an all-time high, business investment is growing, the stock market is improving, consumer confidence is increasing, and personal incomes are on the rise.

Just 16 percent gave it a "5" (totally agree) and another 19 percent gave it a "4". Not so good. And here's the other statement NBC News gave to voters, which sounds like it came out of a Kerry speech:

The net loss of one-point-two million private-sector jobs is a serious challenge for the American economy. Middle-class families are also increasingly being squeezed by the rising costs of health care, college tuition, and gasoline at the same time that wages and incomes are stagnating and personal bankruptcies are at a record high.

This one sounded way more plausible to voters--46 percent gave it a "5" and another 19 percent a "4".

And you know what?--it not only sounds more plausible, it is more plausible. Let's hope this latest jobs report wakes up the press to that reality.

July 1, 2004

The Polls Are All Singing the Same Song

Another major poll, another boatload of bad news for the Bush campaign. Here's the latest from NBC News/Wall Street Journal on what the public thinks, very consistent with other recently-released data.

1. Bush is doing a lousy job. His overall approval rating is 45 percent, with 49 pecent disapproval, lowest ever in this poll. His approval rating on the economy is identical, an improvement from NBC News' May rating but still net negative and about in line with their March rating, which pre-dated almost all of the recent job growth. His foreign policy rating is lower at 44/52 and his rating on "dealing with the war on terrorism" is now under 50 percent, with approval (48 percent) barely higher than disapproval (47 percent). The last time NBC News asked this question was in January and it makes for quite a contrast. In January, Bush was a net +32 on his war on terrorism approval rating (63/31). Now he's down to +1--a big, big change.

2. The country's not going in the right direction. In the NBC News poll, just 36 percent think so, up 3 points from May, but still down 7 points from March in this poll.

3. The economy is still in trouble. A strong majority (57 percent) continues to think that "the signs point to an economy that is going to be in trouble--jobs are moving overseas, the budget deficit is growing, and too many jobs do not have health insurance or pensions" rather than "the signs point to an economy that is going to be strong--jobs are being created, inflation is low, and the stock market is up".

4. The war wasn't really worth it. The number who believe removing Saddam from power was worth "the number of US casualties and the financial costs of the war" is down to 40 percent, the lowest ever in this poll, with a majority (51 percent) saying it wasn't.

5. The war hasn't made us safer. A majority (51 percent) thinks the threat of terrorism against the US has been increased by the Iraq war, compared to only 14 percent who think it has decreased.

6. Bush lied or at least exaggerated. A majority (53 percent) now say that Bush "exagerrate information to make the case for war" rather than provided the most accurate information (42 percent). Three months ago, this question returned a 49-49 split. Also, for the first time, a plurality (47 percent) say Bush "deliberately misled people to make the case for war" rather than gave the most accurate information (44 percent). That's a reversal from three months ago when, by 53-41, people said Bush did not deliberately mislead people.

7. Let's try to get out of here, shall we?. By 53-37, the public worries more that we will stay in Iraq too long than that we will leave too soon. A majority (55 percent) either want to leave immediately/as soon as possible (24 percent) or according to a specified timetable but within 18 months "regardless of the situation at the time" (31 percent). And 74 percent say that, if Iraqi civilian leaders can't govern effectively, the US should not take back control but rather let the Iraqis work things out for themselves.

That's what the public thinks. Over to you, John Kerry.