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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.

Comments

I keep reading that Bush has a lead over Kerry by 2-6 points on who people trust on the "war on terror."

How is this reconciled against these reports?

Here's an excerpt from the current White House Briefing http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/politics/administration/whbriefing/


Among the findings, a mixed bag:

55 percent approve of the way Bush is handling the campaign against terrorism, up five points in the past three weeks.

51 percent trust Bush more than Kerry to deal with terrorism.

He was bound to get a bump from the faux-handover and also the media's glee in ignoring the constant deaths of our soldiers.

I find this puzzling, too, Alan. Do you think it is due in part to the terror alert stuff that the administration has been doing re the election? Perhaps there are people who think that this shows decisiveness or that talking about terror is the same as doing something about it?

I was watching Jon Stewart late last night riffing off of W's "Americans are Safer" speech. He repeated it like six or seven times.

Stewart was asking based on what? The fixed report that says terrorisim acts have hit an all time peak? The ongoing slaughter in Iraq? Ridge's vague terror alerts?

I think much of the poll numbers are driven by people who might not be stupid, but stupified.

I don't think those polls are bad for Bush. It shows he has a 45% hardcore supporter base. Bill Clinton here is his blog won the election in 92 with a minority of the votes against Bush sr. and Perot. I don't think Bush is going for the landslide, he's going for the win, however small it is.

I think a lot of people would think that it's "unpatriotic" to disapprove of "the way Bush is handling terrorism". This may sound irrational, but do you think everybody who answers polls gives completely rational, non-emotion influenced answers? On less "patriotically" oriented questions, such as "do you think Bush deserves another term", W consistently gets about 46% yes, 51% no. This number is rather telling...

My personal pulse taking of R feelings (e.g., right-wing blogs) find that "conservatives" are lukewarm about him. One person posted this thought: "We have a R house, R senate and R president. How come we still don't get conservative policies?" You can fool some of the people all of the time...

Cherry, challengers have not infrequently come into office with less-than-majorities in multi-party splits (Lincoln, Wilson, Nixon, Clinton), but you don't want to bet on that as a re-election strategy. Wilson and Clinton did both get just under 50% the second time around, but most evidence there was that the splinter parties cost them the majority, not that they shifted the outcome of the election. The Nader scenario -- enough lefties staying with the egomaniac to let Bush win, despite identifying far more closely with challenger Kerry -- doesn't have much precedent.

I think conventional wisdom, while often off-base, is correct in this instance: an incumbent president doing under 50% is headed for defeat. And, except for one outlier Annenberg poll, Bush hasn't seen the number 50 since March or April. (I'd also suggest that the apparent sudden softening of the not-all-that-great-to-begin-with economic figures could bring the number down as summer progresses)

Ruy, I'm surprised to see that you've yet to comment on the Kerry/Edwards team's new invocation of "values" in the context of material issues like health care, education, taxes. Sounds like they read your last book.

Cherry,

You have to figure that, absent some McGovern-like loss, Bush is going to get at least 45% of the vote, just like Kerry will. Where the other 10-20% each side is competing for will land will become clearer as we approach election day.

Personally, I think the Republicans are starting to realize that they are in bigger trouble than they once thought they would be. ABC's The Note ran over a few items yesterday that led me to give this idea a little more weight, but the real indication was that the campaign has hired a private investigation firm to dig up stuff about Kerry's military past. They are becoming desparate.

> I think conventional wisdom, while often
> off-base, is correct in this instance: an incumbent
> president doing under 50% is headed for defeat.
> And, except for one outlier Annenberg poll, Bush
> hasn't seen the number 50 since March or April.


Yeah -- but the approval/disapproval ratings still seem to be heading his way now. Check these two charts, and it seems he is almost back in 50-50 territory.

http://www.pollkatz.homestead.com/files/pollkatzmainGRAPHICS_8911_image001.gif

http://www.pollkatz.homestead.com/files/pollkatzmainGRAPHICS_9432_image001.gif

I really, REALLY wish "Shrub" will be looking for another job next February, but I still can't truly believe he is "finished" as Ruy seems to think.


MARCU$

Marcus, I can't see the up trend for Bush that you're seeing in those Pollkatz charts. The aggregate trend looks like it might be flattening out a little, especially in the disapproval figures, but that's to be expected as the numbers start to cut into Bush's base-- these people are going to be harder to persuade. No use wailing about it; it's true in every election.

Also, the slowdown doesn't mean that we're approaching an absolute floor; something similar seemed to be happening in the fall of 2003 (and was hysterically identified as a "Bush bounce"), but after the real Bush bounce that followed the capture of Saddam Hussein, somehow the numbers didn't respect that floor any more, and sank lower.

The rest is just noise, and the usual spread between different polls because of methodological systematics. That the most recent numbers on the chart happen to be near the top of that band doesn't mean anything. Even Zogby has had high outliers before.

...On the other hand, I'm not going to state confidently that Bush is finished. We're at the point that state-by-state numbers start to become important, and that electoral story is still ambiguous, especially if the fix is in in Florida to the extent that it seems to be; I don't think the election is going to be completely rigged nationwide, but I'm cynical enough to think that Kerry can't count on getting Florida even if he wins over a considerable majority of public opinion there.

And if Kerry can't get Florida, this election is going to be won and lost in the old industrial/mining states: the Great Lakes area, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Those states are still up for grabs.

You know what is the sad part? It's how the media like MSNBC tried to sell this glitz of the "transfer of power" they had the graphics for it and everything. I bet they are sorry they did that.