« State of the Race | Main | Kerry Takes Lead in WP/ABC Tracking Poll »

Notes on the Latest Gallup Poll

1. Tomorrow's debate is about domestic issues. Here is Kerry versus Bush in ten domestic issue areas polled by Gallup (issue data summary provided by Alan Abramowitz):

The environment: Kerry 60 percent, Bush 31 percent
Stem cell research: Kerry 53 percent, Bush 33 percent
Health care: Kerry 56 percent, Bush 37 percent
Medicare: Kerry 53 percent, Bush 38 percent
Federal budget deficit: Kerry 53 percent, Bush 40 percent
Social Security: Kerry 50 percent, Bush 41 percent
Education: Kerry 50 percent, Bush 43 percent
The economy: Kerry 49 percent, Bush 45 percent
Abortion: Kerry 46 percent, Bush 42 percent
Taxes: Kerry 44 percent, Bush 51 percent

Average of all ten domestic issues: Kerry 51.4 percent, Bush 40.1 percent

2. While the race is tied 48-48 in Gallup's 2-way RV matchup, Kerry leads by 5 in the battleground states and by 8 among independents.

3. The gender gap is alive and well. Kerry leads Bush by 9 among women and trails Bush by 9 among men.

4. While the party ID distribution seems more reasonable in this poll than in many recent Gallup polls, if you re-weight their 2-way RV data by the 2000 exit poll distribution, you actually get a 4 point Kerry lead, not the dead heat they report.

That result would tend to imply that the party ID distribution is about even in this poll. However, Steve Soto got Gallup to give him the party ID distribution for the RV sample in this poll and they reported a 36R/34D/29I distribution. Interesting. That distribution, based on their reported internals for the RV sample, would actually give Bush a 1 point lead among RVs, not the dead heat they report.

I can't explain this discrepancy, I merely report it. It's also a bit puzzling that Gallup reports a 4 point Republican party ID advantage in their LV sample--i.e., 2 points more Republican than they say their RV sample is--but that same LV sample yields a 2 point Kerry lead. In other words, the LV sample is 2 points more Republican yet produces a result that's 2 points more Democratic.

Go figure.


(1) My answer to the 'go figure' would be to guess that the Democrats who KNOW they will vote are for Kerry, while those who are RVs are uneasy and often leaning towards Bush. Democrats as a whole might be pro-Kerry but nonLV Democrats might lean by a few extra points in another direction; nonLV Repubs might be about the same as LV Repubs, thus shifting the total in an opposite direction from Party distrib. (???? guess)
(2) I just heard Andrew Kohut from Pew on Cspan talking to a group of women for Kerry. He explained that non-landline voters are less than 10% by far of eligible voters and vote in much smaller numbers (he estimated less than 3% of total turnout). Since they aren't ALL Democrats, he felt the impact on the election balance is miniscule, but could matter if margins are razor thin. He seemed to understate it, and overstate his certainty, but it is worth taking into account
(3) What is with this business (Oct 9 NY Times op-ed) about the Kerry/Edwards logo conveying weakness and confusion? The argument, by a graphic arts designer, sounded quite convincing, if overly certain. One point was that if you close your eyes and look at the logo all of a sudden, the first name that appears is Edwards, because the typeface is the same size and the name is longer. That is something graphic designers in both the campaign AND the press should have picked up a long time ago. Also, the 5 rows of ten stars in the flag point was also convincing. Well, when you have a record like Bush's it takes a lot of finagling, that's all I can say. I know "Mark" criticized me for being too pessimistic, but I really think it's necessary especially in a context like this to keep it real. Keeping it real can mean different things, and to me it means what is REALLY true whether anyone is willing to admit it or not.
(3) Here's a knockout punch for Kerry: seizing upon the fact that Bush couldn't specify a single mistake in office, he asks the 2004 version of 'are you better off than you were four years ago?' but in the answering question period. "Mr. President, not only is the situation in Iraq a total mess, but your track record on jobs, the deficit, the environment are terrible. Don't you EVER admit to or even recognize any mistakes? How can anyone lead if they don't correct mistakes? You know, FDR, our greatest president of the last 100 years, especially our greatest crisis president ... (then the summary of FDR during the 30s, his famous remark of trying a policy and if it fails, admitting it frankly and trying something else) "If we can't get a president willing to try someTHING else, the only solution is to get someONE else". (This would be in one of the rebuttals, instead of repeating a previously made point in a debate or rattling off a list of names. He also at some point needs to explain that 1.9 million jobs growth, after huge job losses, not impressive, and is lower than Clinton's AVERAGE growth per year over eight years. And references such as to "Orwellian" environmental policies are accurate, but over too many heads.
(4) I'm still worried about the effect of the fallout from the Matthew Bai piece. I DISAGREE STRONGLY with bruhrabbit that it is a good description of Kerry. He is MUCH more willing to use military force than that article implies, and he's said so quite specifically MANY times. The article distorted his stance, then people like Dick Morris went over the top (in his "Nuisance Nonsense" in the NY Post -- he's a walking insult to slime), guiliani, and Bush. This is full court press, and it won't let up. I have written to the NY Times insisting that they allow on the op-ed page a VERY lengthy rebuttal from someone who understands Kerry's actual position, who is highly respected but not merely an operative from the Kerry campaign, someone like a well-regarded poli sci person. This pressure should be VERY HEAVY on them. AND ON Kerry to respond to the spin of that article as wrong in a speech of the length and centrality of his NYU speech. He needs to make completely clear, not just in a few lines from campaign people but in a whole speech that his position is being distorted, HOW it is being distorted, and what it IS.
He failed to really counter the flipflop spin very effectively, although he had the makings of a good answer. It takes more than a two minute spiel on the Patriot Act to counter 6 months of rote Bull, uncountered in media or campaign signficantly until at least well into Sept.
(5) I still believe the machine wants to engineer a "mandate" for Bush's invasion of Iraq. Otherwise we will have had a president who was never really elected and a war that the people voted against. The powers that pee are using the 'justifying the lying' media as plan (a), with the flipflop spin supplemented as needed with the nuisance natter.
Plan (b) -- EXCELLENT ARTICLE in the OCT Progressive Magazine -- is the old fashioned way, stealing the election at the polls. Their planning systematic 'challenges' in swing states like nevada to voters' eligibility INDIVIDUALLY. This is unprecedented. Much else in the article.
Here comes the slime....Here comes the slime....I say now ............

What's baffling to me are other domestic issue polls I've seen which also include a "Who would you vote for if the election were held today?" question. Despite choosing Kerry on a majority of the domestic issues voters typically care about (e.g. healthcare, environment, economy, etc.), the respondents' response to the voting preference question put the candidates neck and neck, or, worse, put Bush ahead.

How can this be? I have been utterly bemused by this election; the fact that this is even a contest at all seems so surreal to me. I keep expecting to see some character from a Fellini movie walk through my living room or something when I listen to the talking heads on the TV talk about Bush's supporters.

I thought that perhaps the public was uneducated on the issues and if they only knew where Bush stood on the issues, that would reduce his support significantly. However, this is belied by polls such as this one which suggest that the public has at least a basic knowledge of where the candidates stand on the major issues.

So, if people know that Kerry is better on the environment, healthcare, economy, etc. Why would they vote for Bush?

Undecides and women continue slow drift into Kerry column. Plus Dems kicking Pubby butt on registration. If Kerry does well in this final debate, Team Bush will need to change the dynamic, fast. This week or early next is when Rove drops the dirt bomb on Kerry.

"In other words, the LV sample is 2 points more Republican yet produces a result that's 2 points more Democratic." (Ruy Teixeira)

Maybe, after the quick rise and fall of the Security Mom we should create someone else: The Kerry Republican...

I share JW's bemusement, but as time goes on and I listen to Bush supporters more carefully, and to the undecideds who “ought” to break for Kerry but who, I think, will in fact default to Bush, I am realizing that I am missing a fundamental piece of the puzzle.

Trite as it is to say, September 11 and the terrorism issue really have changed people’s calculations, and I am not sure the anti-Bushers really get that. Many folks see a threat out there that is real, and Bush seems to be taking it seriously, deadly seriously. The “getting them over there before they get us over here” attitude really resonates, and the “changing the world through the spread of liberty” doctrine has a powerful idealistic appeal. Bush has worked hard to paint Kerry as soft on both these things and, truthfully, Kerry hasn’t articulated a clear vision of his own. What he says is okay by me, but it is a reaction to events and a “trust me, I’ll do what he’s doing, but better” approach, -- it isn’t a clear, hopeful, decisive vision that people can rally to and find reassurance in. Yes, it’s internationalist, but he hasn’t articulated an appealing internationalist viewpoint that people can feel good about unless they're already there.

I myself think that Bush is an unreasoning fanatic about these things, but I didn’t like him in 2000 either. I think he is fundamentally uncurious and unquestioning, and those are sins I find it hard to forgive. I think they lead to a frightening kind of dishonesty, where he becomes dishonest even with himself. And I find his insistence that he “knows best” and that we should trust his administration to be shockingly undemocratic. The true danger we face in my view is the danger of four more years of a government that is eating away at our liberty, while promising to extend it cross the globe, enshrining secrecy in government as a guiding principle, and eroding checks of balances and meaningful dissent.

But it is clear to me that lots of people don’t see him as I do to begin with, so all the other information they have about him gets processed differently. When push comes to shove, do you want to have health care, or feel safe? Secure your job, or secure your children’s future? Bush frames it that way and for some voters, no amount of “I have a health care plan that will cover all American children” can fight it.

The important things for me to remember is that it isn’t just the ideologues who support Bush, it’s some honestly worried people in the middle. Kerry has reassured some, but he hasn’t “gotten it” as Bush has, and if there are enough of those people in the middle, it will cost him. In fact, I am increasingly wondering if this issue doesn’t actually cause some people to identify themselves as Republicans, post 9-11, and account for at least part of the odd “oversampling” of Republicans we see in many survey samples. Don’t know if it’s a full blown realignment (I kind of doubt it) but it may be a partial or temporary one.

I’ll be delighted to be proved wrong, and I still think this thing is damn close, but I won't be surprised if it breaks for Bush at the final do-or-die moment for undecided voters.

Sometimes when you're working backwards from the desired result you don't have enough time to make everything consistent.

The numbers of Democrats and Republicans posted by Soto appear to be unweighted raw numbers. The presidential race percentages are weighted.

The "unlikely voters" consist of 75 Democrats and 62 Republicans. "Unlikely voters" (based on past election behavior) are predominantly from lower socioeconomic levels, and predominantly Democrats. If the 55% Democrats that this sample of unlikely voters contained is significantly less than normal (I don't know whether that's the case), the weighting process would naturally cause the LV poll result to be more Democratic than the RV poll result.

Nonetheless, if you want to make any sense out of the "likely voter" numbers, you're back once again to the mystery of how various polls define "likely voters"....

JD -- I guess the obvious answer is that despite Kerry's advantage on the myriad domestic issues, many voters still view national security and the "war on terror" as paramount, the issues where, for some unfathomable reason, Bush maintains a lead. Which raises the question of whether it's possible to weight the issues polls using some sort of voter ranking or prioritization.

> Despite choosing Kerry on a majority of the domestic
> issues voters typically care about (e.g. healthcare,
> environment, economy, etc.), the respondents'
> response to the voting preference question put the
> candidates neck and neck, or, worse, put Bush
> ahead.

My impression is a significant number of "Shrub" voters like him not because of his track record but because they think he is "one of them" i.e. an evangelical social conservative. It seems the GOP campaign is 100% focused on stroking the erogenous zones of this particular constituency at every turn, since (e.g.) Iraq or the deteriorating federal economy won't matter to these people at all. Alas, Kerry does not have this luxury. His supporters will rally around him as long as he looks like a credible Bush-beater e.g. by giving a strong performance in the debates.
BTW, I must confess I am awfully nervous about tonight's debate. If the overall consensus tomorrow is Kerry lost (even if it's only on points), it might be difficult for him to counter the coming avalanche of negative "flip-flopping liberal peacenik" attack ads.


In response to JW's question: because GWB speaks in an idiom and employs a language folks like us not only don't understand but don't recognize when we hear it.

Several months ago my household was on the receiving end of a family visit from my mother-in-law's promise keeper baptist minister brother and his wife from upstate New York. Their vacation consisted of parking themselves in my living room and watching Fox for three days. Curious about this phenomenon, I hid behind a bookcase and spied on them. (Hey, it's my living room.) Whenever GWB spoke onscreen, I observed them entering into what I call their zone, nodding their heads and saying "amen" every time GWB said, well, anything at all.

We tend to think of this kind of thing as culturally quaint, even amusing. It's not. It's an aggressive, potent, organized political force that's on the rise in America, not the wane. And they know they're right. They just know it. GWB is confirming what they know they know using their own language. So, to respond to JW, this ongoing conversation -- the one I saw in my living room -- is not about the environment, healthcare, or the economy. It's about perceptions of personal righteousness.

The fact that the poll numbers are where they are should tell us how pervasive this particular phenomenon is, not how uninformed or ignorant Americans are.

JW: the attitude of our fellow citizens does indeed seem perverse based on the results of Ruy's post. I don't pretend to understand it, but logically it must be rooted in some emotional or "faith based" perception about Bush's Iraq disaster: somehow voters are unwilling to repudiate Bush for his manifest foreign policy incompetence. This despite the fact that our Glorious Leader has essentially promised a continuing "agressive" and "offensive" stance in bringing the war on terror to "completion". We are in the midst of a great national crisis, and huge numbers of voters cannot think straight.

I sympathy with your baffledness. Bush is a terrible, terrible, terrible President, and his administration is even worse. There are tons of theories out there, but the one that seems most reasonable to me is the idea of character in voting for the Presidency.
My guess is that we are reaching the end of a surge in using character to judge our leaders -- probably starting with Carter.
And I should probably have 'character' in quotes because it is not really character, but rather self-identity, or as they say in the culturally conservative areas 'values'.
As Mark Schmidtt of the Decembrist points out (go read if you have not), it is not your position on the issues, but rather what your position on the issues says about your character.
The campaigns have become highly skilled at manipulating voters, and taking advantage of media standards, and if I am right, they have found that selling a candidate by projecting character traits and 'values' that poll well, they have found they can sell empty suit candidates like Bush. The most similar thing I can think of is the marketing of a sports team, where they try to get you to identify with local team.
Obviously, there are other things involved, and American voters are a strange mix, often showing signs of great insight mixed with utter cluelessness.
If I am right, though, this surge in the relative importance of 'character' is fading -- probably a result of Bush's unfathomable incompetence, as well as a natural cycle and the media finally catching on to how they are being manipulated.

Note to EDM staff: Could you please edit this down to a few comprehensible sentences?

@ JW at October 13, 2004 02:30 AM
If people know Kerry is better on the economy, healthcare, environment, etc. why would they vote for Bush?

It's mystifying. The subject matter for Debate 3 is the Economy etc. Perhaps Kerry will nail Bush tonight on this issue and come away with a solid + 5 up. I was motivated enough to compose and send this email.

To: John Kerry campaign
RE: A debate talking point on the Economy that will attract undecideds and swing Republicans

( 2 MIN )

Frame with this ( 15sec. )

The Bush admin. is waging war on middle class and poor Americans. Let's face the reality: If ripping off the public trust; if distributing tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and poor; if driving the country into deficits deliberately to starve social benefits; if requiring states to balance their budgets on the backs of the middle class and poor; if squeezing the wages of workers until the labor force resembles a nation of serfs - if this isn't class war, what is? IT'S UN-AMERICAN. IT'S UNPATRIOTIC. AND IT'S WRONG.

Pitch with this ( 1 min. 15 sec. )

The Bush administration spending has created record deficits but they still found a way to give billions in tax breaks to wealthy Americans and lowered taxes for Corporate America because it refuses to deviate from it's big-business agenda. And to fund this agenda the Bush admin is waging a war on MIDDLE CLASS Americans who are facing BIG SQUEEZES in HEALTH-INSURANCE, PRESCRIPTION-DRUGS, SALARIES/WAGES, TAXES, and ENERGY especially with oil now at $53/barrel

Under George Bush the federal budget surplus of 236 billion dollars in 2000 has gone to a deficit of 422 billion dollars this year. And, in trade and investment, the United States had a deficit of 166.2 billion dollars. What this means is that in just 4 years George Bush has lowered the standard of living for many middle class Americans and mortgaged the future of your children.

You of course won't hear any of this from Bush and his new "Ownership Society" plan because the Bush admin. has created a "FANTASY world" to contrive false realities and mislead the public with lies and deceptions to disguise FAILURES on the economy, jobs, healthcare, education, the environment in addtion to Iraq and war on terror.

In Debate 2 George Bush stated that "Non-homeland, non-defense discretionary spending was raising at 15 percent a year when he got into office and said today it's less than 1 percent". Well, once again George W. Bush told you another LIE.

The truth about non-defense discretionary spending over the past 3 administrations is this...
* Bush 1: 4.0% per year
* Clinton: 2.5% per year
* Bush Jr: 8.2% per year

Outside of the personal FANTASYLAND Bush seems to inhabit, the truth is simple: spending of all kinds has skyrocketed under his administration and the Republican Congress. It's laughable for Bush to pretend to be a frugal spender because he is spending our children's money as fast as he can print it.

Close ( 30 sec. )

I have a much better plan for the economy, jobs, healthcare and am on record saying that I will not raise taxes for middle class Americans. I will raise taxes on households earning more than 200,000 dollars per year while expanding tax relief and boosting health care credits to middle class and poor Americans. etc.


1. This is the Fight of Our Lives by Bill Moyers http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/071804J.shtml
2. THE BIG SQUEEZE ON MIDDLE CLASS AMERICANS http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewPrint&articleId=8344
3. Presidential winner faces 'twin deficits' battle http://tinyurl.com/4hovm
4. Bush's BIG LIE on non-homeland, non-defense discretionary spending. http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2004_10/004884.php

> In other words, the LV sample is 2 points more
> Republican yet produces a result that's 2 points
> more Democratic.

There's a simple explanation for this, but it is ecstatically optimistic.

Now this is a topic worth discussing -- why are so many people supporting Bush? After all, you need to understand your enemy in order to defeat him.

CF's family story is very telling; indeed that group of people, and their "perception of personal righteousness" (well put by CF) constitutes the Bush base. And there certainly are a lot of these people. To give a David Brooksian example, it is always shocking to lifelong urban liberals like me to learn that the largest selling passenger vehicle models in this country, BY FAR, are pickup trucks -- the Ford F-150 to be exact, and the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Ford Taurus don't even come close. I can only think of one single person I know who drives a pickup truck. Obviously there is a huge swath of this country with which I am not familiar, as is likely the case with most of us on this board.

Those people CF describes are not nearly enough to forge a majority, however, or even a plurality. To those have to be added lots of other groups of voters, many of them one-issue voters. To wit:

1. Abortion. Let's face it: if being pro-life is the strongest value you have, then it makes perfect sense to vote for GWB. Not all of those people are bible-banging, head-nodding evangelicals; some just feel very strongly about this issue.

2. Tort reform. Physicians (and I am one) tend toward the Republicans in general, but this year, with the malpractice crisis, I think many physicians have become one issue voters. They are convinced that there will never be any relief from their outrageous malpractice premiums if a med mal lawyer gets to share the White House. Edwards outlined an excellent and interesting plan in the VP debate, so I don't know that that perception is accurate, but nonetheless it is hard to blame docs for thinking that way.

3. Taxes. Some people just want more money in their pockets, and are convinced -- rightfully so, let's be honest -- that the chances of taxes remaining low are greater with a Republican administration.

Then to these you can add the huge ranks of the not-very-informed, who may make decisions based on fragmentary pieces of non-information that would make you & me cringe. Some may simply feel that Bush is "kicking those terrorists asses" in Iraq, and his ridiculous conflated rhetoric supports that non-position. Some also feel that we need to rally behind the president in a time of war, a wholly natural sentiment that goes back 200 years. I will confess that even I had some positive thoughts about GWB at one single point in his administration: when he took decisive & appropriate action against Afghanistan. So even a hard-core, lifelong liberal like me had a soft spot for that sentiment.

Finally, one has to admit that while there is SO much to run against in this administration, Kerry/Edwards have not exactly done an optimal job of making their case. JFK does a lot of saying "we have a plan" without specifics -- that does not turn people on. There are points he makes poorly (e.g."Orwellian" environmental legislation) or not at all (GWB promised billions in relief to NYC after 9/11, and never gave a nickel! Kerry and Edwards should be shouting about that at every campaign stop!). Lastly, I'm beginning to see that Kerry's reputation as a great closer is sort of an inverted interpretation of the truth: he is actually an intermittently very effective campaign who has a marked tendency to lose focus and become pathologically cautious whenever things start looking AT ALL positive. That makes him look like a "strong closer," when in fact he is a sharp campaigner when behind, and a crappy lead-keeper.

All of this contributes to much higher polling numbers than we would expect for the man who is arguably -- yes, I will say it -- the worst president in American history.

First time Poster. To understand why people will vote against their own self interests you should read "Don't Think of An Elephant" by George Lakoff.

People vote their values and the right has done a much better job of articulating those values. The truth does not change many from voting their values.

Its short book and well worth it. Sorry if Lakoff's book has been discussed here before.

First, many evangelicals, indeed many Christians are focused on what the Bible says, and they believe that the Bible says (at least many Calvinist do and to a lesser degree others believe this as well) that the prophesized times as discussed in Revelations is upon us- it is more commonly referred to as the end times. Two personal stories: 1) a born again Christian friend will vote for Bush b/c regardless of everything else he believes Bush represents this issue 2) Christians have learn to go in the closet about the more extreme aspects of their faith so they talk in code- a la Bush talking about Dred Scott as code for abortion issues. I grew up in this world- I had an aunt who would say thank you jesus after every other sentence. They believe as they say, "that the way the world is going man is not long for this world." What does this mean politically? It means one is able to manipulate people with these strongly felt belief systems b/c one merely needs to use the language of faith. In fairness, Clinton does this with African Americans- he talks in the language of salvation as is often the case with the black church since the civil rights movement. Bush uses the apocalypitc language of the Bible and Revelations- if you don't realize that's part of this debate about terrorism, and a war without end, you should. This is a very religious country never forget that- it affects our lives in ways we dont even notice.

Well, I kind of compare this Evangelical revolution of the Republican Party to McCarthyism. In your heart, you know it's wrong. In your logic, you know it's wrong.

At some point you know it will run it's course and the bubble will burst. It will collapse onto itself. And it's this impatience of the larger public (for the collapse) that is slowly, surely starting to express itself.

I don't know who is going to win this coming election, but if it's Bush--on a social/societal level--"Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy ride."


Bush is clearly trying to solidify the base tonight.

How to explain the divergence of both Zogby and Rasmussen presidential numbers from all the rest???!!