Fear of Clowns

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."
- H. L. Mencken

Friday, August 27, 2004

Bush support and the people who support him 

Today, the Wall Street Journal published the results of the new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll in a front page article. The results are not overly favorable to Bush. But the raw data in the PDF linked to in the sidebar present a pathetic view of Bush supporters. The poll surveyed registered voters - here are the results for the question regarding how the participants said they voted in the 2000 election:

45% Voted for George W. Bush
33% Voted for Al Gore
2% Voted for Ralph Nader
1% Voted for Pat Buchanan
1% Voted for other candidate
1% Not sure who voted for
11% Did Not Vote
3% Too young to vote
3% Not Sure/Refused

In the 2000 Presidential Election, only 67% of registered voters cast a vote. 85% of the respondents to this poll claim to have voted. Another way of looking at it is that 33% of registered voters did not vote. The only answers that would be truthful for people in that 33% would be "did not vote" or "not sure", but only 14% provided one of those answers. About 19% of the people in this poll are lying or remembering incorrectly.

Both Gore and Bush got about 48% of the popular vote in 2000. If the sample of this poll was perfect, we would expect 32% of respondents to have voted for Gore and 32% to have voted for Bush. Compare to the actual results: 33% say they voted for Gore, 45% said they voted for Bush. Bush supporters are much more likely to lie or have shoddy memories. Not surprising. The results of the poll are interesting, nonetheless:

Mr. Bush's handling of the antiterror war continues to represent his greatest asset as Republicans gather several miles from the site of the World Trade Center. While the electorate splits on the president's overall job performance -- 47% approve, 48% disapprove -- Mr. Bush enjoys approval by a 53%-to-42% margin on dealing with the war on terrorism.

... While Mr. Bush continues to receive positive marks for his "strong leadership qualities," his 50% approval on that dimension matches the weakest of his presidency. Just 45% of voters rate him highly for "being honest and straightforward," while 39% give him low marks.

More problematic are the ratings Mr. Bush receives on the issues, aside from the broader antiterror war, that have dominated campaign debate thus far. On Iraq, a 51% majority says Mr. Bush needs to change his approach, and a 49% plurality says removing Saddam Hussein from power wasn't worth the human and financial costs. By 51% to 43%, voters say it is appropriate to begin considering troop reductions in Baghdad, which Mr. Kerry recently suggested could begin in the first six months of his presidency.

On the domestic front, the most critical issue is the economy, for which Mr. Hart describes the president's ratings as "dreadful." Some 52% of voters overall disapprove of the president's handling of the economy, and the proportion who say the economy has gotten better in the past year has fallen to 29%. Despite a revival of economic growth overall, voters say by a 2-to-1 margin that circumstances for middle- and working-class families aren't improving.

Those negative assessments span Mr. Bush's handling of a series of issues. By 55% to 38%, voters say the president's tax cuts mostly have benefited the wealthy rather than all Americans. As oil prices hit record levels, six in 10 voters criticize his approach to gas prices. Some 58% of voters want major changes in the president's approach to health care, while 55% say the same thing about his policies on jobs.

In other words, people don't think Bush is doing a good job at anything except for attacking an appropriate number of countries, even if attacking them wasn't worth it, and that alone makes him a good leader, so they'll vote for him anyway! Go Team America! Kerry needs to make people understand that you can't kill or arrest every terrorist, so the focus needs to be on preventing terrorists from being able to do harm.

This poll is also particularly interesting because it shows that Bush/Cheney support is currently much weaker than Kerry/Edwards support. The participants were asked, "Even though you are not supporting [John Kerry and John Edwards / George W. Bush and Dick Cheney] now, what are the chances that you might support them in this November's election - is there a fair chance that you might support them, a small chance, just a very slight chance, or no chance at all you might support them?" 38% of Bush supporters said there was a fair, small or very slight chance they would vote for Kerry, whereas 28% of Kerry supporters said there was a chance they'll support Bush. Of course, Bush has the nominating convention and debates to try to shore up his support, whereas Kerry only has the debates.

The most significant finding isn't interesting, but what is to be expected if you've been paying attention to the results of state level polls:

But the poll also shows the president trailing Mr. Kerry by four percentage points among respondents in 17 closely-contested battleground states.

As a brief end note, today, LA Times polls flipped the latest result in Wisconsin barely into the Bush column and well within the poll's margin of error, and placed Missouri back with Bush exactly at the margin of error.

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