The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, August 13, 2004

Good news and - less good - news for Kerry on national security

The good news, according to the trend of polling results by Michigan State's Darren Davis and Brian Silver (Chicago Sun-Times yesterday), is that fear of terror attacks now works for Kerry, not Bush:
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, they found that people who expressed greater concern about threats of future terrorism were more likely to approve of Bush's presidential performance, while those who were less worried were less likely to support the president.

But by spring 2004, "this relationship had reversed: Those who were more concerned about terrorism were less likely to approve of Bush's performance," the professors say in their report.

Of the recent sample (fieldwork April 19 to June 15),
24 percent of respondents -- a sampling of Michigan residents statistically weighted to reflect the adult U.S. population -- were "very concerned" about the possibility of another terrorist attack and 44 percent were "somewhat concerned."

Of those who were "very concerned," 38 percent said they planned to vote to re-elect President Bush, while 76 percent of those who were "not at all concerned" said they would vote for Bush.

There is no sign online on the detailed polling data (their paper is to be presented to the American Political Science Association meeting on September 2) - and no suggestion as to why this switch should have occurred.

Checking with the terror page, I see that a Time poll (August 3-5) shows similar numbers on terror concern, as well as a widening favourable on Bush's handling of the war on terror (56-41, compared with 51-46 July 20-22; an earlier Time poll, midway through the Michigan polling period (May 12-13) shows a negative favourable, 46-47 [1].

There are no other polls with a comparable breakdown of concern levels between voting intentions or Bush job favourable/unfavourables.

Less happily, the Kerry answer to Bush's question on Kerry's Iraq resolution vote seems to be carrying less than total conviction, even amongst his own people - at least, according to the David Sanger's piece in the New York Times' today.

Notably, the gloom is coming - on the record, credit where it's due - from Kerry foreign policy adviser and hotly tipped Secretary of State pick Joe Biden:
Mr. Kerry's friends concede the first rounds have gone to the president - "it's frustrating as hell," [Biden] said on Wednesday.

And Biden supplies the kicker:
You have to hand it to Bush and Cheney. When it comes to using the big megaphone of the presidency, they are the masters.

Rand Beers crops up in the piece - but only to run through again the questions Kerry raised about Bush's handling of Iraq.

Recent polls [2] show Bush and Kerry more or less tied on handling of Iraq; ABC put Bush ahead on terror 48-45, Time by 49-41. All within the margin of error, but only just in that last case.

Meanwhile, polling by Gallup says that
Those voters living in the key showdown states [say] that the war was not a mistake by 52% to 46%.

Kerry may, it suggests, be keen to cleave to a nuanced position on the war, to avoid upsetting those voters. (No indication of salience levels - it could be that those swing state voters rate the war a mistake question as water under the bridge.)

Berger certainly lays it on with a trowel: for instance, we get
Mr. Bush, sensing he had ensnared Mr. Kerry, stuck in the knife on Tuesday...
No surprise, therefore, to see Bob Somerby take him to task.

But - Somerby has the hed as For Now, Bush's Mocking Drowns Out Kerry's Nuanced Explanation of His War Vote - he hates nuanced, as he explains in his piece. He makes a point of saying
No, it doesn't get better than that-to get your spin-point right in a headline.

But it's not there now! (It's now Bush's Mocking Drowns Out Kerry on Iraq Vote.) Did the good people at W 43rd Street see Somerby, quail, and reach for their keyboards? What about the dead-tree version (or is Sanger online only?)?

Somerby makes the point I touched on in my August 10 piece on Kerry's Arizona statement on his vote on the resolution: we never did get the context: how did the statement arise? Was he asked a direct question, or did he add it on to an answer to something different, or whatever.

  1. Results on this question of other polls around the same time listed on the page differ from the Time numbers considerably.

  2. The Time August 3-5; ABC/WaPo July 31-August 1.


I caught a little of Mike Malloy - new addition to Air America's roster - last night: the guy was ranting fit to burst on Kerry's response on the Iraq resolution question. He liked the idea that Kerry should have called Bush as liar on war.

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