Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 18, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

SOME POLL MUSINGS....I've seen this graphic from the New York Times on a couple of blogs today, and what most people seem to be taking away from it is that George Bush's disapproval rating is remarkably high by historical standards.

But I'm not sure that's what's most interesting. If you look at the difference between the approval and disapproval scores, every incumbent has been positive at this point in their administration. What's more, two of them had big deltas (Carter = 18%, Reagan = 26%), and one of them won and one lost. Contrariwise, two had low deltas (Bush Sr. = 9%, Clinton = 7%), and one of them won and one lost.

So while Bush's delta is only 5%, it's hard to draw any conclusions from this since it's happened before and produced different results. But what is different is the historically unprecedented decline in "Not Sure" voters: in the four previous polls they numbered 14%, 10%, 13%, and 13% while this year it's a puny 5%.

To me, this is yet more evidence of the increasing polarization of the electorate: everybody has a firm opinion about George Bush. I'm not quite sure what this means, but I suspect it's not good news for Bush since incumbents probably benefit from a fair number of mushy middle voters who end up giving them the benefit of the doubt when they finally walk into the polling booth in November.

Some other interesting results from the poll that should cheer up Democrats:

  • An awful lot of people are unimpressed with Bush's concern for the average Joe: 58% think he cares more about large corporations than ordinary Americans; 57% think his policies favor the rich; 64% think big business has too much influence on his administration; and 45% think his policies have decreased the number of jobs (vs. only 19% who think he's increased the number of jobs).

  • 32% think Bush's policies have made their taxes go up (vs. 19% who think he's reduced their taxes). This is a very strange result.

  • 47% of respondents think of themselves as "closer" to the Democratic party vs. only 34% for Republicans. This is about average for the Democrats but a 12-year low for the Republicans.

Still, Bush's ratings on most of the questions related to terrorism and "leadership" remain pretty high, and this is likely to be the main battlefield of the election. However, considering Democratic strength in other areas, we have a pretty good chance of winning in November as long as we neutralize that advantage by nominating someone who's strong on national security and who's viewed that way. Hint hint.

Complete poll results are here.

Kevin Drum 6:25 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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