Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 8, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

BUSH AND THE ECONOMY....In my rough-and-ready exit poll analysis last night there was an interesting result that got buried at the bottom of a long post and was probably missed by a lot of people. So I'm going to give it a post of its own.

The table below shows opinions about the health of the economy for both Bush in 2004 and Clinton in 1996. (I chose 1996 because it also had an incumbent running, so the results are comparable.) For example, the top row shows that 4% of respondents in 2004 thought the economy was excellent, and 89% of them voted for Bush. By comparison, 4% of 1996 respondents also thought the economy was excellent, and 78% of them voted for Clinton.


National Economy

2004
% Voters

2004
% For Bush

1996
% Voters

1996
% For Clinton

Excellent

4%

89%

4%

78%

Good

43%

87%

51%

62%

Not Good

35%

26%

36%

34%

Poor

17%

6%

7%

23%

Here's the interesting result: in 1996, of the people who thought the economy was in good shape, a total of about 63% voted for Clinton.

In 2004, of the people who thought the economy was in good shape, an astonishing total of about 87% voted for Bush.

That's a huge difference, and what it shows is that George Bush was much more successful at taking credit for the economy than Clinton was and Clinton was no slouch in that department. As a result, although fewer people in 2004 thought the economy was doing well compared to 1996, Bush got far more total votes from that group than Clinton did.

I don't think this has anything to do with the campaign, either. Rather, it has to do with a steady four-year drumbeat from the Bush administration that their tax cuts were boosting the economy. Bush made absolutely sure that if the economy was doing well, people would think he was responsible.

It was a pretty high risk strategy, too, since it means people who thought the economy was doing poorly blamed Bush more than they blamed Clinton. The bottom line is that Bush's strategy made his support very, very sensitive to the state of the economy, and in the end, if the economy had been doing even a smidge worse than it was, he probably would have lost.

Kevin Drum 11:46 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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