Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 29, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

TERRORISM, NOT MORAL VALUES....Via Philip Klinkner at PolySigh, here's an interesting chart. Based on NES data over the last 12 elections, it shows which issue was rated "most important" by voters and how the two major party candidates compared to each other. In 2004, for example, the most important issue by far was terrorism, cited by 42% of voters. What's more, of that 42%, 29% voted for Bush and 13% for Kerry, a delta of 17% in favor of Bush. By contrast, that old bugaboo "morals" produced only a tiny advantage for Bush.

Here's the full chart:




Year




Issue

% Citing
As Most
Important
Issue


%
Supporting
Incumbent



Incumbent
Performance



Challenger
Performance



Incumbent
Advantage

2004

Terrorism

42%

70%

29%

13%

17%

2000

Education

15%

65%

10%

5%

5%

1996

Crime/Violence

12%

55%

7%

5%

1%

1992

Unemployment

21%

42%

9%

12%

-3%

1988

Budget/Deficit

30%

57%

17%

13%

4%

1984

Budget/Deficit

19%

64%

12%

7%

5%

1980

Inflation

32%

33%

11%

21%

-11%

1976

Unemployment

31%

32%

10%

21%

-11%

1972

Vietnam

27%

66%

18%

9%

9%

1968

Vietnam

43%

44%

19%

24%

-5%

1964

Vietnam

10%

61%

6%

4%

2%

1960

Foreign Affairs

9%

61%

5%

4%

2%

As Klinkner points out, Bush's advantage on terrorism was by far the largest from any candidate since NES started collecting data in 1960. You can now put me down in the "totally convinced" column that terrorism was the key issue that won the election for Bush, not moral values.

And note one other interesting thing: in 10 out of 12 elections, the candidate that won was the one who had the advantage on the issue cited as most important by the most people and that candidate always won if the issue was cited by more than 20% of voters. The lesson seems to be: figure out the most important issue and hammer it home. The rest is fluff.

Now, what's going to be the most important issue in 2008? Time to start thinking about that.

Kevin Drum 1:33 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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