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July 30, 2003

BUSH FALLING IN POLLS....There are a few bits of interesting polling data that have come out recently. First off is the July poll from PIPA (Program on International Policy Attitudes), which shows some dramatic changes in attitudes toward the war over the past three months:

  • Support for the UN taking a lead role in Iraq is up from 50% to 58%.

  • The number of people under the misimpression that we have found WMD in Iraq has declined from 34% to 21%

  • The number of people who flatly say the war was a bad idea has increased from 22% to 32%.

  • 40% say the recent controversy over uranium has lowered their confidence in the president, and 50% say they will be more wary in the future if he says a country has a secret WMD program.

Overall, Bush is still getting modestly positive ratings for his handling of Iraq, but those ratings are clearly declining and the recent controversies seem to be part of the reason.

In another report based on the same data, PIPA reports that "swing voters" are much more negative than the overall populace:

  • 46% say President Bush is handling Iraq poorly (vs. 33% of all voters)

  • 72% think the rebuilding is going badly (vs. 57% of all voters)

  • 51% say the war was unnecessary (vs. 44% of all voters)

  • 53% think Bush was being misleading during the runup to war (vs. 36% of all voters)

This is important stuff since it's those centrist voters that are going to make the difference in the 2004 election. Needless to say, these attitudes will change once Bush starts campaigning, but overall it's still positive news for Democrats.

Meanwhile, Ruy Teixeira reports on another pair of polls with good news for Democrats:

Democrats are now favored by 17 points over Republicans on the economy. That’s up from a 1-point Democratic disadvantage in January. The Democrats also have increased their margin on the federal budget deficit from 4 to 13 points over that same time period. Their margins on unemployment (+19), education (+12) and, significantly, prescription drugs for older Americans (+22) remain impressive, despite Republican attempts to co-opt the latter issue.

Furthermore, while Democrats remain behind on foreign affairs, they have shaved that deficit from 17 to 5 points. Similarly, while still behind by 15 points on the situation with Iraq, that deficit has declined from 24 points in January.

....These findings are underscored by results from the latest Democracy Corps survey. According to the Democracy Corps data, Bush’s approval rating is now 55 percent, down 6 points from their poll last month. His margin over an unnamed Democrat for reelection in 2004 is 6 points, down from 11 points last month. And the classic right direction/wrong track question has flipped from slightly positive to 6 points negative (43 percent right direction/49 percent wrong track).

It's important that the polling deficit on foreign affairs and Iraq continue to drop. However, to really make any headway is going to require the Democratic candidates to offer up some good, positive proposals on national security and foreign affairs, and so far I haven't seen it.

A note to my more liberal readers: The DLC may be taking the wrong tack in its criticisms of Howard Dean, but we shouldn't let that blind us to the essential correctness of their views on national security. Dean and the others really need to get their act together on this if they want to have any chance of beating George Bush in 2004.

POSTSCRIPT: As usual, take all these poll results with a grain of salt, especially the PIPA survey, which is done over the internet. (Their methodology is sound, but it's still an internet poll.) These polls represent good news for Democrats, but there are a few bits of bad news in there as well and the results are far from conclusive. In any case it's a long time until election day.

Posted by Kevin Drum at July 30, 2003 03:56 PM | TrackBack


Comments

These polls affirm what i've believed for a while now - namely, that we are returning to the alignment that we had about iraq through, roughly, february of this year.

When you looked at the detailed polling info at that time, roughly 1/3 of Americans favored the kind of war we eventually fought - unilateral with significant ground casualties.

Bush's political accomplishment (driven, of course, by the natural rally round effect of soldiers moving into harm's way) was to bring a second third of americans across the divide to support this kind of war.

Now that the costs and the casualties are mounting, that third - the "swing" voters that kevin refers to - are, i suspect, (re)rethinking their position.

Posted by: howard at July 30, 2003 04:09 PM | PERMALINK

I was just getting excited over those polls and you told me PIPA was taken over the internet. I hink it was one of your threads that reviewed the famous 1930s phone poll predicting a significant GOP election victory. FDR won easily, but who owned phones in the 1930s?
Anyway, still great results, and I think these things are self-fulfilling to a degree. Bush is no lock.
I'd like the DLC, Dean, and Lieberman all three to find ways to express their positions and hopes for 2004 without routinely dissing Democratic presidential candidates. That pretty much loses my support out of the gate. The other seven seem largely to avoid that.

Posted by: John Isbell at July 30, 2003 04:17 PM | PERMALINK

John, were these results only showing up in internet polls, i too would discount them, but these results are consistent with those appearing in more "traditional" polls.

The best way, in my opinion, to keep up with polling data is through this site:

http://www.pollingreport.com/

Posted by: howard at July 30, 2003 04:24 PM | PERMALINK

As I mentioned, the methodology for the PIPA polls is fairly good. They contact a random list of telephone owners, and then provide them with free internet access (via TV) if they don't have it. Within this group, they select a random sample each month and then do all the appropriate weighting.

My guess is that it's still not as good as a phone poll, but it's not that far off either. Take it with a grain of salt, but don't ignore it completely.

Posted by: Kevin Drum at July 30, 2003 04:28 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, according to this poll, "Support for the UN taking a lead role in Iraq is" down from 64% to 58% in the past month, and support for the US to take the lead is up from 31% to 34% in the past month. Also, I think they polled in April June and July without including data from May. I don't know what this means or why this would be true.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at July 30, 2003 04:37 PM | PERMALINK

A note to my more liberal readers: The DLC may be taking the wrong tack in its criticisms of Howard Dean, but we shouldn't let that blind us to the essential correctness of their views on national security.

What essential correctness?

Dean and the others really need to get their act together on this if they want to have any chance of beating George Bush in 2004.

Dean has his act together on foreign affairs, it seems to me, from reading his speeches and website materials. Certainly compares favorably to the DLC, except maybe in volume, since the DLC has been around longer. Where do you think, specifically, Dean falls short where the DLC is ahead?

Posted by: cmdicely at July 30, 2003 04:51 PM | PERMALINK

By "around longer" in the above, I mean as a national political voice, of course.

Posted by: cmdicely at July 30, 2003 04:52 PM | PERMALINK

As far as I've seen, the DLC's approach on foreign affairs is basically "don't rock the boat", not "we can do better, and here's how".

One of the main problems I have with the DLC is precisely that they don't seem willing to put forth alternatives to Bush's policies, preferring instead to attack anyone who criticizes Bush's initiatives, for whatever reason, as too far to the left.

Posted by: Jonathan at July 30, 2003 05:16 PM | PERMALINK

The DLC may be taking the wrong tack in its criticisms of Howard Dean, but we shouldn't let that blind us to the essential correctness of their views on national security.

Having perused the DLC website, it is not clear to me how much Dean's positions on national security and foreign policy are very different from the DLC's. Both are highly critical of the Bush administration's record on these matters. Both are in favor of Clinton-style internationalism, as opposed to Bush's screw-the-rest-of-the-world unilateralism. It's not like Dean, or any of the other major candidates are against national security.

(Obviously, Dean's opposition to the war is different from what the DLC would like to see. However, the polls you quote demonstrate that this is becoming less and less of a liability. And really, Dean's position is not "War is bad, m'kay," but that invading Iraq used up-- and continues to use up-- valuable resources which could have been spent on addressing actual threats to national security. Let's not forget that it's become clear that Saddam was not, in fact, a dire, imminent threat to our security.)

The "national security problem" for the Democrats is not one of substance, it's one of perception and stereotyping. The best thing a Dem. candidate can do to overcome this stereotype is to challenge it loudly and frequently. When the GOP tries to smear them (and they will, no matter if the candidate is Howard Dean, or Joe Lieberman, or even Wesley Clark), they need to refute it strongly and point out how the Bush administration has failed on these fronts.

Posted by: YT at July 30, 2003 05:25 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

The numbers don't surprise me given the steady drumbeat of depressing news. But, even if we accept the methodology, there is a margin of error of +/- 3 to 3.5% (depending on which question asked. Let's assume it's just three on the support question.

So, the support numbers are better expressed as a range:

7/03: 42 to 48
6/03: 43 to 49
5/03: 50 to 56

If we take it at 3.5%, this is technically a statistical dead heat. At 3%, it's a surprisingly small variation.

Posted by: James Joyner at July 30, 2003 06:08 PM | PERMALINK

Excuse me, I think I missed this, but the war in Iraq does precisely what for US national security?

Posted by: che at July 30, 2003 06:59 PM | PERMALINK

If I may speak for Bush-loving America, around which I hang out from time to time:

The war in Iraq was satisfying because we killed plenty of Muslims who did Sept 11. Bush has been a success on this issue because he's taking the war to THEM. Dean etc would not take the war to them, but would maintain a situation where we would still be in a war with Islam (Israel, oil, sanctions etc). Which means they could get to US over HERE.

Posted by: Eric M at July 30, 2003 07:56 PM | PERMALINK

I think the smartest approach that Dean could take on national security is to change the meaning of the term altogether. At the moment, national security tends to be measured in terms of how many soldiers we have, or how much mega-tonnage of deliverable explosives, etc. But America is becoming less secure because we are up to our ass in debt, our education system is substandard, the environment is not being cared for, and families are stressed to the breaking point. I think it's a mistake to let the GOP define national security in its most traditional and limited way.

Posted by: peter jung at July 30, 2003 08:00 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I assume you've seen this poll at MSNBC (jointly done /the WSJ, so spun?)...bottom line, about half those polled think he puffed the threat, over half think the Dems are overplaying the issue, two-thirds think he's doing the right thing in Iraq...

...waters are at best muddy, and I think you're right on in suggesting that we have to get our act together on these issues.

A.L.

They'll have more results tomorrow...

Posted by: Armed Liberal at July 30, 2003 08:42 PM | PERMALINK

"But America is becoming less secure because we are up to our ass in debt, our education system is substandard, the environment is not being cared for, and families are stressed to the breaking point. I think it's a mistake to let the GOP define national security in its most traditional and limited way."

Kerry Lite in otherwords.

Posted by: Stirling Newberry at July 30, 2003 09:30 PM | PERMALINK

The poll fails to make a distinction between swing and independent voters - the two are not the same group.

Much of the Republican power comes, not because they have enlarged their base, but they work relentlessly to make sure that independents are Democrat hostile. To win back congress means winning back these voters.

Posted by: Stirling Newberry at July 30, 2003 09:50 PM | PERMALINK

Eric,
While I'm sure that some folks feel that way (you're likely accurately describing some actual feelings out there), I would submit that most do not. You're basically describing a highly bigoted, simpleminded attitude: effectively, "the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim".

Fortunately, most Americans don't seem to share that view...

Posted by: Jonathan at July 30, 2003 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

peter jung -

Peter, I have a fairly substantial bet on the '04 elections with one of my co-bloggers of substantially more conservative (!!) beliefs. If my party (the Dems) adopts your strategy, it will personally cost me a lot of $$ because we'll be approaching McGovern levels of electoral success.

And Bush will have four more years to loot the Treasury on behalf of his county club neighbors.

A.L.

Posted by: Armed Liberal at July 30, 2003 10:24 PM | PERMALINK

Armed Liberal:

Just make sure you keep supporting the Party of gun control.

Posted by: Don P at July 30, 2003 10:42 PM | PERMALINK

A minor adjustment to what Eric said- it's not that we killed Muslims, it's that we killed Arabs. The hatred and blood lust in America in the wake of 9-11 is racial, not cultural or spiritual. As evidence, let me offer the dearth of stories about attacks on Black muslims. If Johnny redneck was really pissed of at Muslims, we'd be hearing stories of black Muslims being attacked (they were, after all, a pretty well disliked group already). Istead we hear about yahoos killing Sikhs because they wear a turban. Turban=Arab=enemy, that's the thinking, I think.

Posted by: epist at July 30, 2003 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

However, to really make any headway is going to require the Democratic candidates to offer up some good, positive proposals on national security and foreign affairs, and so far I haven't seen it.

Here's my good, positive proposal: change the government. I, for one, would feel much, much more secure then.

Posted by: craigie at July 30, 2003 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

I found the same dismal situation of non-solutionism among the Democrats, especially when I worked for the Kerry campaign. National security is about giving the world a stake in our success so the world will help us succeed. The Bush doctrine is fundamentally pessimistic - we are in a delaying action until we kill all the bad people in the world or they kill us. Meanwhile, liberals at home are undermining our security and everything's scary.

But this worldview is overlooking America's hopefullness, its ability to be a beacon to the rest of the world. America is great and people want to see us succeed, but only when America lives up to its greatness and its ideals. Most people in the world want to play with their kids and be left alone. They don't like terrorists any more than we do, and they will help us kill them if we give them a reason to do so. By lying and bullying to those who ordinarily would help us, though, we are becoming less safe.

You can't let the Republicans define the world as full of nothing but monsters. It's not. Yes there are dangers, but fear makes these dangers worse, not better. Yes there are terrorists, but only by standing up for the rights of citizens in the countries housing terrorists will America be able to capture and defeat them.

In other words, national security, national success, and global prosperity are all the same thing.

Posted by: MattS at July 31, 2003 08:03 AM | PERMALINK

Matt, Kevin, et al: Perhaps we should distinguish between not having a policy in mind, and not putting one forward. Not putting a distinct policy forward right now might be a strategic decision, for (as I mentioned in a recent entry), the Republicans would have almost a year to craft their response and roll it out during the primaries and general election. Plus, events may make that policy either counterproductive or irrelevant, and it is quite possible that Bush might deliberately employ the power of the presidency to create a situation where said policy is unworkable.

There's little doubt that the Dem strategists know this, so that might explain why their attacks are seemingly incoherent. They know that taking a stand this early is a trap, so they aren't doing it.

Posted by: Demosthenes at July 31, 2003 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

I submit that you don't understand the term 'blood lust' if you think it describes the feelings of even a large minority of Americans vis-a-vis the Middle East.

Posted by: Sebastian Holsclaw at July 31, 2003 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

I think Kerry's Georgetown speech on foreign policy from last December articulated a coherent and thorough foreign policy vision with respect to the Middle East and the terrorist threat. I haven't seen anything on Dean's website that goes beyond advocating multilateralism, which just begs the question of "for what end?" Furthermore, as Jonathan Chait pointed out in his recent TNR piece, regardless of any American ambivalence towards the war on Iraq, Dean creates the perception (and it is fed by the media and his political rivals) of being uncomfortable with the use of American force, period. His biography also doesn't help him in this regard. That macro-image is much more important than whatever individual issues - even ones as big as the Iraqi war - might be on the agenda 15 months before the election.

The DLC's foreign policy position appears to be, like so many of their other positions over the last 10 years, nothing more than political centrism. All they seem to care about anymore is chasing the 51st percentile. Or maybe the 55th. It's a shame what's happened to them.

Posted by: Shankar at July 31, 2003 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Sebastian, how about fear and terror? And I think a large portion of America are right to be terrorized. I think it's a natural reaction. I'm not blaming anybody for hating the Muslims, it seems pretty natural given the groundrules of information here in the US.

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Now that the number of the casualties and expences increases and trend remains the same

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