Monday, September 20, 2004

The most recent CBS/NYT News Polls shows President George W. Bush now leading the junior Senator from Massachusetts, John F. Kerry, 50-42 amongst registered voters. His lead increases slightly (50-41) with “likely” voters.

Either result demonstrates the difficulty the Senator with have over the next 43 days in overcoming an opponent who has come out of his party’s convention with all the momentum. In the previous CBS/NYT news poll taken August 15-18, the junior Senator led 47-44 amongst registered voters and 46-45 amongst “likely” ones.

In all questions on character and leadership, the President leads John F. Kerry:

· “cares about the needs and problems of people like you” 58-54
· “same priorities for the country as you have” 47-44
· “shares the moral values most America tries to live by” 66-55
· “says what he really believes most of the time” 55-30
· “has strong qualities of leadership” 63-50
· “someone you would like personally” 60-50
· “confidence to deal wisely with an international crisis” 51-32

And on character issues that the Democrats and Kerry campaign have used to portray the President as a poor leader, he fairs very well.

· “kind of person who listens to different points of view” 62-74
· “kind of person who is able to admit when he makes mistakes” 47-47
· “confidence to deal wisely with an international crisis” 51-32

Even amongst issues that are conventionally believed to be stalwarts of Democrat policies, healthcare, unemployment, education, none are considered so important as to be named by more than 13% as the issue respondents would “most like to hear the candidates for President discuss.”

The favorability ratings show the President to be rebounding from his 2004 low of 36% following the Abu Ghraib and Fallajuh news stories. It now stands at 47% with only 38% holding a “not favorable” opinion; the first time is has been below 40% in six months.

On the other hand, the junior Senator’s favorability rating has sunk to 31% from it’s 2004 high of 38% following the Democrat national Convention. More alarming, is John Kerry’s “not favorable” rating which hit it’s all-time high for this poll of 42%, up from the 34% (plus or minus a point or so) that it stayed at since the Abu Ghraib and Fallujah stories broke.

On the main issues of the moment – terrorism, the economy, and military service in the early 70s, the President has a more mixed bag to hold. On his handling of the economy, 50% disapprove. This cannot be used to conclude, however, that it is the issue in which voters will necessary cast their vote as only 14% of respondents noted it as the main issue they’d like discussed.

49% disapprove of his handling of the situation with Iraq. Again, this cannot be used to determine how one will cast their cast on November 2nd. Only 9% cited the war as the #1 issue. 6% did cite “terrorism”. What is unclear is how mutually exclusive these two issue are.

What mitigates in the Presidents favor is his approval on handling the “campaign against terrorism”. If voters understand “campaign against terrorism” to be the “War on Terror”, then the President is in much better shape as 59% approve of work against terrorism.

Both candidates served our country during the Vietnam War. John F. Kerry in the United States Navy and President Bush in the Texas Air National Guard. Both men’s services have come under fire. Senator Kerry’s service by a group of fellow Swift Boat Veterans who have raised serious questions about his time in combat, and the President’s service by CBS News, who are in possession of now-debunked documents claiming special treatment while in the TANG.

The respondents give both men the benefit of the doubt. 71% believe the President is telling the “entire truth” or “mostly telling the truth but is hiding something”, and 78% believe the same about the Massachusetts Senator. About 10% did not know. This means there could be marginal gains to be had by both candidates in pursuing this specific line of attack. More likely, any further attacks would be reflected in more general character and leadership questions, and thus, may not be reflected in this particular question.

While the polls reflects issues in which conventional wisdom dictates that the President should be wary, one has great difficulty concluding that a candidate who enjoys overwhelming approval on issues of character and leadership will falter over the next six weeks.

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