Democrats & Liberals Archives

The Polls are in: It's split down the middle!

After reporting on some numbers in my recent post “Revisiting Public Opinion” and Mike Van Winkle’s subsequent post “The Unscientific Nature of Poll Reporting” I found a great Washintong Post poll covering a wide range of political topics.

The good thing about this poll is that it’s just numbers up for interpretation. I’m not planning on giving the numbers any spin, instead letting the math part of my brain take over for the leftwing part of my brain for this post.

Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president? Do you approve/disapprove strongly or somewhat?

             ---------Approve---------   --------Disapprove-------    No
             NET   Strongly   Somewhat   NET   Strongly   Somewhat   opin.
9/13/03      58       35         23      40       27         14        2
9/27/01      90       70         20       6        3          3        4
4/22/01      63       33         30      32       16         16        5

The article actually covers a wider range of numbers, but I selected these to show the beginning, peak and end of the poll's numbers. As you can clearly see Bush has fallen dramatically since his astronomical numbers around 9/11. This was to be expected. Not even FDR himself could have maintained such numbers. The reality is Bush hasn't lost any major ground since his pre-9/11 numbers and sits with 58% approval as of the most recent poll.

What is apparent is that there are 11% more people out there who strongly disapprove and 7% less who approve only somewhat. As you can see from the above numbers people aren't being swayed from "Disapprove Somewhat" to "Disapprove Strongly", since that can only account for 2 of the 11% increase in the "Disapprove Strongly" category. This can only mean one thing: the majority of the people who have been swayed into the "Disapprove Strongly" category were once in the "Approve" section of the above table. But, before you get too excited note that Bush's "Approve Strongly" category has gone up 2%. One to some more numbers.

2. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Bush is handling (ITEM)?

                                           Approve    Disapprove    No op.
a. The economy                                42          56           3
b. The situation in Iraq                      52          46           2
c. Education                                  56          39           6
d. Social Security                            43          46          11
e. Prescription drug benefits 
   for the elderly                            35          54          11 
f. The environment                            51          42           7
g. The cost, availability and coverage 
   of health insurance                        32          61           7
h. Homeland security                          63          32           4 
i. Taxes                                      48          48           4
j. The federal budget                         38          57           4 
k. The situation between Israel 
   and the Palestinians                       46          43          11 
l. The US campaign against terrorism          70          27           3
m. Creating jobs                              39          55           6
n. International affairs                      53          43           4
o. Military spending                          60          39           2
p. Gun control                                51          34          15
q. The abortion issue                         43          40          18
r. Campaign finance reform                    44          41          15

*Half sample asked items a-i, other half asked j-r.

Now I've thrown a lot of numbers at you in the above table, but I think this is a good summation of how things are right now in public opinion. Bush's approval rating is below 50% in 10 of the 18 hot topics above. Out of the remainder his approval rating is above 55% in 4 of the 8 topics he has higher than 50% approval, which could mean that the remaining 4 topics between 50 and 55% could swing votes either way depending on how they are handled in the election.

Not surprisingly two of those topics are international affairs and the situation in Iraq (the other two being gun control and the environment). As we know those two topics will be significant in 2004 and whomever wins on those topics may very well win the election. The area in which Bush is greatly ahead of the game is the "War" on Terrorism. Depending on the Democratic candidate Bush could lose a lot of ground in this area. For example, Bush would have a difficult time saying he is better equipped to run a War than Wesley Clark (who has yet to officially enter the race, but most likely will this week).

No matter what side of the race you are on you have to admit that the numbers are close and, in the end, could go either way. Things the Republicans have to watch out for are public opinion on Iraq (if more voters become disenfranchised with the situation is could mean trouble), the "War" on Terrorism (if voters begin to think it's going nowhere) and the economy (where 56% of voters already disapprove). Democrats will need to focus on the same three areas, but find a way not to just bash Bush, but rather promote their own plans as better ideas.

As far as I can tell I'll be staying up late in November of '04 watching another close race.

Posted by joestump at September 16, 2003 9:29 AM