BUSH AND THE POLLS

Matthew Yglesias, thinks recent polls should give hope to Democrats, although he acknowleges that polls this far out aren’t of much value in predicting an election 14 months out.

Newsweek reports that only 44 percent of the public wants to see Bush reelected, as opposed to the 49 percent who do not. Zogby has a similar result with 45 percent saying Bush “deserves to be reelected” and 48 percent saying “it’s time for someone new.” On the other hand, when Zogby asked “If the election for president were held today and the candidates were Republican George W. Bush and a Democrat, for whom would you vote” things were looking better for Bush, who scored a (statistically insignificant) 43/42 lead over the unnamed Democrat.

It’s hard to know if this is simply reflecting the changed wording of the question or whether a significant number of the 49-48 percent of the public who doesn’t like Bush is hoping for a third party candidate of some sort. Either way, the implication appears to be that Bush’s popularity, insofar as it exists at all, currently rests more on dislike of the Democratic opposition than on love for Bush, something echoed, I think, both in the blogosphere and the punditsphere where the right seems to have many more bad things to say about Bush-bashers than good things to say about their boy.

I think the desire for “someone new” is more of a sign of malaise than anything else. The economy is rather blah and the rebuilding of Iraq is bringing a steady dose of negative news with little in the way of exciting developments to counterbalance it. Plus, not much is happening in Washington with everyone off on vacation.

Bush isn’t likely to be that exciting to the punditocracy since we’re substantially more ideological than any real politician can afford to be. The blogosphere is overloaded with libertarian types and the professional pundits tend to be of a more traditional conservatism. Bush doesn’t really excite either camp, since he’s phenomenally moderate and detached on most issues. And, of course, unnamed candidates carry no baggage–you can make them whatever you want them to be. Most of the people polled, frankly, are quite rationally not paying any attention whatsoever to politics right now. Few Americans could tell you three things about Howard Dean, for example. Indeed, most people would think he’s the breakfast sausage guy.

For a lot of reasons, I think Bush is quite beatable. But the only thing I’d take from the polls this far out is that he isn’t generating a lot of enthusiasm at the moment.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2004
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. John says:

    The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about 🙂

  2. SwampWoman says:

    Hmmmm. What defines “the public” that were polled? How many were polled? Were these random people hanging out in the local mall that had enough free time to answer the questions? Were these unemployed people answering the phone and wishing to do a survey in the middle of the day? Unless we know the population being polled,(geographic area, party affiliation, age, sex, and average income, for example), the poll does not have a lot of validity. Were the people that were polled registered voters? Were they of legal voting age? Did somebody get lazy and hand out the questionnaires to their niece at the local high school? The validity of the poll depends on the population that is being sampled. NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and FOX news could each have the same poll of their loyal viewers, and I believe results would vary considerably. (Even the time that the poll was run could vary the outcome because they would be sampling a different population.)

    I would pay more attention to what polls said if who they were polling were identified more clearly, but average age can be tricky (a poll of 12 persons: 3 ten year olds, 1 87 year old and a 79 year old, for example) would give you an average age of 22, but does that really tell you anything about a 22 year old’s viewpoint? If the poll above were conducted in the midwest/south among a truly random sample, Bush is in big trouble. On the other hand, if the poll above were of 100 people working at the New York Times, it may indicate a Republican landslide.

    FWIW, the democrats in my area that I have spoken with (and I am one, by the way, so I know the secret democratic handshake) are mostly ardent Bush supporters because they (and I) do not feel that any of the democrats have shown any signs of being able to effectively deal with the national security issue. The front-running candidates (at least those identified as front running in the press, who may or may not be biased*) seem really great at denial, though (go back to ignoring the terror issue and it will all magically disappear, especially if we turn tail and run. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Trust us.) Sigh.

    *The press/reporters of the large papers say they are not biased. The friends and family members that are stationed over in Iraq that I correspond with paint a far rosier picture than that in, say, the New York Times. The small-town local papers here cannot afford the high-priced ‘talent’ of the sneering anti-American divas of the large newspapers; therefore, they print the letters from the local boys that are stationed on-site in Iraq, the ups and downs, triumphs and downfalls. Unbiased, my ass. I’ll take the word of somebody I know that’s living in place over the word of somebody that may venture out of their hotel room for a staged demonstration, and then go back home and bitch about how the electricity isn’t completely restored yet. (I’d sure like to invite them to Florida. It’s been 10 years since hurricane Andrew, and it took a LONG time for the infrastructure to be completely repaired; it could be argued that the work is not yet complete.)

  3. John says:

    Uh, by definition you’re a republican. You’re under a hallucination that you know the secret handshake. Certainly from your writing, I’m pretty darn sure you’ve never voted for democrats “on principle”.

  4. Richard P. says:

    Bush apologists are in no position to take shots at others for being in denial about and ignoring the terrorism threat when Bush came into office with his priority having been national missile defense rather than domestic terrorism and since 9/11/2001 the administration has underfunded first responders, fought against having an independent investigation of intelligence failures leading up to 9/11/2001, had significant parts of the report of the congressional inquiry into intelligence failures blacked out to avoid potentially embarassing disclosures about the Bush family connections to the terrorist-supporting Saudi regime and they haven’t found Osama bin Laden yet. The “just trust us” mantra has been the constant theme of this administration with its obsession with secrecy and spin and its disdain for openness and thorough debate as part of the democratic process. If everyone made the effort to hold the administration’s feet to the fire on national security, what might we all uncover and find out?

    The Democrats’ main problem is that they haven’t been a true opposition party who entices a meaningful national discussion and operates with the determination to bring scrutiny on the GOP administration and stress their alternative policy positions. The country’s interests are best served and our government is most effectively compelled to be competent when citizens, the media and especially the opposition party ask the questions of our leaders that need to be asked and discuss the issues but unfortunately we as a people seem to be uninterested in giving much thought to issues that should matter, preferring to hear about sensational news stories and catchy sound bites instead.