Election Predictions

Someone called Zev Chafets, writing in the NY Daily News, argues that Bush wil win in a walk.

It is possible that no Democrat could beat Bush this year. The President has Ralph Nader on his side, and demography. Since the 2000 election, shifts in population have added seven electoral votes to the Red Bush states and subtracted seven from Goreland.

It’s true that, if things came out exactly as in 2000, Bush would gain electoral votes based on redistricting. But demography works both ways. Florida has absorbed more Northern migrants, Colorado has had an influx of people fleeing California’s high cost of living, Arizona has become an immigration mecca, and foreign immigration, especially an influx of Hispanics, has changed the dynamic in several other states.

Right now the polls look even. But that’s an optical illusion. The President has a Republican convention coming up and the power of incumbency to shape events between now and November. In other words, he’s way ahead. Kerry is a weak campaigner. Barring some kind of national disaster, his best shot is the debates. Democratic true believers think he’ll kill Bush, one on one. That’s what they thought about Al Gore, too.

I agree that Bush will hold his own in the “debates” and that he is more able to control events as the incumbent. He is also, however, at their mercy. Terrorist activity and events in Iraq–and to a lesser extent, the economy–are largely out of his control. His reaction to them is not.

Will Saletan disagrees. He notes that, although the head-to-head numbers haven’t moved much since the convention, other numbers favor Kerry.

Prior to the convention, Kerry’s favorable rating was nine points higher than his unfavorable rating in the ABC poll. Since the convention, this margin has grown to 19 points. Bush’s positive margin on the same question is just two points.


Before the convention, by a 51-43 margin, voters trusted Bush rather than Kerry “to handle the responsibilities of commander-in-chief of the military.” Now the candidates are even. Before the convention, more voters trusted Bush than Kerry “to protect U.S. citizens from future acts of terrorism.” Now more voters trust Kerry than trust Bush.


Bush’s job approval rating has been net negative in CBS surveys since April. Over the same period, his approval rating in ABC polls peaked at 51 but has been net negative in five of seven samplings. Even in the CNN poll, Bush’s approval rating has been below 50 in four of the five surveys this year, including the latest. And in CBS surveys, the percentage of voters saying that things in the United States are on the wrong track hasn’t fallen below 51 percent all year. The percentage saying things are moving in the right direction hasn’t risen above 42 percent. In the post-convention CBS poll, 59 percent say we’re on the wrong track. Only 36 percent say we’re going in the right direction.

These numbers are no doubt discouraging for Bush supporters. One wonders why they don’t translate into the head-to-heads, though. It may well be that people are simultaneously dissatisfied with the general state of affairs yet 1) don’t blame Bush or 2) don’t think Kerry would be an improvement.

FILED UNDER: 2004 Election, Terrorism, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Paul says:

    That it! They’ll both lose!

    (/lame attempt at humor)

  2. I’ve just discovered that the political futures markets where speculators are betting on whether Bush will win or no are showing divergent results at the moment. As I note in my blog, NewsFutures.com is showing Bush at 48% while Trade Sports has him at 56% and Iowa has him at just over 53%. In the Iowa market, Bush has been gaining since the beginning of last week’s Democratic Party Convention. Scholarly research on predictive markets published on NewsFutures.com shows that the futures markets historically have been better at predicting elections than public opinion polls.

  3. FetchDawg says:

    Let’s hope the Rovites continue to be content with the polls. When the undecideds finally take their decisions, they’ll look at Bush’s record and vote for change

  4. McGehee says:

    You just keep telling yourself that, Fetch. 😉

  5. Joseph Marshall says:

    I would read the tea leaves overall in this way: the Demo Convention functioned only as the personal introduction of John Kerry to most of America. They were at least moderately pleased, personally, by what they saw. This has undercut the “likability” edge the President has had from the first.

    The serious questions: What has George Bush actually accomplished? and Would John Kerry lead the country safely and well? have yet to be clearly asked and certainly have not been answered.

    The Republican convention will be the key event to address the first question and bring the answer into focus, the debates will answer the second. Other events of the next 90 days will only come into play if they seriously alter the answers to those two questions.

    For example, the capture of Osama Bin Laden or the unequivocal foiling of an specific terrorist plot would add explicit and powerful new achievements to the Bush record. Nothing short of that would make much difference, I think, with the possible exception of damaging indictments in the Plame case.

    Only an exceptionally dumb public act by Kerry will have sufficient force to override the overall impression of his fitness to govern the public will get in the head to head confrontation.

    My verdict: Still far too close to call.

  6. John Townsend says:

    I went to see Faranheit 9/11 with an open mind and I have been a die-hard republican all my life but I am now believing that GW Bush unlike his father and President Reagan is leading our country in a downward direction. Not only do I think he will lose this election as most people think he should have in 2000 but losing will actually do this country some good.

  7. A Real Sista says:

    If anyone votes to re-elect a president that has turned this country’s surplus into a massive deficit, who plans to cut health care for not only veterans but most Americans ( except for the rich), and who has no plan to win the peace in Iraq..and in fact attacked the wrong country ( I can see how someone THAT unintelligent can get Iraq and Iran confused) and most importantly a president who barely speaks English are either too greedy to give up their millions, too stupid to spell their name, or have been brainwashed by the Rove groupies to know any better.

    Also, IF there really are about 45 % of Americans who want to re-elect Bush then the media is either lying or there are alot more stupid people in this country, and frankly that IS scary.

    Out In 4 Like Dear Ole Dad!
    Kerry and Edwards make me GLAD!!!!

    Hope IS on the way…Too bad the neo-cons are too brainwashed to see the need for hope.

    p.s. Do you REALLY want to re-elect someone who felt it was more important to finish “My Pet Goat” than tend to a grave crisis in our country?? Oh I forgot, he wasn’t even elected!