NBC/WSJ: Bush Leads Among Women

NBC poll: Bush holds narrow lead (MSNBC)

Less than six weeks before Election Day, the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows President Bush with a lead over Democratic challenger John Kerry — but it’s within the margin of error, and it’s much smaller than some other recent post-GOP convention polls indicate. Still, the survey has some troubling numbers for Kerry as he tries to close Bush’s narrow lead: Female voters aren’t flocking to the Massachusetts senator as they have to past Democratic candidates, and a solid majority of overall voters believes he doesn’t have a message, or doesn’t know what he would do if elected.

The poll, conducted by Hart/McInturff, shows Bush receiving support from 48 percent of registered voters, Kerry getting 45 percent, and Nader getting 2 percent. Among likely voters (defined as those expressing high interest in the November election, who represent 78 percent of the survey), Bush holds a four-point lead over Kerry, 50 percent to 46 percent. “The difference between those couple of points and being in a dead-even race is modest,” said GOP pollster Bill McInturff. “This is not a difficult race [for Kerry] to get quickly back to being functionally tied.”

What exactly is a Republican pollster? Do they use a different sampling methodology than Democratic or Independent pollsters? If not, why the modifier?

In fact, the results among registered voters are virtually identical to the results from past NBC/Wall Street Journal polls — even though many experts claim that Bush had a resoundingly successful convention, and noted that Kerry (dogged by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth who attacked his Vietnam record, and Democrats who questioned whether his campaign had a concrete message) had a dreadful August. In the last poll, which was released just days before the Republican convention, Bush held a 47-45 percent lead over Kerry, a result unchanged from the survey in July. Moreover, June’s poll had Bush leading 45 percent to 44 percent; May’s had him up 46-42; and March’s had him leading 46-43.

Oddly, this is different than the results of the most recent poll by Public Opinion Strategies, of which McInturff is a partner, which showed a 48-42 Bush lead.

What’s most interesting to me is that MSNBC is burying their lede here. The news isn’t that Bush’s lead is slightly smaller than in other polls–the margin of error works both directions, after all–but the fact that Bush is virtually tied among women, blowing away the traditional gender gap:

[Kerry] has just a 48-45 percent lead among women voters. By comparison, exit polls from 2000 show that that Al Gore won the women’s vote 54-43. And the reason behind this shift, it seems, can be attributed to the war on terror. In the poll, when asked what set of issues is more important, 44 percent of respondents said terrorism, social issues and values, while another 44 percent said the economy and health care. Among women, though, 45 percent cited the economy and health care, while a surprisingly large 42 percent said terrorism and values.

This is a huge shift in the conventional wisdom and should have been the focus of the reportage. It comports with a NYT story from yesterday, so the result is likely not an outlyer:

Kerry in a Struggle for a Democratic Base: Women

In a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted last week, women who are registered to vote were more likely to say they would vote for Mr. Bush than for Mr. Kerry, with 48 percent favoring Mr. Bush and 43 percent favoring Mr. Kerry.

(Hat tip: Steven Taylor)

Interesting as well:

Another troubling sign for the Kerry campaign is that most voters don’t know what its message is. Fifty-four percent of respondents say that the campaign doesn’t have a message, or that they don’t know what a Kerry-Edwards team would do if elected. That’s compared with just 36 percent who believe the campaign has a message. On the other hand, 68 percent say the Bush campaign has a message, while just 23 percent think it doesn’t.

Kerry’s poor showing is a bit odd when one considers that Bush’s internals aren’t so hot, either:

But Bush has some troubling signs of his own. Even though the president has a slight lead in this poll, when voters were asked what they would want in a second term for Bush, 58 percent say they want major changes, compared with only 9 percent who say they want his second term to look a lot like his first term. “Look, he has to prove that he will pivot” in a second term, said Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart. Yet McInturff, the GOP pollster, added that this is something Bush can accomplish at the upcoming debates.

I’m not sure exactly what this means, since it might simply be that people don’t want economic recession and another major terrorist attack.

Update: Bill Hobbs has more thoughts on this trend, citing an article in the SF Chronicle.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2004, 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 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.


  1. Eric Akawie says:

    I also think a lot of Bush Democrats (including lots of those women) would like to see Ashcroft gone.