In the polls


Stephen W. Stromberg
June 29, 2004 9:35PM (UTC)

A day after the handover of limited sovereignty to Iraq, a new poll shows Iraqis want even more freedom from their occupiers -- they want American soldiers out. A study from the Iraq Centre for Research and Strategic Studies shows that 80 percent of Iraqis want U.S. troops to stop patrolling their streets, and 41 percent would feel safer if they left altogether. Americans also continue to be less than enthusiastic about the war. According to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, 60 percent of Americans think that yesterday's transfer of power is a sign of failure.

Muslim voters in the United States, meanwhile, strongly favor John Kerry according to a poll just released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Fifty four percent of respondents -- all eligible Muslim voters -- said they would vote for Kerry, and a whopping 26 percent said they would vote for Ralph Nader. These numbers stand in sharp relief to the last presidential election, when Bush got strong support from the American Muslim community -- 55 percent of respondents said they voted for the president in 2000. Almost half of those polled also said that they had encountered anti-Muslim discrimination or bias over the last year.

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In Florida, the latest Quinnipiac poll shows Bush and Kerry running neck and neck in that most coveted of swing states. In a three-way race, both get 43 percent of the vote, and Nader gets 5 percent. Without Nader in the race, Kerry gets a slight edge, 46 to 44 percent.

And, similar to the NYTimes/CBS poll we mentioned earlier, another national survey shows President Bush's poll numbers dropping -- but still managing to stay even with Kerry's in the horserace. A new Battleground poll puts Bush and Kerry even in a three way race with Ralph Nader, 48 to 48 percent. Nader got 1 percent. But 51 percent said the president does not deserve re-election.

The Gallup Poll Tuesday Briefing shows Bush's job approval rating at 48%. "Presidents' approval ratings in the spring and summer of their election years are generally good predictors of whether they will be re-elected. The last five presidents who were re-elected -- Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, and Dwight Eisenhower -- all had approval ratings above 50% in June of their re-election years. In fact, of those five, Reagan's 54% was the lowest. On the other hand, the three recent presidents who were defeated -- the elder George Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford -- all had approval ratings below 50% in June of their respective election years. The only president who bucked these trends and went on to be re-elected was Harry S. Truman, of whom only 39% approved in late May/early June 1948."

Why isn't John Kerry getting more traction from Bush's plunge? MSNBC's First Read today reports on a focus group that might shed some light on this phenomenon: "A focus group is not a poll. And a focus group of 12 members of the U.S. military and military spouses is an even narrower cross-section of the electorate ... Nevertheless, the dozen gathered in Virginia Beach last night for a freewheeling session conducted by pollster Peter Hart (D) for the Annenberg Public Policy Center offered up some items of interest for both the Bush and Kerry campaigns."

" ... Just over four months until election day, Kerry remains largely undefined for this group, apart from several noting that he protested against the Vietnam war after serving in it. Asked to describe Kerry, they offered phrases including: 'lost' (twice), 'no comment,' '[I'm] interested in his ideas,' 'wishy-washy,' 'two-faced,' 'shady,' and 'good intentions.' Asked again to offer things they knew of him: 'served then protested,' 'too many positions,' 'two-faced,' and 'used his [Vietnam] story to his advantage.'"

"'Bush, conversely, got this: 'go-getter,' 'determined,' 'gets what he wants,' 'risk-taker,' 'courageous,' 'patriotism,' 'puppet' (to Dick Cheney's 'puppeteer'), 'steadfast,' 'supports the military.' That said, descriptions of the Administration ranged from 'honorable,' 'integrity' and 'visionaries' to 'mediocre,' 'reactionary,' and a note of 'no progress on the other areas' apart from the war and fighting terrorism."

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"As Hart interpreted the responses, 'Bush knows what he wants to do even though it may not be the right thing, versus John Kerry [who] doesn't know what he wants to do.' Hart called that Kerry's 'single biggest weakness,' noting it reinforces what the Bush campaign has sought to emphasize. That said, Hart also interpreted the responses about Bush as suggesting, 'Bush has got the economy all wrong. It's not about the economy of today; it's about the economy of tomorrow.' And there's 'no sense' among these service-members of Iraq 'coming together.'"


Stephen W. Stromberg

Stephen W. Stromberg is a former editorial fellow at Salon.

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