To win on Schiavo? Don't play

Before Republicans attack the judiciary again, they might want to check the poll numbers from Florida.

Published April 13, 2005 12:54PM (EDT)

If Republicans still think there's something to gain by bashing the judiciary over the Terri Schiavo case, a new post-mortem poll of Florida voters ought to give them second thoughts. The Quinnipiac University poll finds that voters disapprove of just about everyone's handling of the Schiavo case -- all except the U.S. Supreme Court's, that is.

Florida voters disapprove of George W. Bush's handling of the Schiavo case by a margin of 59-35 -- the same margin by which they disapprove of Jeb Bush's involvement. Voters disapprove of Congress' role 64-27, the Florida legislature's role 62-26, and the media's role by a whopping 71-23 percent.

Who came out best in the poll? The courts. While Florida voters disapproved of the Florida courts' role in the case by a thin 48 to 45 percent -- the poll's margin of error is three points -- they approved of the federal courts' handling of the case, 49-43. Who fare the best of them all? The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, who refused to involve themselves in the case whatsoever. Florida voters approved of the Supreme Court's role, 50-44.

While the poll suggests that Republicans -- at least those in Florida -- might pay a price by continuing to use the Schiavo case to fire up their religious base, the affair hasn't seemed to hurt either Jeb Bush or his brother in the state so far, says Clay Richards, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. Approval ratings for the governor and the president have moved only slightly since the February Quinnipiac poll: Florida voters approve of Jeb's job performance, 51-39, but they disapprove of the president's work, 51-46.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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