Republicans lose their national security edge

A new poll finds that Americans no longer favor Republicans on national security issues.

By Vincent Rossmeier
Published May 20, 2009 2:15PM (EDT)

He hasn't been winning many people over lately, but Michael Steele's Republican colleagues might be well advised to heed his blustering about the party looking forward. A new poll suggests that Republicans simply aren't going to be able to win harping on the same issues they have in the past.

A Democracy Corps poll out Tuesday from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner shows that Democrats have finally closed the gap between the parties on national security. The poll's authors write, "For the first time in our research, Democrats are at full parity on perceptions of which party would best manage national security, while they have moved far ahead of the GOP on specific challenges such as Afghanistan, Iraq, working with our allies, and improving America’s image abroad."

That's especially bad news for the GOP because national security was one of the last issues on which Americans still trusted the party over its rival. In August 2003, for example, Republicans beat Democrats on the issue 54 percent to 25 percent.

A large part of the reason for that shift can be blamed on the policies of former President Bush and former Vice President Cheney. The Democracy Corps poll found that nearly two-thirds of those questioned believe President Obama is doing a better job on national security than Bush. Americans strongly support the president's foreign policy and national security agendas -- his approval rating on national security stands at 64 percent, which is actually six points higher than his overall approval rating.

As Steve Benen points out, Democracy Corps is a left-leaning organization, founded by Democrats Stan Greenberg and James Carville. But the poll numbers still seem reliable. Obama's general approval rating in the Democracy Corps poll is low compared to the numbers found by other pollsters.

The poll also shows some glaring negatives for Democrats: While respondents overwhelmingly favored the party when it comes to the economy, foreign policy and the situation in Iraq, they also consider Democrats far less patriotic and respectful of the military than Republicans.

Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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