NPR Poll: Kerry vs Bush
Monday's Morning Edition reported about the latest results of NPR's polls. Morning Edition has asked Republican pollster Bill McInturff and Democratic pollster Stanley Greenburg to conduct polls for them throughout the election season. Unlike some of the stories I've read on the web, the story sounded like Kerry is looking competitive against Bush right now (Bush ahead by 2%), but this was likely to change as the campaign goes on.
One key nugget in this poll was how closely people were watching this election. McInturff said that in 25 years of polling, the number of people closely following this election is very high, even higher than the last Oct poll of 2000 (63% voters rate their interest as 10 on a scale of 1 to 10). Democrats are more interested by a healthy 9 points which is a reversal of typical elections early in the election cycle. One point not mentioned in the newstory but was in the poll report (pdf) was that Bush's margin of support is coming from people that are less likely to be already strongly focused on this race.
Approve of Bush
53 % for
43 % against
42 % for
53 % against
Who would you vote for today
36 % Bush
45 % Kerry
Approve Job Performance
2/3's of the Republicans strongly approve of Bush's job performance
2/3's of the Democrats strongly disapprove Bush's performance (this is the strongest negatives for a President since )
42 % approve
Right Direction/Wrong Track
42 % right direction (this group was 8-1 for Bush)
48 % wrong track (this group was 8-1 for Kerry)
32 % right direction
62% wrong track
This poll tested candidate messaging by seeing what changed when putting the party's best arguments forward. They found that voters didn't move much at all showing that voters are highly polarized already. McInturff said that the only arguments that seemed to make any difference (on independents) related to national security and jobs and trade. Bush and Kerry were rated equally on national security until people where told that Kerry voted against the death penalty. And on the jobs and trade question, the only way Bush's numbers improved was by saying that Kerry would raise their taxes. Note that the "negative information" in this version of the question was totally rigged and definitely not representative of what Senator Kerry has said about how he would correct Bush's extremely bad tax cuts for the wealthy.
Over the top lie:
But John Kerry supported raising taxes on Medicare, Social Security benefits, and eliminating a five hundred dollar per child tax credit. Kerry even supported a fifty cent per gallon increase in the gas tax.
The fact that the only way they can woo Independents is by negative messages tells us why the "soft, humanizing" (and exploitative) ads that the Bush campaign didn't even last a week before they got down and dirty.
It’s clear though, especially on the issue of “jobs and trade,” President Bush only made progress when including elements sharply critical of Senator Kerry’s record. An important finding is President Bush’s arguments generally scored higher when they included these negative contrast elements.
This finding has implications for the tone of the debate to come, reflected by Bush’s probable campaign rhetoric and upcoming advertising.
It was very interesting to see how different this poll was compared to others that were produced this week. Certainly this race is just getting started and 8 months is a long, long time for drumming in a negative message, which could be very bad for Kerry if he is not good at refuting the negative image. Yet, the fact that Bush's supporters haven't really started to pay attention could be a very bad indicator for his side since the next 8 months will become increasingly more interesting as the investigations into the Bush administration start to yield results.