Don't Assume Another Terror Strike Benefits Bush
We have speculated many times here at The Left Coaster about what affect another terrorist strike would have upon the November election. With all of the warnings that the White House will be spinning out in the coming months, especially in blue state areas, it is more than just the tin-foil types who are worried about Mr. Bush’s playing upon Americans’ fear of terrorism to facilitate his election this November.
But is terrorism and the fear of another strike a major consideration for voters this fall? Would another strike necessarily help Mr. Bush to election in a rally-around-the-President atmosphere. Don’t be so sure.
Time Magazine, in a poll released on dead news Friday, taken through Thursday night, asked the interesting questions and got some interesting answers from their respondents on the issue of terrorism and the 2004 election.
After a week of al-Qaeda terrorism alerts, the dominant issue for voters remains the economy — 27% cited the economy as their decisive issue, the same as two weeks ago. Terrorism is at 18%, exactly the same as two weeks ago. And the shifts have been negligible concerning other priority issues. Clearly, the elevated terrorism alert has neither elevated the issue in voter's minds nor boosted President Bush's numbers despite voters tendency to see Bush as the stronger candidate on dealing with terrorism.
Is Terrorism Fading as a Cutting Edge Issue?
The elevated terror alert last week had only limited impact on voters.
• Only 21% report being "very worried" about a terrorist attack in the next few months, up only 4% from those who gave the same answer before the latest alert.
• Less than 1 in 3 voters (31%) say that they follow the alert levels "very closely."
• Only 1 in 4 voters (26%) say that they're being "more careful" because of the elevated terrorism alert, but 73% say that it's "business as usual."
• Only 14% of voters agree "strongly" that they "want a President who is strong on terrorism" and "not much else matters" in their vote this year.
Another 13% agree somewhat. Fully 70% of voters disagree. This is unchanged from July, before the terrorism alerts.
While a majority, 54%, believes that the Bush administration would not "use a terrorism alert for political reasons," 38% think that the alerts might be used for political reasons, with 7% undecided on this issue.
What impact might a terrorist strike have on the election?
The President continues to receive his highest approval ratings for his handling of the war on terrorism — 56% approve, 41% disapprove. This is up from 51% - 46% approval rating in July. However, the poll finds that absent a terrorist attack on our soil, terrorism may not be a cutting edge issue in the election.
• A majority of voters would trust either Bush (61% trust, 35% not trust) or Kerry (62% trust, 32% not trust) to lead the war against terrorism. Both Bush and Kerry appear to pass the test.
• If there were a terrorist strike before the November election, 66% say it would have little impact on their own vote. The remaining voters split on how an attack might affect their vote: 16% say an attack would make them more likely to vote for Kerry, while 15% say it would make them more likely to vote for Bush.
• Voters split about evenly when asked what impact they believe a terrorist strike would have on the election outcome: 30% say it would improve Bush's chances of election, while 31% believe it would improve Kerry's chances.