Notes on the Atrocities
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Wednesday, March 31, 2004  

Gallup Poll Data

A poll conducted by Gallup last week shows some interesting results in the wake of the Clarke news. I'd say it's premature to know what effect it will have in the long term (I expect a slow erosion), but even at that, the findings are instructive.

On terrorism, his support has slipped among Democrats and Independents, which is bad news for his re-election. I don't need to remind you that he won the election by getting a half-million few votes than Gore. If he loses the battle outside his base, he loses the election.

Handling of Terrorism (Percent approving), Dec 7, March 28
Republicans: 93%, 93%
Independents: 64%, 49%
Democrats: 42%, 26%

The Clarke material is harder to interpret. The rally-around-the-President effect offsets some of Clarke's charges, but Americans are following it, and it is having an effect. Seventy percent of Americans say they're following the Clarke accusations at least somewhat closely. On believability, Gallup writes:

So far, the American public has declared the verbal sparring contest a draw -- 44% say they believe Clarke in this matter and 46% side with current Bush administration officials. Responses to this poll question are strongly partisan -- 83% of Republicans believe current Bush officials, while 76% of Democrats believe Clarke. Independents are more likely to believe Clarke (51%) than the Bush administration (36%).

Add to that that 54% of Americans think Bush could have done more to prevent 9/11 (a figure not likely to go down), and 53% think the administration's trying to cover something up, and it looks grim for Dubya in the weeks ahead.

On the other hand, his overall approval is actually up, to 53%, and he's widened his lead over Kerry.

The figures are contradictory in some ways. I think this mainly reflects the public's relative unfamiliarity with John Kerry. They don't like Bush on the one hand, but they don't know Kerry on the other (except, perhaps, what they've learned in the Bush hit pieces). So while they're distrustful of Bush, they still have no basis for trusting Kerry, either. Of course, all of this will change, and it represents a good opportunity for Kerry.

I suspect people outside the base aren't going to reverse their mistrust of the President. His mendacity and shadiness have mostly been obscured to the general public behind his mien of "defender." But now, with attacks coming from all sides, and a press more willing to call him on his obvious misrepresentations, the chickens are coming home to roost. Kerry doesn't have to be that spectacular to capture wavering allegiances. I expect to see a general weakening of the President's approval numbers this summer. (I have, lately, been so far off base on my predictions that this speculation may be the best news Bushies have gotten in a long time.)

[Update: Liberal Oasis has some excellent analysis on this and other poll numbers.]

posted by Jeff | 12:06 PM |
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