Monday, May 10, 2004

Zogby: Election Kerry's to Lose

John Zogby has written a column stating that the Presidential election is John Kerry's to lose. Zogby proved to be one of least accurate pollsters in the election of 2002, and when you delve into his reasoning for this recent assertion, there seem to be obvious weakpoints in his argument. He gives four reasons on which he based his opinion, and it is the third that seems to overlook important data and misstate other information:

Third, the economy is still the top issue for voters - 30% cite it. While the war in Iraq had been only noted by 11% as the top issue in March, it jumped to 20% in our April poll as a result of bad war news dominating the news agenda. The third issue is the war on terrorism. Among those who cited the economy, Kerry leads the President 54% to 35%. Among those citing the war in Iraq, Kerry's lead is 57% to 36%. This, of course, is balanced by the 64% to 30% margin that the President holds over Kerry on fighting the war on terrorism. These top issues are not likely to go away. And arguably, there is greater and growing intensity on the part of those who oppose and want to defeat Bush.

The President's problem is further compounded by the fact that he is now at the mercy of situations that are out of his control. While the economy is improving, voters historically do not look at indicators that measure trillions and billions of dollars. Instead, their focus is on hundreds and thousands of dollars. In this regard, there is less concern for increases in productivity and gross domestic product and more regard for growth in jobs and maintaining of health benefits. Just 12 years ago, the economy had begun its turnaround in the fourth quarter of 1991 and was in full recovery by spring 1992 - yet voters gave the President's father only 38% of the vote because it was all about "the economy, stupid."

The same holds true for Iraq. Will the United States actually be able to leave by June 30? Will Iraq be better off by then? Will the US be able to transfer power to a legitimate and unifying authority? Will the lives lost by the US and its allies be judged as the worth the final product? It is difficult to see how the President grabs control of this situation.

First, his information on the number of people that prefer Kerry over Bush on the war in Iraq contradicts other polls that have had the two men much closer on this issue. He also states that voters historically do not look at productivity and GDP as closely as they look at job growth, implying that Bush will be hurt by the economy. What he fails to state is that the economy has produced close to 900,000 new jobs since January including 288,000 jobs last month. This trend is likely to continue through the year as the economy continues to expand. The example regarding President Bush's father and the economy is not an apples to apples comparison, as although the economy had started to turn around just before the election, it did not do so in time for tangible benefits (like 900,000 jobs) to have an effect on the public.

In discussing Iraq in the next paragraph, it is striking that he asks as a rhetorical question "Will the US actually be able to leave by June 30?". The answer is no, because we have no intention of leaving, and in fact have announced the intention of keeping 135,000 troops in Iraq through 2005. This seems to show a fundamental lack of understanding of the process taking place in Iraq, with which it would make it difficult to produce an accurate poll. He concludes the paragraph by stating, "It is difficult to see how the President grabs control of this situation". This of course implies that the situation is out of control. While the prisoner abuse has used to make the entire war seem out of control, this statement reveals as much of Zogby's opinion of the war as it does those he polled.

The entire article is worth reading because no matter the quality of Zogby's data, it should serve to remind all those who wish to see President Bush elected that it is going to be a difficult fight that will require focus and determination from now through the election.

Zogby Opinion