Monday, June 28, 2004

Prepare For the Spin

A new CBS/New York Times Poll was released today. The headlines are predictably trying to make it sound as though the poll spells doom for the President. It is not until you get into the details of the poll that you realize it is actually bad news for John Kerry.

First, this poll is of 1,053 registered voters, as opposed to likely voters. President Bush has usually fared better in polls of likely voters than polls of registered voters voters. The reasons for that can be debated, but it has generally proven true. The CBS website provided no breakdown by party. The CBS/NY Times Poll has in the past shown a large advantage for Kerry when other polls taken in the same time period have shown the race either tied or Bush with a small lead, which suggests that the poll has been skewed toward Kerry in the past. The Presidents surge in this poll coincides with gains in other polls (the Harris Poll for example) that have proven to be more accurate and have shown the President ahead. It is also important to point out that the results do not include Ralph Nader, whose presence on the ballot would have a marginally detrimental effect on John Kerry.

The headlines tomorrow will surely focus on the fact that this poll has the President's job approval rating at an all time low of 42%, with a favorable rating of only 39%, which is a three percent increase from the last CBS poll. The bad news for Kerry is that despite spending over $50 million in advertising the last three months, and despite the relentless media onslaught of bad news and spin regarding the progress in Iraq and the economy, he has a favorability rating of only 29%, a three point drop from the last poll. There is more bad news for John Kerry. Even though the mainstream media has all but ignored the fantastic economic news of the last nine months, the truth is finally starting to make it through the spin. This month's CBS/NY Times poll found that 30% of those polled said the economy was getting better as opposed to 25% last month, a trend that will no doubt continue based on the fantastic economic news out today. Of all the murky news for John Kerry in this poll, this may be the worst:

As has been the case throughout the campaign, Bush's backers are best described by their fervor for the President, while Kerry's supporters are driven more by their dislike of the opposition than by Kerry himself. 56% of Bush's supporters say they strongly favor Bush, while 32% back him with reservations. Kerry, meanwhile, inspires the strong support of less than one-third of his voters, while 37% are with the Democrat mainly because they dislike George W. Bush.

In other words, President Bush's support is solid, while John Kerry's is not. President Bush has secured his base over the last month with 90% of Republicans planning on voting for the President. As the economy continues to improve and the handover of sovereignty in Iraq complete, look for the number of voters that are currently favoring Kerry only because they dislike the President to dwindle. It is important to note that this poll was taken from June 23-27, before the positive development of the early hand over of sovereignty of Iraq.

The two themes of this election will be the economy and the war on terror, with the focus of that being Iraq. The economy is booming, and all indicators point to that trend continuing. The situation in Iraq is stabilizing and the hand over of sovereignty (the effect of which would not be reflected in this poll) should help ease the anxiety of many Americans. This election will likely to remain tight, and unexpected events (another terrorist attack, the capture of Osama Bin Laden or Zarqawi) between now and election day could change the landscape at the drop of a hat, but if the situation in Iraq even remains the same, and the economy continues to improve, the Presidents prospects in November will be very good.

Remember these numbers when the morning shows and the political pundits try to spin this poll to convince the American people that the President is finished. Most of the time the most important numbers are the ones the press won't tell us.


It turns out that the CBS New York Times poll was of course weighted to favor Kerry. For this and more analysis of the poll go to RealClearPolitics.