November 25, 2003
Harbinger or tease?

You've seen this question a million times already: “If next year’s election for President was held today, do you think you would vote for George W. Bush, or some other candidate?” Suppose I told you that in a recent poll, the numbers broke down as follows:

George W. Bush 46.4%
Other Candidate 42.4%
Undecided 11.2%

Not very unusual, right? Bush has been running no better than even against an unnamed Democrat for some time now in national polls. He's actually doing a little better here than in some of those surveys.

Now suppose I told you that this was a poll taken in Montana (scroll down to "Vote Intention in 2004"), a state which Bush carried in 2000 by a 58-34 margin over Al Gore (Nader got 6%). Some "statistically significant relationships" from this MSU-Billings poll:

A majority (52.6%) of males planned on voting for Bush, a majority of females (59.4%) favored some other candidate.

A majority (76.8%) of Republicans said they would vote for Bush. A majority of Democrats (78.6%) and Independents (48.1%) supported some other candidate.

Majorities of respondents with 1-11 years (55.6%) and 13-15 (some college) years of education (59%) said they would vote for Bush. A plurality of college graduates (46.9%) and majority of individuals with a post-graduate education (57.4%) said they backed some other candidate.

That's actually less support among Republicans for Bush than the national average, which could be a very bad sign given how independents have soured on him.

Now, of course, there are tons of caveats: The margin of error is 5%. Other candidates combined for 42% in 2000, so while Bush has lost ground, the Democrats haven't necessarily gained any. A generic candidate often does better than a specific one. Some 20% of Democrats still seem to support Bush.

But still. The Mountain Time Zone was very friendly to Bush in 2000, with every state except New Mexico a red state. If his support slips there (and I've said before that Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada are all within reach for the Democrats), he's got trouble. The solid South can only take you so far.

Via Not Geniuses.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 25, 2003 to The making of the President | TrackBack

Few legitimate polls show the President running that weak among his Republican base, and that makes me highly dubious of this one. Even if it's legit, it could well be a momentary artifact of the Medicare legislation, which is not a hit among more strident conservatives. But that will be forgotten a year from now, which is the sole intent of the legislation. I can't imagine the President will have any trouble with his base in 2004. If the Dems are counting on that to put states in play, they really do continue to misunderstand the political landscape.

Posted by: kevin whited on November 25, 2003 11:33 AM

Well, I didn't mention the Medicare bill, but now that you do, those strident conservatives at the National Review don't seem to like it all that much (see here, here, and here. (Neither do Heritage or Cato, for that matter.) But hey, if the GOP wants to be the party of big government, I'm sure the Democrats could come up with an appealing message for Western folks. :-)

As for the base, the idea that the President has issues to concern himself about is not original to me.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on November 25, 2003 12:21 PM

Unfortunately, the Democrats may not have the opportunity to refer to the economy as being the problem, since the latest report indicates that the GDP went up above the original estimate in the last quarter.

The other problem is what you indicate in your piece, that a generic candidate often does better than a specific one. The trick here will be to find a viable candidate to go up against President Bush, as opposed to the "flavor of the month" (Clark or Dean, although either may turn out to be the best bet.) choice or "safety" choice (Gephardt or Kerry).

Posted by: William Hughes on November 25, 2003 12:51 PM