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May 10, 2004
Zogby Falls Down

John Zogby writes an entertaining essay explaining why, in his opinion, the presidential election belongs to John Kerry. Zogby, whose polling data provided equal parts entertainment and incredulity in past elections, makes the strange assumption that a focus on the economy in the middle of an expansion will hurt the incumbent:

First, my most recent poll (April 12-15) shows bad re-election numbers for an incumbent President. Senator Kerry is leading 47% to 44% in a two-way race, and the candidates are tied at 45% in the three-way race with Ralph Nader. Significantly, only 44% feel that the country is headed in the right direction and only 43% believe that President Bush deserves to be re-elected - compared with 51% who say it is time for someone new.

In that same poll, Kerry leads by 17 points in the Blue States that voted for Al Gore in 2000, while Bush leads by only 10 points in the Red States that he won four years ago.

Second, there are very few undecided voters for this early in a campaign. Historically, the majority of undecideds break to the challenger against an incumbent. The reasons are not hard to understand: voters have probably made a judgment about the better-known incumbent and are looking for an alternative.

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.

Let's tackle the silliness in order. First, Zogby's latest poll is almost a month old now, while other polls are much more recent. While Zogby may show Kerry ahead in a two-way race by less than the margin of error, two other major pollsters show Bush ahead and another shows a dead heat -- and all of this after a couple of very difficult months for Bush, during which Kerry has achieved little or no traction at all. In polling this month, all pollsters show Bush's approval numbers ahead of his disapproval numbers. In terms of the so-called "battleground states", Bush shows that he has gained more electoral votes than Kerry, even while taking a beating, over the 2000 election results.

Zogby then argues that a lack of undecided voters at this stage of the election favors the challenger, without providing any basis for that conclusion. Nor has he considered that the "challenger" they may break towards could very well be Nader; in fact, I would say that undecided-but-dislikes-Bush voters may tend to tilt that direction. If they already dislike Bush, they'd be inclined to go Kerry instead. Failing that, it seems that they don't like Kerry any more than Bush.

The next point given is the economy, stupid; people won't recognize that we're in growth mode and the economic votes will go Kerry's way. His mid-April polling tells Zogby that those voters are already going his way. However, those are the voters most likely to change their minds late -- if the economy keeps growing and adding jobs like it has, you can expect that gap to tighten considerably. Note too that Zogby's latest poll came well before the April jobs report.

Lastly, Zogby argues that Kerry is a good closer, but only argues two cases: his Senate election over Bill Weld in 1996 and these primaries. But Kerry's success in the primaries came not so much from his own effort but the Howard Dean implosion this winter, as the former Governor couldn't keep his mouth shut long enough to actually win a primary. As far as his victory over Weld, it hardly sheds glory on the Kennedy protege that he barely won an election in heavily Democratic Massachussetts with Teddy's support against a Republican challenger. Finishing strong meant he almost blew it.

Zogby provides an entertaining look at politics, but what he proves above all else is that his polling inconsistencies should be no surprise any more to intelligent observers. (via Memeorandum)

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 10, 2004 1:03 PM

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