Terrorism Continues to Define Bush Candidacy

by Lydia Saad

Variety of domestic issues good for Kerry

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll indicates just how much of President George W. Bush's re-election bid -- or at least his electoral image -- is bound up with the issue of terrorism. Democratic challenger John Kerry's supporters express a broader range of concerns and, among the issues measured by Gallup, his issue strengths are strictly domestic policy-oriented in nature.

Out of four major issues facing the country -- the economy, Iraq, terrorism, and healthcare -- Bush is deemed superior to Kerry on two: terrorism and Iraq. But, separately, the same poll shows that terrorism is the more important voting issue to the public at large, as well as to Bush voters, specifically.

According to the Oct. 14-16 poll, approximately 3 in 10 Americans name the economy as the most important issue to their vote when asked to choose from the aforementioned four issues. A similar number mentions terrorism. Iraq is named by less than one-quarter of the public while just 15% choose healthcare. These figures are similar among the subset of Americans whom Gallup identifies as likely voters, those most likely to represent the voting public on Election Day.

Out of the four issues specified, terrorism has ranked either first or second each time the question has been asked since July 2004. The economy has consistently been close to terrorism in perceived electoral importance -- with both issues averaging a score of 30%. The importance of Iraq has fluctuated between 19% and 27%, and the issue has typically ranked third. Healthcare has consistently held fourth place, mentioned by about 15% of Americans.

Bush and Kerry Each Have Issue Strengths

When asked which candidate, as president, can better handle each of 10 specific issues, Americans choose Bush over Kerry on terrorism by a fairly large margin: 59% vs. 37%. Bush also leads Kerry on the issue of Iraq by 51% to 45%, identical to his lead over Kerry on taxes. Kerry leads Bush by slight margins (six and nine points, respectively) on the economy and healthcare. Kerry also has substantial leads for Medicare, the federal budget deficit, and Social Security. The two men are closely matched in perceptions of who can better handle education and immigration. Bush leads on both of these but by only two to three percentage points.

Bush Voters Focused on Terrorism

Bush has made the war on terrorism a central feature of his campaign, and Bush voters strongly reflect this in their own views on the importance of issues to their vote. More than half of all likely voters who back Bush say that terrorism is the most important issue to their vote for president this year; the economy ranks a distant second with 20% of all mentions; Iraq receives 15%; and healthcare receives 10%. By contrast, Kerry voters are split between seeing the economy and Iraq as the most important election issue. Healthcare is named by 19% of Kerry voters, while terrorism is only mentioned by 8%.

Are Vote Preferences in Sync With Issue Ratings?

One way to analyze the data from the recent survey is to relate respondents' vote choice for president to their answers to the two key issue measures, which are:

A) If you had to choose, which of the following issues will be most important to your vote for president this year -- [ROTATED: the economy, terrorism, the situation in Iraq, (or) healthcare]?

and

B) Regardless of which presidential candidate you support, please tell me if you think John Kerry or George W. Bush would better handle each of the following issues -- [ROTATED: The economy; the situation in Iraq; terrorism and healthcare]?

According to this analysis, 88% of the public is consistent in supporting the candidate whom they believe is better able to handle the issue that they separately indicate is the most important to their vote for president. For example 19% of the public is consistent in voting for Kerry on the basis of the economy: This is the percentage of national adults who a) names the economy as the most important issue to their vote, b) thinks Kerry would do a better job than Bush of handling the issue, and c) is voting for Kerry. When we add up the percentage of Kerry supporters who are consistent in voting for him on the basis of the other three issues, we find that 43% of the public is consistent in their issue support of Kerry. Using the same set of calculations, we find that 45% of the public is consistent in their issue support of Bush.

This leaves approximately 12% of the public that is not consistent -- either voting for someone other than the candidate they think can handle their top issue, or indicating they are undecided on any of these questions.

Vote Choice for President and Associated Issues

 

%

Economy voters; choose Kerry on the economy; voting for Kerry

19

Iraq voters; choose Kerry on Iraq; voting for Kerry

13

Terrorism voters; choose Kerry on terrorism; voting for Kerry

3

Healthcare voters; choose Kerry on healthcare; voting for Kerry

8

CONSISTENT KERRY-ISSUE VOTERS

43

 

 

Economy voters; choose Bush on the economy; voting for Bush

9

Iraq voters; choose Bush on Iraq; voting for Bush

8

Terrorism voters; choose Bush on terrorism; voting for Bush

24

Healthcare voters; choose Bush on healthcare; voting for Bush

4

CONSISTENT BUSH-ISSUE VOTERS

45

 

 

INCONSISTENT/UNDESIGNATED

12

This inconsistent/undesignated group might be considered swing voters, whose ultimate vote choice could make the difference in a close election. For that reason, it is interesting to take a closer look at their views.

These undesignated voters are more similar to Kerry voters than to Bush voters in their issue concerns. Their top voting issue is the economy (mentioned by 34%), followed by healthcare with 27%. Another 15% name Iraq, while only 10% say terrorism. By a 50% to 44% margin, this potential swing-voter group believes that sending U.S. troops to Iraq was not a mistake. They are generally split in their views on abortion, with 44% calling themselves "pro-choice" and 42% identifying as "pro-life." (This contrasts with 52% pro-choice vs. 41% pro-life among the public generally.)

Politically they are more likely than the public at large to be politically independent, moderate (rather than conservative) in their political views, and undecided in the vote for president. Bush currently leads Kerry slightly among this group (29% vs. 25%), with 5% going to Nader and 41% still undecided.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,013 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 14-16, 2004. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

For results based on the 493 national adults in the Form A half-sample and 520 national adults in the Form B half-sample, the maximum margins of sampling error are ±5 percentage points.

Results based on likely voters are based on the subsample of 788 survey respondents deemed most likely to vote in the November 2004 general election, according to a series of questions measuring current voting intentions and past voting behavior. For results based on the total sample of likely voters, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points. The likely voter model assumes a turnout of 55% of national adults. The likely voter sample is weighted down to match this assumption.

For results based on the sample of 942 registered voters, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

For results based on the 454 registered voters in the Form A half-sample and 488 registered voters in the Form B half-sample, the maximum margins of sampling error are ±5 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 636 adults who are married or living together with a partner, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

7. Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

A. The economy

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

 

%

%

%

2004 Oct 14-16

46

51

3

 

 

 

 

2004 Sep 24-26

49

48

3

2004 Aug 9-11

46

51

3

2004 Jun 21-23 ^

47

50

3

2004 Jun 3-6

41

58

1

2004 May 7-9 ^

41

56

3

2004 May 2-4

41

56

3

2004 Apr 16-18

46

52

2

2004 Mar 26-28

42

55

3

2004 Feb 9-12

45

52

3

2004 Jan 29-Feb 1

43

54

3

2004 Jan 2-5

54

43

3

Results shown are for 2004 only.

B. The situation in Iraq

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

 

%

%

%

2004 Oct 14-16

46

52

2

 

 

 

 

2004 Sep 24-26

48

49

3

2004 Aug 9-11

45

52

3

2004 Jun 21-23 ^        

42

56

2

2004 Jun 3-6

41

57

2

2004 May 7-9 ^

41

58

1

2004 May 2-4

42

55

3

2004 Apr 16-18

48

49

3

2004 Mar 26-28

51

47

2

2004 Jan 29-Feb 1

46

53

1

2004 Jan 2-5

61

36

3

Results shown are for 2004 only.

^ Asked of half sample.

C. Terrorism

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

 

%

%

%

2004 Oct 14-16

57

41

2

 

 

 

 

2004 Sep 24-26

62

36

2

2004 Aug 9-11

57

40

3

2004 Jun 21-23 ^

54

44

2

2004 Jun 3-6

56

43

1

2004 May 7-9 ^

54

43

3

2004 May 2-4

52

45

3

2004 Apr 16-18

60

39

1

2004 Mar 26-28

58

39

3

Results shown are for 2004 only.

^

Asked of a half sample

15. If you had to choose, which of the following issues will be most important to your vote for president this year -- [ROTATED: the economy, terrorism, the situation in Iraq, (or) healthcare]?

 

Economy

Terrorism

Iraq

Healthcare

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

%

Likely Voters

 

 

 

 

 

2004 Oct 14-16

30

32

22

14

2

2004 Oct 9-10

28

28

25

16

3

2004 Oct 1-3

27

30

27

14

2

2004 Sep 24-26

31

35

19

12

3

2004 Sep 3-5

31

31

20

15

3

2004 Jul 19-21 ^

31

26

27

15

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Registered Voters

 

 

 

 

 

2004 Oct 14-16

33

28

23

14

2

2004 Oct 9-10

28

28

23

18

3

2004 Oct 1-3

28

29

27

14

2

2004 Sep 24-26

34

33

17

13

3

2004 Sep 3-5

32

28

21

16

3

2004 Jul 19-21 ^

33

22

27

19

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Adults

 

 

 

 

 

2004 Oct 14-16

32

29

22

15

2

2004 Oct 9-10

29

26

22

21

2

2004 Oct 1-3

30

29

25

14

2

2004 Sep 24-26

35

32

17

14

2

2004 Sep 3-5

33

26

20

17

4

2004 Jul 19-21 ^

34

21

26

18

1

* Less than 0.5%

^

Re-calculated figures, removing volunteered "all" and "none" responses.

16. Next, regardless of which presidential candidate you support, please tell me if you think John Kerry or George W. Bush would better handle each of the following issues. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

A. The economy

 

Kerry

Bush

SAME (vol.)

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

2004 Oct 14-16

51

45

1

3

2004 Oct 9-10

49

45

2

4

2004 Oct 1-3

51

44

1

4

2004 Sep 24-26

45

51

1

3

2004 Sep 3-5

49

46

2

3

2004 Aug 23-25 ^

49

43

1

7

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1

53

43

1

3

2004 Jul 19-21

51

43

1

5

2004 Jun 21-23 ^

53

40

1

6

2004 May 7-9 ^

54

40

1

5

2004 Mar 5-7

50

42

2

6

(vol.) Volunteered response

^ Asked of half sample.

B. The situation in Iraq

 

Kerry

Bush

SAME (vol.)

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

2004 Oct 14-16

45

51

1

3

2004 Oct 9-10

44

51

1

4

2004 Oct 1-3

44

51

1

4

2004 Sep 24-26

41

55

1

3

2004 Sep 3-5

41

54

1

4

2004 Aug 23-25 ^

43

49

1

7

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1

48

47

2

3

2004 Jul 19-21

44

49

1

6

2004 Jun 21-23 ^

46

47

1

6

2004 May 7-9 ^

45

48

1

6

2004 Mar 5-7

39

54

2

5

(vol.) Volunteered response

^ Asked of half sample.

C. Terrorism

 

Kerry

Bush

SAME (vol.)

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

2004 Oct 14-16

37

59

2

2

2004 Oct 9-10

39

56

2

3

2004 Oct 1-3

39

56

2

3

2004 Sep 24-26

34

61

1

4

2004 Sep 3-5

34

61

1

4

2004 Aug 23-25 ^

37

54

2

7

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1

41

54

2

3

2004 Jul 19-21

38

56

1

5

2004 Jun 21-23 ^

40

54

1

5

2004 May 7-9 ^

38

55

1

6

2004 Mar 5-7

33

60

2

5

(vol.) Volunteered response

^ Asked of half sample.

 

D. Healthcare

 

Kerry

Bush

SAME (vol.)

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

2004 Oct 14-16

52

43

1

4

2004 Oct 9-10

56

37

1

6

2004 Sep 24-26

49

46

1

4

2004 Sep 3-5

53

40

1

6

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1

57

36

2

5

2004 Jul 19-21

54

37

2

7

2004 Mar 5-7

55

36

2

7

(vol.) Volunteered response

E. Education

BASED ON 493 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

 


Kerry


Bush

SAME (vol.)


No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

2004 Oct 14-16 ^

46

49

1

4

2004 Oct 9-10 ^

50

43

2

5

2004 Sep 24-26

44

50

2

4

2004 Aug 23-25 ^

48

43

1

8

2004 Jul 19-21

50

43

1

6

2004 Mar 5-7

47

43

3

7

(vol.) Volunteered response

^ Asked of half sample.

F. The federal budget deficit

BASED ON 493 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

 

Kerry

Bush

SAME (vol.)

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

2004 Oct 14-16 ^

53

42

1

4

2004 Oct 9-10 ^

53

40

2

5

2004 Mar 5-7

53

37

2

8

(vol.) Volunteered response

^ Asked of half sample.

G. Medicare

BASED ON 493 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

 

Kerry

Bush

SAME (vol.)

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

2004 Oct 14-16 ^

54

41

1

4

2004 Oct 9-10 ^

53

38

3

6

2004 Aug 23-25 ^

50

38

1

11

(vol.) Volunteered response

^ Asked of half sample.

H. Social Security

BASED ON 520 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

 

Kerry

Bush

SAME (vol.)

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

2004 Oct 14-16 ^

52

42

2

4

2004 Oct 9-10 ^

50

41

1

8

2004 Mar 5-7

51

36

5

8

(vol.) Volunteered response

^ Asked of half sample.

I. Taxes

BASED ON 520 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

 

Kerry

Bush

SAME (vol.)

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

2004 Oct 14-16 ^

45

51

1

3

2004 Oct 9-10 ^

44

51

1

4

2004 Aug 23-25 ^

47

44

1

8

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1

48

46

2

4

2004 Jul 19-21 ^

48

46

1

5

2004 Mar 5-7

45

45

2

8

(vol.) Volunteered response

^ Asked of half sample.

J. Immigration

BASED ON 520 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

 

Kerry

Bush

SAME (vol.)

No opinion

 

 

 

 

 

2004 Oct 14-16 ^

43%

45

3

9

(vol.) Volunteered response

^ Asked of half sample.

 

SUMMARY TABLE: ADVANTAGE ON ISSUES

2004 Oct 14-16
(sorted by advantage)


Kerry


Bush


Advantage

 

%

%

 

Medicare

54

41

JK, +13

The federal budget deficit

53

42

JK, +11

Social Security

52

42

JK, +10

Healthcare

52

43

JK, +9

The economy

51

45

JK, +6

Immigration

43

45

GWB, +2

Education

46

49

GWB, +3

The situation in Iraq

45

51

GWB, +6

Taxes

45

51

GWB, +6

Terrorism

37

59

GWB, +22

 

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