Carol Platt Liebau

Monday, October 11, 2004

At the moment, the polls seem to be all over the place (they can all be found at Real Clear Politics).

The CNN/USAT/Gallup poll is: Kerry 49, Bush 48, Nader 1. But the Washington Post poll has Bush at 51, Kerry at 45, and Nader 1. According to Rasmussen, Bush is at 49, Kerry is at 45. But Zogby says Kerry is at 47, Bush at 44, and Nader at 2.

A few thoughts:

(1) Everything depends on the sample of Democrats vs. Republicans in each poll. After the first debate, Newsweek showed a huge swing for Kerry -- but that's because they were polling many more Democrats than they had when they had Bush up by 11 immediately after the Republican Convention. The difficulty of predicting turnout is one of the factors that makes it hard for pollsters to know how to weight their sample. But polls that simply use the turnout model from 2000 may well be oversampling Democrats -- given that 9/11 probably increased Republican identification throughout the country.

(2) The most important polls are the ones in the swing states. As I wrote last week, it doesn't much matter if Kerry goes up in national polls because he has nailed down some hitherto uncommitted voters in California or New York -- because he's going to win those states anyway. But if he would begin to win over the undecideds in Ohio, for example, that would be more troubling, and more potentially indicative of an important trend.

(3) Polls are going to flunctuate over the next few weeks, and it's not a time for nerves. Slow and steady gets the job done. It's important that undecided voters know that John Kerry views terrorism as a law enforcement issue -- and as a "nuisance" -- because people know that's not the way we're going to win the war on terror and keep American families safe. And it's vital that everyone do all s/he can to help make sure that Republicans turn out (see this piece by Michael Barone arguing that it's all going to come down to turnout).

(4) There is reason to be encouraged. Numerous polls have noted that Republicans support President Bush because they genuinely like and admire him; in contrast, Democrats largely support John Kerry because they dislike President Bush. Conventional wisdom holds that this works to Bush's advantage, because voters will go to more trouble in order to vote FOR a candidate they're enthusiastic about than they will to vote for a candidate they're lukewarm on, simply to express their opposition to his opponent.

(5) Finally, it seems the Catholic Church is finally making it clear that it is a sin to vote for any candidate who flouts Church teaching any one of five "non-negotiable issues," abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and homosexual marriage. (See this piece from The New York Times). Not good news for Kerry, who's on the wrong side of all these issues from the Church's perspective -- but very good news for Bush.


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