Monday, November 28, 2005

Polling on the Issues

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll (pdf warning) asks Americans about the issues. From The Emerging Democratic Majority:
Here are data from the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll on which party the public thinks would do a better job on various issues: protecting the environment (+39 points in favor of the Democrats); dealing with gas prices (+28); dealing with health care (+26); dealing with Social Security (+22); reducing the federal deficit (+19); dealing with education (+19); dealing with energy policy (+16); dealing with the economy (+14); controlling government spending (+12); dealing with taxes (+10); protecting America’s interests on trade issues (+10); dealing with foreign policy (+9); dealing with abortion (+8); dealing with immigration; promoting ethics in government (+5); and dealing with Iraq (+3).

On four of these issues–taxes, foreign policy, Iraq and protecting America’s interests on trade issues–this is the very first time the Democrats have run an advantage on that issue in the NBC News poll. On many others, the Democrats’ advantages are at or near the top of those ever recorded by the poll.


The Republicans have lost ground on all issues but do retain some advantages that must be reckoned with. In the NBC News poll, for example, the GOP is still ahead on ensuring a strong national defense (+21), promoting strong moral values (+17) and dealing with the war on terrorism (+9).
Given Bush's woes these results are not particularly surprising. But I do think it means a couple of things.

First, these results are not all that dissimilar from other polls taken when Bush wasn't in trouble. The American people generally favor the Democrats positions...just more so now. This phenomena reinforces for me the idea that Democrats continue to lose based on messaging...particularly the meta message. When a candidate looks like a wimp, it doesn't matter what they say.

Second, there is no doubt that Bush won the last election because of plain old fear. The conventional wisdom that the religious right wielded any electoral special power is simply not borne out by the polling. The pundit class picked up this meme and ran with it, despite the evidence otherwise, giving the religious wingnuts much more power than they deserve.

Perhaps the complete bungling of the security issue by Bush may help to dispute the Republican advantage in the fear areas. The Democrats have an opportunity to change the multi-generation advantage. Here's hoping they go for it, not by proposing toughness as policy, but by demonstrating toughness in candidacy.


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