Monday, August 09, 2004

Terror Fatigue 

Via Eric Alterman: Julius Civitatus, working from an original graphic by Professor Pollkatz, plotted Tom Ridge's terror alerts alongside the President's approval ratings, with predictable -- if faintly disgusting -- results.

That chart can only reinforce the results of a poll commissioned last week by Time magazine, which suggests that voters are fed up with terror, terror, terror, all terror, all the time:
The elevated terror alert last week had only limited impact on voters.
  • Only 21% report being "very worried" about a terrorist attack in the next few months, up only 4% from those who gave the same answer before the latest alert.
  • Less than 1 in 3 voters (31%) say that they follow the alert levels "very closely."
  • Only 1 in 4 voters (26%) say that they're being "more careful" because of the elevated terrorism alert, but 73% say that it's "business as usual."
  • Only 14% of voters agree "strongly" that they "want a President who is strong on terrorism" and "not much else matters" in their vote this year. Another 13% agree somewhat. Fully 70% of voters disagree. This is unchanged from July, before the terrorism alerts.
While a majority, 54%, believes that the Bush administration would not "use a terrorism alert for political reasons," 38% think that the alerts might be used for political reasons, with 7% undecided on this issue.

What impact might a terrorist strike have on the election?

The President continues to receive his highest approval ratings for his handling of the war on terrorism — 56% approve, 41% disapprove. This is up from 51% - 46% approval rating in July. However, the poll finds that absent a terrorist attack on our soil, terrorism may not be a cutting edge issue in the election.
  • A majority of voters would trust either Bush (61% trust, 35% not trust) or Kerry (62% trust, 32% not trust) to lead the war against terrorism. Both Bush and Kerry appear to pass the test.
  • If there were a terrorist strike before the November election, 66% say it would have little impact on their own vote. The remaining voters split on how an attack might affect their vote: 16% say an attack would make them more likely to vote for Kerry, while 15% say it would make them more likely to vote for Bush.
  • Voters split about evenly when asked what impact they believe a terrorist strike would have on the election outcome: 30% say it would improve Bush's chances of election, while 31% believe it would improve Kerry's chances.
One startling finding of the poll: with three months to go before the election, a measly 3% of likely voters describe themselves as undecided -- which means that neither candidate can expect much movement in the polls. The problem for the incumbent is that he desperately needs movement: "A majority maintain that it's time for someone else to be president — 54%, while 42% maintain President Bush deserves to be re-elected."

Zemblan patriots J.M. and J.D. forward an article on political analyst Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia, who last weekend told the Business Council of Atlanta that Bush will need a miracle to win:
"He really will need a miracle to win, and the last miracle was for Harry S. Truman," Sabato said in an interview after his speech. Truman pulled his upset presidential victory in 1948.

He said that if Bush hadn't ordered the U.S. invasion of Iraq last year, he likely would be leading in 45 states and heading toward a landslide victory.

"He bet his presidency on Iraq. But he's this close to losing the bet," said Sabato, holding a finger and thumb about an inch apart.
The article notes that the BCA invited Sabato to speak because "because of his reputation for impartial and informed opinions." Here's how he demonstrated that legendary impartiality:
Sabato called Kerry a cross between a funeral director and Lurch, the stiff butler on the old TV comedy "The Addams Family."

"Only in a year like this could John Kerry be elected. He can't connect with people. He's way to the left of the American mainstream," Sabato said.

"We're right on the verge of electing someone who I believe will be the most liberal president in American history, at least on social and cultural issues."
Is Sabato trying to suggest that, under Kerry, stem-cell research would be in vogue, and queer-bashing declasse? The horror, the horror . . . .

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