Presidential Race Improving Democrats' Favorable Ratings

Just as George W. Bush helped to put a new face on the Republican Party when he ran for president in 2000, the Democratic race thus far may be giving the Democratic Party a lift. The Gallup, CNN and USA Today poll shows strong improvement in the party's fortunes. Fifty-nine percent had a favorable impression of the Democratic Party in late January-early February, up from 47 percent in early January. The mid-February CBS News poll showed a small boost for the party. The Feb.11-16 Princeton Survey Research Associates/Pew Research Center poll also showed a slight uptick, too, from 54 percent favorable in June to 58 percent today. The rise was driven entirely by independent voters.

But Not Democratic Leaders in Congress. In the February Pew poll, 38 percent approved of the job Democratic leaders in Congress were doing and 42 percent disapproved. In June 2002, the last time Pew asked the question, the responses were 47 percent approval and 36 percent disapproval.

Do Not Call: A Government Success Story. There aren't many of these in the public's mind, but the "Do Not Call" registry is one, and it's getting very high marks from the public. Ninety-one percent of those surveyed by Harris Interactive in January had heard of the registry, and 57 percent claimed to have signed up. More than 90 percent of those who have signed up reported receiving fewer telemarketing calls, with a quarter saying they haven't received any of these calls at all.

The Feb. 16-18 Ipsos/AP poll found that 74 percent of those who had signed up for the list were receiving fewer calls from companies or individuals trying to sell them something. Twenty-two percent said the number of calls hadn't really changed.

Massachusetts Liberals. When Harris Interactive, Time and CNN interviewers told people in their Feb. 5-6 poll that "John Kerry is a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, a state that is more liberal than most others," 67 percent said that would make no difference to their vote for president, 21 percent said it would make them less likely to vote for him, and 10 percent more likely. Solid majorities of Democrats, independents and Republicans said this fact would make no difference to them. Seven percent of independents said it would make them more likely to vote for him, and 19 percent less likely.

In a Gallup compilation from the fall, 41 percent of those surveyed called themselves conservatives and 19 percent liberal. This is pretty much in line with past results.

Bush's National Guard Service: A Non-Starter for the Public. Ten percent told Harris Interactive, Time and CNN interviewers in early February that it was definitely true that George W. Bush was AWOL from the Air National Guard when he should have been in training. Twenty-six percent said it was probably true, 35 percent probably not true, and 13 percent definitely not true. Fifty percent of Democrats, 39 percent of independents and 18 percent of Republicans thought it was definitely or probably true.

In the Feb. 10-11 ABC News/Washington Post poll, 30 percent said questions about Bush's service in the National Guard during the Vietnam War were a legitimate issue in this year's election. Sixty-six percent said they were not.

When asked by Fox News and Opinion Dynamics in its Feb. 18-19 poll which would be more important to their vote, 2 percent said Bush's 1970s National Guard service record and 66 percent said his record as a wartime president.

In the Feb. 16-17 Gallup, CNN and USA Today poll, 80 percent of likely voters said Bush's service in the National Guard during the Vietnam War would not have much effect on their vote. Four percent said it would make them more likely to vote for him, and 15 percent less likely. A near majority (49 percent) of the entire sample in another question in the poll said that Bush had done nothing seriously wrong, while 4 percent said he had done something illegal, and 31 percent said something unethical but not illegal.

In the Feb. 11-16 Pew poll, 19 percent said they were following the issue very closely. The only other recent major news event that was followed very closely by fewer people was the ricin found in the Dirksen Senate Office Building (12 percent). In reporting on a new Annenberg poll, Adam Clymer says Bush's service and Kerry's anti-war activities "appear to matter chiefly to Americans who already appear to have made up their minds against the particular candidate."

John Ashcroft's Standing. In Harris Interactive's mid-February poll, 44 percent had a positive (excellent or good) impression and 42 percent a negative (only fair or poor) impression of the attorney general.

Karlyn H. Bowman is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

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About the Author


  • Karlyn Bowman compiles and analyzes American public opinion using available polling data on a variety of subjects, including the economy, taxes, the state of workers in America, environment and global warming, attitudes about homosexuality and gay marriage, NAFTA and free trade, the war in Iraq, and women's attitudes. In addition, Ms. Bowman has studied and spoken about the evolution of American politics because of key demographic and geographic changes. She has often lectured on the role of think tanks in the United States and writes a weekly column for
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