President Bush will need to fight off a strong campaign by Sen. John Kerry to stay in the White House, according to results of the GW-sponsored Battleground Poll released last week.
The bipartisan survey is compiled annually as an indicator of public opinion and voting trends. This year, GW became the official sponsor of the poll, which was conducted by Republican pollster Ed Goeas and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake.
Christopher Arterton, dean of the Graduate School of Political Management, said GW agreed to sponsor the poll through the 2006 elections.
According to the poll, 43 percent of voters said they would vote for Bush, while 39 percent said they would cast their ballots for Kerry (D-Mass.) The poll, which surveyed 1,000 registered voters earlier this year, had a 3.1 percent margin of error.
Respondents said they were most concerned about the economy, with terrorism and national defense issues rounding up a close second. The data also showed that 57 percent of voters believe the country is headed in the “wrong direction.”
Daniel Gotoff, vice president of Lake Snell Perry & Associates, which handled the Democratic analysis of the data, said voters primarily concerned about the economy are likely to vote Democrat in 2004, while those concerned about national security issues are likely to vote Republican.
“I think to get only two issues that seem to be primary issues is pretty remarkable,” Gotoff said.
Brian Nienaber, senior research analyst with The Tarrance Group, which provided the Republican analysis, said the data showed a significant “polarization.”
“It’s close, both candidates have solidified their base,” he said. “No candidate we’ve tested in the past has solidified his party this early on.”
While both analysts said previous battleground polls have been good indicators of presidential election results, Gotoff said that there would likely be changes in the data before the November contest.
“I think the numbers are going to bounce around over the next few months,” Gotoff said.
But he added that unless a major change affected the presidential race, the polls would not show “a whole lot of movement.”
Noting Bush’s 50 percent approval rating, Gotoff said the president’s chances for a second term are not particularly strong.
“It’s tough to find a precedent of an incumbent up for re-election with such low numbers and a low personal image,” he said.
Nienaber, of the Tarrance Group, said the survey’s bipartisanship provided a “nice partnership” and allowed for a unique back-and-forth debate between the two groups of strategists.
“As a bipartisan poll it has some weight and people are more likely to take a second look at it,” he said.
Nienaber said he was pleased that his firm partnered with GW in conducting the poll.
“It was great to work with a great institution that applies politics to a practical education,” he said.
Michael Freedman, the University’s vice president for communications, said GW has agreed to archive previous and future battleground polls in the Gelman Library. The first was conducted in 1991.
“This makes us an excellent research resource for anyone interested in polling,” he said.
In addition to documenting the polls, GW provided financial assistance to the firms conducting the research.
“We do make a monetary contribution,” Freedman said, “and we will have the opportunity to add some questions to the poll in the future.”