Polls contradict Morris's claim that "strong majority" of Americans prefer Bush on terror and Iraq


In his August 17 New York Post column, Dick Morris -- the onetime Clinton adviser turned critic, author, and FOX News Channel political analyst -- argued that "a strong majority" of Americans view President George W. Bush as "the best candidate to keep America safe, prosecute the War on Terror, and -- even on his worst days -- stabilize Iraq." But a "strong majority" of Americans do not think that Bush would do a better job handling the situation in Iraq and the war on terrorism; in fact, several recent polls show that Kerry has gained public support on these issues and is now in a statistical tie with Bush on both of them.

According to the most recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll, Washington Post/ABC News poll, and TIME magazine poll, Kerry and Bush are statistically tied on the issue of who would better handle "the situation in Iraq." The USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll showed Kerry with a one-percent lead over Bush (48 percent to 47 percent); the Washington Post/ABC News poll showed Kerry to have a two-percent lead over Bush (48 percent to 46 percent); and the TIME magazine poll showed Bush with a two-percent lead over Kerry (46 percent to 44 percent). These results are all within the statistical margin of error.

The USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll, conducted July 30 through August 1, did find that Bush had a 13-point lead over Kerry (by 54 percent to 41 percent -- down from an 18-point lead ten days earlier) when Americans were asked who would "better handle" terrorism. But other polls showed a much narrower gap between the candidates on the terrorism issue -- and certainly do not support Morris's claim that a "strong majority" of Americans thought that Bush was "the best candidate to ... prosecute the War on Terror."

As Media Matters for America has previously noted, three recent polls (each with a three-point margin of error) show that Kerry has significantly narrowed the gap with Bush on the terrorism issue. The Washington Post/ABC News poll, conducted July 30 through August 1, showed Bush with just a three-point lead over Kerry (48 percent to 45 percent -- down from an 18-point lead a week earlier). For that poll, registered voters were asked: "Who do you trust to do a better job handling the U.S. campaign against terrorism?"

An MSNBC/Newsweek poll conducted July 29-30 showed Bush with just a five-point lead (48 percent to 43 percent -- down from a 21-point lead in March) on "handling terror" and a FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll conducted August 3-4 showed Bush with a six-point lead over Kerry (44 percent to 38 percent -- down from a 15-point lead almost two weeks earlier) when respondents were asked who would "do a better job" on "the war on terror." And while the TIME magazine poll found that Bush had an eight-point advantage over Kerry (down from a 12-point lead two weeks earlier) with voters on who they would "trust more" to handle the "war on terrorism," it also found that "[a] majority of voters would trust either Bush (61 percent would trust, 35 percent would not trust) or Kerry (62 percent would trust, 32 percent would not trust) to lead the war against terrorism." As TIME noted: "Both Bush and Kerry appear to pass the test."

Polling, 2004 Elections
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