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September 06, 2004

Voter Misperception of Kerry's Leftism

Rasmussen Reports
says that while most voters believe Bush is conservative, about as many think Kerry is moderate as that he is liberal. Since Bush is in the center of a conservative party, voters are right on that, but since Kerry is on the far left of a liberal party, voters still have much to learn about him....


September 4, 2004--Sixty-six percent (66%) of America's Likely Voters believe
that, in political terms, George W. Bush is a conservative. Following the
Republican National Convention, a Rasmussen Reports survey found that 23%
believe he is a political moderate.

For John Kerry, the numbers are 46% liberal and 40% moderate

Overall, those numbers have changed little throughout Election 2004. In fact,
they are virtually identical to numbers gathered shortly after the Democratic
National Convention a month ago.

Two thirds (66%) of conservative voters believe Bush shares their ideological
perspective. Similar percentages of moderates and liberals share that assessment of the President's ideology.

However, most liberal voters reject the notion that Kerry is one of them. Fifty-
five percent (55%) of self-identified liberals view Kerry as a moderate. Twenty-
eight percent (28%) say the Senator is politically moderate.

Conservative voters have an entirely different view--70% say the Democratic
nominee is politically liberal.

As this Jay Bryant piece notes, using the liberal group ADA's ratings, John Kerry's lifetime rating is more liberal than that of Ted Kennedy, Dennis Kucinich, Carole Moseley-Braun, Al Gore, Walter Mondale, or George McGovern. You can look this up straight from theADA, though it is awkward since they set up their records state by state. Is he the most liberal Senator? His score of 92 is higher than Ted Kennedy's 90, but Iowa's Harkin ties Kerry at 92 and Vermont's Leahy and Oregon's Wyden beat him with 93's and California's Boxer with a 96. Maybe others do to. But there is no doubt that Kerry is on the far left of the Senate, whereas Bush would, I suppose, be somewhere in the middle right.

Why is this voter misperception worth mentioning? Because it is crucial to
Kerry's success. It's hard to get a majority of voters if you're an extremist,
unless you're perceived as a moderate or unless your opponent is an extremist.
This makes Kerry vulnerable. If voters knew his views, his support would
collapse. Bush no doubt will publicize Kerry's views-- indeed, he is already
using the strategy of talking about Kerry's record. Kerry really only has one
defense: to fudge and look like a flip-flopper. Despite what the pundits say, I
think that's sensible of him, because to be consistently leftwing would be fatal
to his campaign.

I am hopeful, though. Notice from the Rasmussen Reports that conservatives
already know that Kerry is liberal. Since 54% of voters thinks Kerry is not
liberal, that means that more than 54% of non-conservatives believe Kerry is
liberal. Most of those voters are moderates, not liberals. Once they learn the
truth about Kerry, they will swing to Bush.

This, of course, is exactly what happened to Dukakis in 1988.
He stayed quiet about issues, hoping nobody would notice how liberal he was, but Bush Senior ran ads calling Dukakis a liberal and giving
good evidence of that. Dukakis had the gall to say it was foul play to call
attention to his political views, but voters disagreed.

It may be that in a month Kerry will be wishing for more
Swiftvet ads to distract voters from the ads Bush will be running about his
liberalism. After Clinton I think voters are more willing to elect a
scoundrel who shares their views than an honest man who does not.

Posted by erasmuse at September 6, 2004 10:40 PM

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