Here’s a surprise.
In our poll taken just before the start of the Republican convention this week, we asked readers how they would vote in the upcoming presidential election. 51% say they are voting for George W. Bush. 43% are voting for John Kerry. 1% are voting for Ralph Nader and 4% are undecided.
Last May, when we asked the same question, 49% of readers went for Kerry and 41% said they were voting for Bush.
In responding to related questions, 48% of readers said that activities of “527 organizations” should not be restricted during a presidential election campaign and 37% said they should be restricted. 15% were undecided.
87% said that the ads by these groups have not influenced their vote in the upcoming election and 74% said these ads are not useful in deciding how to vote in the presidential election.
It’s not clear why the significant change in sentiment. This is not a scientific survey but FedSmith.com readers have been prescient in other surveys. For example, when Howard Dean was the favored front runner for the Democratic nomination for president and thought to be leading George Bush, our survey showed a sudden, dramatic shift away from Dean–shortly before the Dean campaign imploded.
In more recent surveys, Kerry has consistently led Bush among FedSmith.com readers and the shift to Bush is a substantial percentage change.
The questions generated strong opinions on some of the underlying issues.
While readers overwhelmingly indicate the ads from 527 groups do not influence their thinking, comments from some readers make it clear that the ads have had an impact, even if it is indirect in causing voters to look at different issues.
Comments from readers make it apparent the recent controversy about Kerry’s service in Vietnam has made a difference in how John Kerry is perceived by voters in our poll. A number of comments were from veterans.
A TSA supervisor in Virginia wrote: “Kerry tried to run on his war record. I was in the Air Force for 26 years. I just have to look at his medals and the time he spent in Viet Nam to see what was his main objective. Get the hell out of there as fast as he could.”
A senior engineer from Ogden, UT says: “I served for 21+ years, am a ’63 West Point graduate, and did not want us to go into Iraq when we did. That all being said, I will believe the Swift Boat veterans for what they say (about) a man who took his medals (how callous that he even reported his “wounds” when they were not “wounds”), and then testified on the record in front of the Senate against his fellow service people.”
At attorney with the Corps of Engineers in Springfield, VA commented: “Hooray for the Swift Boat Vets. As a Vietnam veteran myself, I would not vote for Kerry if he were running against Ho Chi Minh. At least Ho was honest about where he stood and what side he was on!”
While most readers who commented on the issue were similar to those above, not all readers were swayed by the recent ads attacking Kerry. A reader from EPA in North Carolina summarized his views this way: “It’s patently obvious that the Bush campaign controls the ‘Swift Boat Veterans for Lies’ disinformation campaign and has decided to ‘avoid’ any discussion of the real issues (Iraq, deficits, unemployment, economy) by attcking John kerry’s patriotic, heroic sevice in Vietnam.”
With regard to the 527 ads, most readers supported the right of organizations to make the ads even though they thought the ads were biased or inaccurate.
A labor relations specialist with Homeland Security in Dallas wrote: “To attempt to restrict the activities of the 527 organizations would be un-American.”
An HR specialist with the IRS said: “The 527 groups are just doing the same things that the political parties do to each other. Unfortunately, these negative ads have been proven to work. Just ask John McCain and Max Cleland.”
An employee of the Social Security Administration in Kansas City stated this: “As far as I’m concerned, ANY restriction on media, except for libel, is a violation of the First Amendment. These most recent so-called campaign reform laws are unquestionably unconstitutional. It was just a meager attempt to gag the ring-wingers. Thank goodness there’s still the Internet. Even if I may not agree, I still want to hear what they say. I’ll decide what’s truth and what’s propaganda.”
A program analyst with the CDC writes: “I don’t believe the 527’s are anchored in absolute truth but neither are the democratic or republican campaigns. However, this is America and we are guaranteed free speech. Whether you support or believe the Swift-boat Veterans is irrelevant, they too served honorably in Vietnam and have the right to be heard.”
Not surprisingly, some readers reflected their political allegiance in supporting or not supporting the political ads. One reader with DFAS commented: “Seems ironic that the media only brings up the 527’s as an issue after Kerry gets attacked by $1 million dollars worth of ads. Where was the media while MoveOn.org and other looney groups were spending over $60million attacking the President? Just another example of left-wing media bias.”
A NASA retiree expressed an opinion this way: “Kerry made a major miscalculation when he tried to run as a Vietnam war hero. It backfired. Now he keeps fanning the story by filing complaints with the FEC, the Attorney General, threatening law suits. All he has managed to do is keep this story on the front pages. It’s kind of funny watching his run for office self destruct….in spite of all the help he has received from “Farenheit 9/11”, MoveOn.org calling the President a “Nazi”, etc. I didn’t see John Kerry rushing to denounce these attacks on the President by a so-called third party advocacy group. What an unclassy guy.”
A webmaster with the IRS in Maryland had this thought: “John Kerry cannot have it both ways by only condeming the Swift Boat group but allow MoveOn.org and Michael Moore to say the most vicious attacks.”
An employee of HUD in DC wrote: “I’m from Texas. I have always thought Bush’s character was questionable because of his business dealings. The whole country knows now just how sleazy the man is. I find it revolting that so many people are seemingly believing the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” ads but are forgetting some major facts. Bush was AWOL from the Alabama National Guard where he had transferred because he wanted to work on a Senate campaign. If MoveOn wanted to run ads about that, they would be telling the truth.”
Thanks to all readers who took the time to voice their opinion and vote in our latest survey.