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Ready To Be Chief?

Topics: Barack Obama , George Bush , John McCain , Measurement , National Journal

My NationalJournal.com column, on perceptions of Barack Obama's experience and readiness to be president and their importance to the outcome of the race, is now posted online.

One additional thought on this subject is that, as with favorable ratings, the wording of questions and answer categories can be affect the results. So consider two very similar "commander in chief" questions asked about Obama and McCain this week:

Washington Post/ABC News (n=1,119 adults) - Q20a. Please tell me whether the following statement applies to (Obama/McCain), or not?: He would be a good commander-in-chief of the military.

Obama: 48% yes, 48% no, 4% no opinion
McCain: 72% yes, 25% no, 4% no opinion

New York Times/CBS News (n=1,796 adults) - Q27/Q36. Regardless of how you intend to vote for president in 2008, how likely do you think it is that (Barack Obama/John McCain) would be an effective commander-in-chief of the nation's military — would you say it is very likely, somewhat likely, not very likely, or not likely at all?

Obama: 24% very likely, 47% somewhat likely, 7% not too likely, 6% not at all, 6% don't know
McCain: 46% very likely, 36% somewhat likely, 9% not too likely, 7% not at all, 3% don't know

The column makes the point that these numbers make more sense in context with past results. The Post/ABC poll release included comparable results on the same questions asked about George Bush and Al Gore eight years ago, and I discuss those in the column.

 

Comments
onelightonvoice:

It's funny how what people think ends up being so far removed from reality.

George Bush shouldn't/couldn't run a dunkin donuts store, much less the country.

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Uri:

@Mark: I have a question about the US system that I don't understand. From the historical data you posted it looks as if congressional approval is lower than presidential approval and is lower now than it was during the '06 cycle. But from '06 both houses were controlled by the dems. Why then are the dems expected to benefit in the presidential race from Bush's low approval, but they are expected to make gains in congress even though they are in control with such low approval?

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Uri:

@onelightonvoice: I'm not sure how much I trust the 2000 polls as an indication of how people objectively evaluated Bush's abilities as commander in chief since the question specifically contrasted them against Gore was perceived extremely weak on that front. I doubt that 60% actually thought Bush would be a good commander in chief, but presented with Gore, he seemed like a better choice.

Bush also had the benefit of people assuming that it's his father and Cheney will run the wars, which at the time was considered a plus.

By the way, does anyone have historic records on that question for JFK, Johnson, and perhaps earlier than that?

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