- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 5, 2003


Republicans have made significant gains in crucial swing states, in large part because of President Bush’s post-September 11, 2001, stewardship, according to an extensive analysis of American voters.

The percentage of registered voters who identified themselves as Republicans increased in Michigan, Minnesota and Iowa — three states that Democrat Al Gore captured in the 2000 election. At the same time, the GOP experienced a hefty gain in Arkansas, while grabbing the edge in Tennessee and Florida, according to the analysis by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Republicans lost ground, however, in New Hampshire, home of the first presidential primary.

In Florida, the decisive state three years ago, Democrats held a five-point advantage leading up to the 2000 contest. Since the terrorist attacks, 37 percent of Floridians identify themselves as Republicans and 36 percent as Democrats.

The swing toward the GOP could make it easier for Bush in next year’s election, with fewer competitive states in play, and harder for the eventual Democratic nominee to unseat the president.

“Republicans are in much better shape than they were four years ago,” said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center.

The poll, including a review of 80,000 interviews in the past three years, found Republican gains among every major voting bloc except blacks, with the greatest gains among Hispanics in the West, white Catholics and white evangelical Protestants.

Those gains were largely because of “the positive impact of Bush” responding to the terrorist attacks, Mr. Kohut said. Mr. Bush continues to get strong ratings on his handling of the terror threat, even as his support has dropped on other issues such as Iraq and the economy, he added.

Republican gains have pulled the party even with Democrats on political affiliation. Just about a third, 31 percent, identified themselves as Republicans and a third, 32 percent, said they were Democrats.

Such gains in party identification can shift rapidly, however. Democrats had a significant advantage in 1992 when Bill Clinton was elected president, but that disappeared in the Republican tidal wave of 1994.

Mr. Bush also is showing signs of vulnerability. His job-approval rating was 50 percent, the lowest in polling by Pew since August 2001, just before the terrorist attacks.

“Bush has lost a lot,” Mr. Kohut said of recent shifts in public opinion. “He’s given his party great standing with more people identifying with the Republican Party. But all of a sudden, we now have many people saying maybe we should go in another direction.”

The public is evenly divided on the question of Mr. Bush’s re-election when he’s tested against an unnamed Democrat, according to the poll. But the president leads by margins ranging from six percentage points to 12 percentage points when matched head to head with leading Democratic candidates.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide