- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Despite the constant torrent of vitriol from his political opponents, President Bush’s standing among voters on questions of character appears solid. Moreover, notwithstanding the odious Michael Moore and a national news media obsessed with systematically undercutting the rationale for the war in Iraq, Sen. John Kerry has yet to capitalize on the constant barrage of attacks on the president’s character and judgment.

On questions related to character and personal affection, voters heavily favor the president over his Democrat rival. This “likability gap,” despite the continued closeness in the Bush versus Kerry head-to-head horserace questions, may be a significant early predictor of the president’s re-election prospects in November.

Those are some of the results of the most recent American Survey of 800 registered voters, conducted nationwide from June 10-13 (+/-3.5 percent margin of error).

Likability has many dimensions, but questions such as “who we want to spend time with” and “who we want our kids to grow up and be like” give us some strong hints and insights about the concept. In this arena, Mr. Kerry is struggling in his contest with Mr. Bush.

As the middle chart demonstrates, voters, by a margin of 51 percent to 28 percent, say they would rather spend “an hour” with Mr. Bush.

Moreover, when we asked who voters would rather “see their kids or their friends children grow up to be most like,” the president again is the clear choice (43 percent to 29 percent).

It’sunclear whether the “likability gap” translates to a higher percentage of voters thinking Mr. Bush will win in November, yet the data are moving in that direction. For example, we’ve asked voters “who they think will win the election” for the past four months, and these numbers are clearly trending in the president’s direction. For example, in March voters believed Mr. Bush would win by a margin of 50 percent to 39 percent. This month, the percentage of voters saying they thought the president would win increased to 59 percent to 35 percent.

Forecasting elections based on polls this far ahead of the contest is a tricky business. Yet the anecdotal concerns expressed by many voters and Democratic activists concerning Mr. Kerry’s trouble connecting with voters are reinforced by these data. Despite several months of heavy weather for the president’s credibility (generated by the press and Democrats) concerning intelligence failures and the September 11 commission, Mr. Bush appears to be weathering the storms. Perhaps more troubling for Mr. Kerry is that, despite the barrage of attacks on the president’s judgment and character by his political opponents, many Americans are still not liking their alternative.

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