Polls: Kerry-Bush contest a dead heat

I confess: I don't get it. Opinion polls consistently show that much less than half the country thinks it is on the right track. The Washington Post tracking poll published today puts the percentages at 55% who think the country is on the wrong track versus only 41% who think the country is on the right track. But the same polls show Kerry and Bush locked in a tie in the presidential race.

right track wrong track poll results

What's up with that? That's saying, We're going the wrong way — but let's keep going there for 'four more years'!

I can only conclude that the country is as deep in denial about Bush as Bush is in denial about his record. It's a matter of bolstering: once you've made a decision, it's hard to admit you made the wrong one, so you keep telling yourself it was the right thing to do.

The Washington Post updates its tracking poll every day at 5pm and lets you slice and dice the results in various ways. I thought it would be interesting to look at how the right-track/wrong-track results break down.

breakdown by sex

A majority of both men and women think we're on the wrong track, but women are more widely split on the question than men. I find this ironic because of the whole alleged "security mom" phenomenon that posits that, for women, security is the over-riding issue. If that's so, and if women think the country's on the wrong track, shouldn't they be much more in favor of Kerry than they are? Today's breakdown: Women 46% Bush vs 51% Kerry. Men 49% Bush vs 48% Kerry.

breakdown by party

Breaking it down by party, Democrats mostly think we're on the wrong track, Republicans think we're on the right track. That's no surprise. There's a fair amount of evidence that partisan affiliation acts like a filter that shapes our interpretation of reality. If that's so, the results for Independents suggest that the Democrats are more in touch with objective reality (without getting into the philosophical issue of what, precisely, that might be) than Republicans.

breakdown by age

For people over 30, there's not much difference by age, but those under 30 clearly have a different perception of things — which has always been true. And the young ones are consistent: they break down 38% for Bush, 57% for Kerry. Now, if they'll only vote!

breakdown by education

Education doesn't seem to make a lot of difference. College graduates and high-school graduates break down to the same percentages. Doesn't say much for our educational system, does it? Of course, there's an alternate conclusion: the education system doesn't indoctrinate politically, and that's a good thing.

breakdown by region

The US is bi-coastal, but people in the East are clearly less sanguine about the country's direction than people in any other region.

breakdown by race

It is when you look at the right-track/wrong-track results by race that it really hits the fan! Whites are about evenly divided on the question, but blacks are single-minded: they think the country is on the wrong track. Period. End of story. It's easy to see why the Republicans have made so many efforts to suppress the black vote.

Why is it even close? That's a good question. An equally good question is, Why are only 78% of those registered voters polled likely to vote?