More Conservatives See President Bush as More Conservative

Posted October 21, 2003 at 2:19pm

In the Sept. 17-22 Pew Research Center poll, 51 percent of those surveyed said the phrase “conservative” described President Bush, 33 percent said “middle-of-the-road” did, and 7 percent said “liberal” applied. [IMGCAP(1)]

The percentage of those using the conservative label has jumped 7 points since Pew asked the same question in February 2001.

The shift is being driven by conservatives themselves. In February 2001 they were divided about whether the phrase “conservative” (46 percent) or “moderate” (42 percent) applied. In the new poll, 58 percent of self-described conservatives called him conservative and 28 percent middle-of-the-road.

The $87 Billion Question. Foreign aid of any sort is rarely popular, so it’s not surprising that the president’s request for $87 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan has met with considerable public skepticism. Pollsters have asked more than a dozen questions about the $87 billion, but only one of the questions I’ve seen has mentioned that most of the money would go to American troops, although many mentioned “military operations.”

The question mentioning U.S. troops was asked by the Democratic polling firm of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner in its Oct. 2-13 poll of Democrats in Iowa and South Carolina and Democrats and independents in New Hampshire.

Forty-five percent of the sample in Iowa, 54 percent in New Hampshire and 43 percent in South Carolina agreed more with the statement “I want a Democratic nominee who reluctantly supports the $87 billion dollars for Iraq because we must support our troops and cannot abandon Iraq until we get international support.”

Forty-seven percent of the sample in Iowa, 38 percent in New Hampshire and 46 percent in South Carolina agreed more with the statement “I want a Democratic nominee who opposes $87 billion dollars for Iraq because we need the money to take care of America.”

Dinner Time. During the 2000 presidential campaign, Democratic nominee Al Gore worried about the “time deficit in family life … dinner tables that sit empty when working parents do not have the time to share a meal with their children.” The “time crunch” became the metaphor in campaign 2000 for talking about families’ well-being.

Measuring the well-being of American families on a regular basis is the idea behind a new Reader’s Digest/Gallup project. Working with the magazine, Gallup created a 12-question index by first asking families about their top concerns and then giving different weights to their concerns in four areas: finances; health and health care; family and personal relationships; and community. There are three questions in each area. In this inaugural effort, the index stood at +83 (on a -200 to +200 scale). It will be updated twice a year and will provide insights into, among other things, the well-being of single and two-parent families.

The dinner hour question was not part of the index, but the results are interesting. Two-thirds of families reported that they have at least one meal together five times a week or more. More than four in 10 families report having dinner together every night.

Karlyn Bowman is a resident fellow specializing in public opinion and polls at the American Enterprise Institute.