Third Way Releases New National Security Poll and Message Guidance
Washington, DC – By a 52-39% margin, voters believe that Democrats will “push the President to change course and fight terrorism more effectively” if they take control of Congress, according to a new poll released today by Third Way. Even more troubling for President Bush and congressional Republicans, the margin is 53-32% among Independent voters who make up the bulk of undecided voters six weeks before the November elections.
“For too long, progressive candidates have been conditioned to ignore or pivot away from national security issues. Our poll shows that this year, that would be at best a missed opportunity and at worst a lethal mistake,” said Third Way Vice President for Public Affairs Matt Bennett.
The 600-person poll of likely voters was conducted by Pete Brodnitz of the Benenson Strategy Group September 13-17, and it has a margin of error of +/- 4-points. Among the major findings is that by a 28-point margin voters see President Bush and congressional Republicans as “stubborn and unwilling to change direction” on national security. By a 30-point margin, voters agree that Republicans have been “tough, but they have not been smart” when it comes to defense.
“Voters want to hear from progressive leaders on national security because they feel the Bush Administration has made too many mistakes and the congressional majority has sat on its hands,” said Bennett. “If progressives can convince voters that they are tough and smart enough to do what it takes to fight terror, voters are ready to listen.”
Also today, Bennett, Third Way VP for Policy Jim Kessler, and National Security Director Sharon Burke released an “interested parties” memo that outlined four steps for progressive candidates and officeholders must take to win the national security debate.
1) Take the national security issues head on and avoid trying to change the subject to domestic issues.
2) Tell Americans that they will push the President to change course and fight terrorism more effectively.
3) Define their approach to national security as “tough and smart” and demonstrate that they recognize the grave threats facing the country.
4) Define conservatives as being satisfied with the President’s strategy on terrorism and Iraq.
The memo tells progressives: “Americans are prepared for the first time to shed decades of skepticism and accept progressive candidates as leaders on national security.” But it goes on to warn that “conservative attacks still retain resonance, particularly if progressives do not confront national security head on.”
Among the other findings in the poll:
- By a 30-59% margin, voters say that the country is off on the wrong track.
- In the generic congressional ballot, Democrats hold a 39-32% lead.
- By a 53-37% margin, voters believe that America is following the wrong strategy in the war on terror.
- By a 54-43% margin, voters believe that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror.
- By a 44-36% margin, voters are more concerned that Republicans will stay the course in Iraq than they are concerned that Democrats will cut and run.
- Only 21% of voters favor a timetable to remove all American troops from Iraq within one year.
- By a 39-point margin, voters say that “not willing to use military force even when America’s vital interests are at stake” is a Democratic attribute.
- Winning the National Security Debate: Lessons From a New Poll
- National Security Poll: September 2006
Contact: Matt Bennett (202) 775-3768 x212