Each month, InsiderAdvantage surveys likely voters on their thoughts and feelings about two broad issues that dominate the current political arena and the fabric of our daily lives -- the economy and national security. Our most recent survey illustrates how almost equally divided the electorate is on subjects ranging from the presidential election to the future of the stock market.
Many polls query the public's optimism or pessimism on the subjects of "peace and prosperity," but I believe most of them fail to provide a truly accurate measurement of how the American people really feel. How could they do a better job? By asking the questions in a way that makes the subject matter personal to the respondents. How does the subject in question affect their own lives? As an example, look at these two recent questions we asked of registered voters:
1) Currently, are your personal finances getting better, getting worse, or staying about the same?
Better: 23 percent
Worse: 22 percent
About the same: 54 percent
Don't know: 1 percent
2) With regard to national security, are you feeling more secure, less secure, or about the same as you always have?
More secure 22 percent
Less secure 22 percent
About the same 55 percent
Don't know 1 percent
The poll was taken March 18-19 among 500 Americans. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
Both politically and economically, these numbers suggest complicated times ahead.
On the economic front, the statistical tie between those who feel their finances are getting better and those who feel them getting worse may account for the recent stall in the nation's equities markets. Analysts on Wall Street have been nearly as divided as the public at large on which direction the market may be headed in the coming months and years. The poll suggests a stalemate of sentiment on whether Americans feel good about the future of their own financial situations. And that makes economic forecasting all the more tricky.
From a political standpoint, the poll's results pose a challenge for the Bush campaign. Critical swing voters in this fall's elections -- those who describe themselves as "moderates" in philosophy and as neither Democrats nor Republicans politically -- indicated in double-digit percentages that they are now financially worse off.
Moderates and independents often vote based on pocketbook issues, and this presents fertile ground to John Kerry. Whether he can take advantage of it remains to be seen. To do so, he must square his new economic proposals with his past Senate voting record.