As for national security, the poll's respondents are again virtually even in their assessment of the American status quo. Consider this a confirmation of what many of us have long suspected -- that the post-9/11 world is one in which people's feelings of national and personal security are indivisibly wedded to their sense of economic security.
Sure enough, the moderates and independents in the poll again were the ones feeling uneasy about national security. Note that the poll was taken before the recent brouhaha over former White House terrorism czar Richard Clarke's allegations that the Bush White House was negligent in addressing terrorism before the Attack on America. I would argue that our poll is an accurate read on the nation's lasting sentiments about the subject because the repercussions of the Clark controversy may or may not linger through November. Either way, the public's pulse on the economy and on national security should give the president's re-election team plenty to think about. Jeff Shusterman, our polling associate with The Marketing Workshop, agrees: "The voting public's split opinions of improving or declining personal and financial security in conjunction with one out of four independent and moderate voters now feeling less secure in both arenas leaves the Bush campaign vulnerable on both fronts."
The road to the White House will take many a winding turn before November. And before it returns to the sustained prosperity of the 1990s, the economy will twist and turn some more as well. But for anyone doubting the various 2004 presidential polls that show Bush and Kerry virtually tied -- both nationally and in battleground states -- this survey should provide more verification of their collective validity. Barring something drastic and unforeseen, voters will be deciding the 2004 contest based on how they feel about their bank accounts and their personal safety. At least for now, that makes the race too close to call.