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Saturday, July 31, 2004

The Veteran Vote: Kerry Doing No Better Than Gore


Crime Policy Expert Mark Kleiman asks how CBS can report that Kerry is behind by six points among veterans without bothering to put this figure in any context.

CBS reported that "a June CBS News poll found that 52 percent of veterans backed Mr. Bush, while 37 percent supported Kerry. Last week, Kerry had closed the gap to 6 points, with Mr. Bush at 47 percent to Kerry's 41 percent." CBS doesn't elaborate further.

"My guess is that it's pretty good news," writes a frustrated Kleiman, "but why should I have to guess? Just tell me how Bush and Gore split the veteran vote in 2000."

Surprisingly, Kleiman's guess turns out to be wrong: Kerry is doing about the same as Gore among veterans, and possibly worse. The Pew Research Center reports that Gore was down by seven points on average from March through July, while Kerry has been down by nine points over the same five months of 2004.

Pew averages five months of polls in order to get a reasonable sample size, because veterans are only about 13 percent of the population. CBS gives us no indication of sample size, but media polls typically sample 1,000 people, at most, which would yield about 130 veterans. If you work out the margin of error, it turns out to be 17 percentage points.

That is, Kerry was down by 15 points (+/- 17) in June, and 6 points (+/- 17) in July. Kerry has gained 9 points on Bush over the last month, plus or minus 24. CBS thinks he's "closing the gap," but in truth, polls with a sample of 130 are not particularly informative.

By the way, the median age of veterans is only a little less than sixty. Most served in WWII, Korea, or Vietnam, and were probably draftees rather than gung-ho volunteers. Their main concerns surely include Medicare and Social Security. They do lean towards Bush, but not by as much as you'd think, since older people tend to vote Democratic.


Bush Kerry Diff +/-
June 52 37 -15 17%
July 47 41 -6 17%
Difference -5 4 9 24%

 
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