Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The young people poll

By Jim Arkedis

Jim Arkedis runs the All Our Might blog at the Progressive Policy Institute.

Democracy Corps conducted a poll of 606 voters between the ages of 18-29 -- in other words, the voters who will determine attitudes and election results for the next several decades. As pertains to foreign policy and national security issues, there is an undeniable trend towards the Democratic Party.

A few sample numbers:

Q: Is the Republican Party patriotic?
63 yes / 27 no

Q: Is the Democratic Party patriotic?
67 yes / 22 no

Q: Who is better in the "war on terrorism"?
D: 42/ R: 35

Q: Are you "warm" or "cool" on the war in Iraq?
Warm: 19/ Cool: 64

Q: Are you "warm" or "cool" on the war in Afghanistan?
Warm: 24/ Cool: 55

I'll briefly focus in on the "patriotic" question, because the Republican Party has done a great job strangling this issue for all it's worth. According to a CBS News story from 2007:

According to the Roper Center iPoll database at the University of Connecticut, pollsters have rarely asked Americans whether specific candidates or individuals were patriotic. But when they do, Republicans have the upper hand. In early 2004, according to a Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll, more Americans said being patriotic applied more to Republican George W. Bush than to Democrat John Kerry. In 1988, more voters thought the current President's father George Bush was very patriotic than thought Democrat Michael Dukakis was. Twenty years ago, in the middle of the Iran-Contra scandal, 73 percent of Americans agreed that Oliver North was a "real patriot."

That this issue is now trending Democratic among young voters can't be emphasized enough. In my mind, there's a correlation (though not exactly a direct one) between the public's perception of the parties' "patriotism" and the president's connections to the military and willingness to use force.

Obama has done a better job of passing this "Commander-in-Chief test" during his short time in office than Bill Clinton did in eight years. (Clinton tried, but was thrown off initially by "gays in the military" and then Monica Lewinsky.) Obama has coupled his objections to the Iraq War's premise with a desire to withdraw while keeping America's national security interests intact. At the same time, he has emphasized Afghanistan's importance and shown no hesitation in deploying more American troops. Obama has supported measures to care for America's uniformed personnel in ways the Bush administration objected to (GI Bill; PTSD). And, finally, his steady resolve has been expressly or tacitly endorsed by the likes of Colin Powell, Adm. Mike Mullen, and Gen. David Petraeus.

Since America's youth aren't tied to older perceptions/portrayals of weak-kneed Democrats trying to show muscle (ahem, Dukakis in the tank), they are giving credit where it's due. You might say Democracts have Bush's legacy to thank for such a good showing.

(Cross-posted from All Our Might.)

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