2004 Elections Project: The latest trends in Wisconsin and Iowa
The latest trends in Wisconsin and Iowa
By Rick Moore
Published on October 26, 2004
With the 2004 presidential election just a week away, Larry Jacobs' analysis and the latest findings from the U's 2004 Elections Project have become hot commodities.
The 2004 Elections Project--the first big undertaking of the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs' new Center for the Study of Politics--was created earlier this year to provide timely, nonpartisan information about this year's elections, especially in key Upper Midwest battleground states.
As it turns out, the presidential race in three Upper Midwest states--Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa--is as tight as anyone could have predicted, which has put the work of the 2004 Elections Project in the spotlight. The project's Web site has been receiving 3,000 hits per day. And Jacobs, Humphrey Institute professor and director of the 2004 Elections Project, has been conducting between 10 and 20 interviews a day lately with media such as local newspapers and broadcast outlets, the CBS (Canadian Broadcasting Service), and the BBC.
"This has been a fantastic success," Jacobs says of the project. "We never dreamed that we'd be the 'go-to' place. The way the race turned out, it's become a perfect storm."
Jacobs says that his goal from the beginning has been to go beyond the normal "horse race" polls associated with elections. "The main thing that we're providing is nonpartisan, fact-based reports on public opinion, past election results, and the big policy issues," he says.
What follows are excerpts of some of Jacobs' findings from two of the project's most recent surveys focusing on Wisconsin and Iowa, two states in which the presidential race is a virtual deadlock.
Wisconsin and Iowa: Rural voters split while Bush takes suburbia and Kerry dominates the cities (released October 22, 2004)
Among all likely voters in Iowa and Wisconsin, the race is deadlocked. The latest Humphrey Institute Survey shows that President George W. Bush has a one-point lead (49 percent to 48 percent) in Wisconsin, while Senator John Kerry has a one-point edge in Iowa. Given the margin of errors of the fall surveys (plus or minus 4 percentage points), the presidential contests are a statistical toss-up.
- Surveys of Wisconsin and Iowa voters in October show that Bush has opened a substantial advantage over Kerry in suburbia and the areas surrounding major cities since the summer. The President substantially expanded his lead among Wisconsin suburban voters by 13 points since the mid-summer Humphrey Institute Survey and now enjoys a 15-point bulge; he is nine points in front in Iowa.
- By contrast, Kerry has established a double-digit lead over Bush in urban areas. Since the summer, the Senator has expanded his advantage in Wisconsin by seven points and now is in front of the President by 13 points. In Iowa, Kerry remains ahead by 18 points among urbanites even after seeing his gap over Bush decline by six points since the summer.
- Rural voters represent a traditional base of support for Republican presidential candidates. Bush has opened a slight two- or three-point edge in rural Wisconsin and Iowa but these leads are not statistically meaningful. The President did replace a narrow Kerry edge with a small edge of his own in Iowa, but his 13-point lead among Wisconsin likely voters this summer has fallen by 11 points.
- Support for third party candidates has declined from six points in the mid-summer Humphrey survey to two points in the most recent poll, neutralizing their impact on the Bush-Kerry contest.
- Bush's double-digit advantage among independents has been replaced with a Kerry lead.
- The critical swing group of independents has improved its evaluation of Kerry's ability to handle six of the seven issues on which they rated both candidates.
- In terms of the issues that independents single out as most important in the 2004 presidential election, Bush is helped by the slippage of issues that his opponent dominates (health care and Medicare,) while Kerry is buoyed by more attention to the economy (now the dominant concern of independents).
- Bush's approval rating continues to hover around the symbolically important 50 percent level, with more independents expressing disapproval than approval of the President's job performance.
- While the Bush campaign successfully has increased the perception among independents that Kerry is indecisive and "flip flops," the Kerry campaign has reversed the President's image as "strong" and now enjoys a slight advantage.
- Kerry continues to struggle to establish a gender gap in Wisconsin partly because women are more concerned about terrorism, a perceived strength of President Bush.
For further and more detailed survey results, visit the 2004 Elections Project and see "Public Opinion."