Sunday, August 08, 2004

Vets for Bush 

An interesting but not unexpected result from the latest Rasmussen poll:
"[M]ilitary veterans prefer George W. Bush over John Kerry by a 58% to 35% margin. Those with no military service favor Kerry by ten percentage points, 51% to 41%."
It's quite simple really: the Democrats have a considerable credibility gap on security and defense issues vis-a-vis the Republicans. The gap is very difficult - if not impossible - to fill within the space of a single election campaign, so instead of concentrating on substance (the past record, credible plan, sincere intentions), the Democrats go for the symbolic and emotive ("John Kerry served his country in Vietnam") in a smoke and mirror exercise to make their party look like it's serious about national security for the first time since JFK's days.

The Dem beltway strategists might think to themselves: our man is a Viet vet; that will finally get those rednecks and bumpkins voting for us. The problem for the Democrats is that people can see right through it. Symbolism is not a substitute for substance, especially - as veterans in particular woud know - when you're under fire.

There's been some consternation about the other result of this Rasmussen poll:
"The potential grassroots impact of the war issue is highlighted by the fact that 48% of Americans say they know someone who is currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Among these voters, Bush currently has a ten-point advantage in the poll. Fifty-four percent (54%) of veterans know someone serving in these war zones.

"When it comes to perceptions of the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is likely that information from family and friends has a bigger impact than news coverage."
As Powerline notes, "I figure there are around 200 million Americans of voting age; 48% of that total is 96 million. I think there are somewhere around 180,000 troops currently in Iraq or Afghanistan. If those assumptions are right--I think they're at least in the ballpark--then each soldier stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan is claimed as a friend or family member by an average of 533 people, which seems like an awfully high number."

I'm not necessarily surprised that 54% of veterans know somebody who's currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan; veterans themselves can correct me on this point, but I would venture a guess that veterans are not only more likely than average to have somebody else in their family serving in the military, but they are also more likely to associate with others who do.

The result for the "civilian" section of the American population (48%) is certainly very high, as Powerline suggests. It might be a statistical aberration. It might be a wishful thinking (like all those people who remember voting for JFK but only after his death). Then again, only around 900 Australian military personnel out of the voting population of about 10 million serve in Iraq, and as unlikely as it would seem, I know one of them. Not very well, but it wouldn't in the end surprise me that each one of us, including our soldiers, living today in the US or Australia, or elsewhere in the West, is known, however vaguely, by 533 other people.


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