May 28, 2014
By John Zogby
Washington, DC – Among the key factors leading to the re-election of President Barack Obama was voter perception that he was better equipped to handle national security and diplomacy than the GOP. Much of this was attributable to some key achievements during his first term: the capture and elimination of arch-terrorist Osama bin Laden, high profile trips to Europe, Asia and the Middle East to mend the United States' image abroad, and the general popularity of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Having a Democrat perceived as stronger on national security and foreign affairs was no small feat. Back in 2004, Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry led President George W. Bush on nine of the top ten issues, according to Zogby polls. But it was Mr. Bush's 67% to 24% lead over Mr. Kerry on handling national security that ultimately gave the Republican incumbent the victory.
But a new poll conducted by Zogby Analytics reveals that the Democrats have now lost their edge on these two issues. The new nationwide poll of 902 likely voters, conducted online May 21-22, shows that now the GOP is considered to be superior to the Democrats on handling both national security (36% to 25%) and foreign affairs/diplomacy (33% to 29%). Even worse news for the Democrats is if foreign policy and security issues are allowed to dominate the fall 2014 campaign, the party will not be able to count on several key demographic groups to bail them out. For example, on national security, women now favor the Republicans' capacity by a factor of 30% to 26% as do young voters (31% to 24%). Independents are even more rock solid in the GOP corner with 30% favoring them over the Democrats (only 12%). On foreign affairs/diplomacy, the very slight margin women prefer the Democrats (30% to 27%) cannot neutralize the ten point deficit (38% to 28%) among men. Nor does the ten point deficit the Democrats have among independents offer any comfort (26% for the GOP to 16% for the Democrats).
Another problem for the Democrats appears to be how voters compare them to the Republicans on the budget and taxes. Now voters favor the GOP by a factor of 32% to 22% — including both men (36% to 23%) and women (28% to 21%), along with independents (26% to 11%), moderates (26% to 21%), and Hispanics (36% to 25%). This is such a far cry from the Democrats' dominance on this issue during the two most recent government shutdown crises.
Democrats remain more popular protecting the environment (38% to 18%), education for children (35% to 19%), health care (33% to 26%), and "understanding people like you and me" (31% to 21%).
But as we can see when we look at these numbers, there are significant percentages of voters who say "neither party": 21% on foreign policy/diplomacy, 20% on national security, 25% on protecting the environment, 27% on education for children, 27% on health care, 31% on the budget and taxes, and 34% on understanding people like you and me. This provides real numbers for the general mood of voters who simply distrust the Democrats and the Republicans.
One particular fly in the ointment for the GOP from the Zogby Analytics poll: on the issue of which party is best capable of "promoting the values you believe in most", 64% of liberals said the Democrats and18% said neither, but only 53% of the conservatives said the Republicans and 29% said neither.
Both parties seem to be limping into the November 2014 election. But the Democrats have some making up to do on several key issues with only a few months to go.