Monday, August 23, 2004

Bush Loses the Military ... Or Not

This Knight-Ridder article is titled Bush alienating some military voters who helped him win in 2000. It opens by introducing readers to James McKinnon, a veteran whose support of Bush has turned to scorn:

WASHINGTON - When the Bush campaign asked James McKinnon to co-chair its veterans steering committee in New Hampshire - a job he held in 2000 - the 56-year-old Vietnam veteran respectfully, but firmly, said no.

Midway through the story, after much background and punditry, the second military voice appears:

"I voted for Bush in 2000, and I'm not going to vote for him again," said Jean Prewitt, a [Military Families Speak Out] group member from Birmingham, Ala. Her 24-year-old son, Kelley, was in the Army's 3rd Infantry Division when he was killed on April 6 just south of Baghdad. "I just feel deceived. He just kept screaming, screaming, weapons of mass destruction, weapons of mass destruction, we've got to get in there. We got in there and now there aren't any."

But not till the very end of the story, after yet more punditry and pontification, does the writer reveal the significant information that the only two "real people" he has quoted to illustrate his point have no intention of voting for John Kerry, either:

McKinnon, who rejected working again for the Bush campaign, worked for retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark's failed Democratic presidential campaign. McKinnon says he won't work for or support Kerry because of his opposition to the Vietnam War and for opposing a constitutional amendment that would ban the desecration of the American flag.

Like McKinnon, Jean Prewitt, 53, said she's hard-pressed to vote in November.

"I probably won't vote," she said. "I can't vote for Bush right now and I can't vote for Kerry. I just don't like him."

The latest Quinnipiac University poll of Pennsylvania voters sheds light on the military vote question. Quinnipiac usually breaks down its results in Pennsylvania by gender, region, and union vs. non-union households. But in their latest survey of 1,430 Pennsylvanians (conducted Aug. 11-16, margin of error +/- 2.6 percentage points), Quinnipiac broke down the numbers into military and non-military households. And here's where it gets interesting.

The "unfavorable" rating for Bush among military households is four points higher than in the state overall. But Kerry's "favorable" rating is a point lower among military households than overall.

Lumping together veterans and active duty personnel is somewhat misleading. Veteran households in Pennsylvania outnumber active military duty ones by about 100 to 1. According to the U.S. Census bureau, there are 1.2 million veterans in Pennsylvania. The census reports the number from the state in active duty with the armed forces in 2000 as 7,595. Another 57,393 state citizens are in the Reserve and National Guard, of whom, as of this summer, about 3,500 now are on active duty [Tribune-Review].

Yet they undeniably have many concerns in common. They also are, by self-description, more tuned in to the presidential campaign. Asked "How much attention have you been paying to the election campaign for President," 59 percent of military households said "a lot," as opposed to 53 percent overall.

Asked "What do you think is the most important problem facing the country today?" state voters overall ranked the economy tops (25%) and the war second (20%), but military households ranked the war tops (26%).

The poll asked, "If the election for president were being held today, and the candidates were John Kerry the Democrat and George W. Bush the Republican for whom would you vote?" The Kerry vote in military households was only a point higher than the total, while the vote for Bush was two points higher among military households than overall. The difference there is a higher number of undecideds and "won't votes" among the overall population.