Oct. 20, 2004-- -- Older voters are more concerned about the flu vaccine and younger voters are more apt to trust John Kerry on the military draft-- two reasons Kerry has been pursuing both issues in his campaign against George W. Bush.
How well either of these plays politically remains to be seen. Six in 10 likely voters are concerned about the vaccine shortage, but fewer, a largely partisan 27 percent, blame the Bush administration for it. Kerry has been trying to boost that blame and tie the shortage to health care more broadly -- his best major issue.
Seventy-seven percent, meanwhile, oppose a resumption of the military draft, including six in 10 who strongly oppose it. There's a hint of opportunity for Kerry, in that more likely voters think Bush would resume the draft than think Kerry would, 36 percent to 28 percent. (Bush says he wouldn't). There's a particular gap among young voters, 30 and under: Forty percent think Bush would impose a draft, compared with 24 percent who think Kerry would.
The resonance of these issues at opposite ends of the electorate -- peaking among seniors on the flu vaccine, among young likely voters on the draft -- adds to their political interest. Currently older voters divide about evenly between Bush and Kerry, while younger voters are Kerry's best group.
The race overall stands at 51 percent support for Bush, 46 percent for Kerry and one percent for Ralph Nader among likely voters in the latest ABC News tracking poll. That's in interviews Sunday through Tuesday; the result matches yesterday's three-day average.
It makes sense for Kerry to tie the flu vaccine shortage to health care more broadly, since health care has been his best major issue against Bush (a six-point Kerry advantage in tracking results earlier this week). And 61 percent of likely voters are concerned about the vaccine shortage, including 26 percent who are "very" concerned. Where there's concern, blame may follow.
Concern about the shortage is itself largely partisan -- it peaks among Democrats, Kerry supporters and minorities. But there's one other important political group in which this concern peaks, and that Kerry may be targeting -- senior citizens, among whom 70 percent are concerned about the shortage, and 40 percent are "very" concerned.
Blame, at the same time, is not currently in great supply. Twenty-seven percent of likely voters say the Bush administration deserves blame for the vaccine shortage, and fewer, 12 percent, assign it a "great deal" of blame. That blame, moreover, is largely partisan, peaking among Kerry voters, Democrats, liberals and other core Democratic groups. It's not significantly higher among seniors.
Concern about the lack of vaccine is 10 points higher among women than men, but no higher among parents with children under 18 at home (parents of very young children are too small a subgroup to break out in this poll). Neither women, nor parents, are more apt to blame the Bush administration for the vaccine shortage.
Kerry, for his part, has directly blamed the administration for the shortage, including a radio ad that specifically mentioned elderly Americans, young children and pregnant women as being at risk. Bush's chief political adviser called it "a desperate overreach."
Kerry also has sought advantage on the draft issue, telling a newspaper editorial board that there would be "a great potential of the draft" if Bush were re-elected. Bush has ruled out a resumption of the draft, and on this and other issues accused Kerry of "shameless scare tactics."
As noted, 77 percent in this survey oppose resuming the draft, including 59 percent who strongly oppose it; 18 percent are in favor. Opposition peaks at 86 percent among 18- to 30-year-olds, with most, 67 percent, strongly opposed. Support is highest in the South (25 percent), among evangelical white Protestants (24 percent) and among Bush supporters (24 percent).
Suspicion of the candidates' plans on the draft are fueled by partisanship: Kerry supporters are much more apt to think Bush would re-impose it; Bush supporters are more apt to think that Kerry would. But this suspicion does land more heavily on Bush: Among Kerry voters, 65 percent think he'd be likely to re-impose the draft; among Bush supporters, far fewer, 31 percent, think Kerry would do so.
There is also somewhat greater suspicion of Bush in the center. Thirty-five percent of independents think Bush would be likely to resume the draft; fewer, 22 percent, think Kerry would.
This poll was conducted by telephone Oct. 17-19, 2004 among a random national sample of 1,801 adults, including 1,586 registered voters and 1,134 likely voters. The results have a three-point error margin for the likely voter sample. ABC News and "The Washington Post" are sharing data collection for this tracking poll, then independently applying their own models to arrive at likely voter estimates. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.
See previous analyses in our Poll Vault.