Here are the key findings. With the levels of response on some negative factors much higher than any of the responses on positive ones, we can see the importance of measuring why people voted against candidates as well as why they voted for them:
Iraq war-This issue appears almost identically worded on the positive and negative lists of both candidates, so its overall impact on the election can be estimated. For Kerry, the Iraq war issue represented a small, 6-point net gain (25 percent positive mention among Kerry voters minus 19 percent negative mention among Bush voters). On the other hand, for Bush this issue was a 36-point net loss (16 percent positive mention among Bush voters minus 52 percent negative among Kerry voters-the largest negative recorded on the survey). The overall impact of Iraq on voters, therefore, was net +42 points for Kerry. (This should not be confused with the percentage of the vote decided by this single issue, since most voters indicated they were influenced by multiple issues.)
Response to 9/11 and counterterrorism-President Bush's response to 9/11, named a positive reason by 37 percent of Bush voters, was the largest positive recorded in the survey. A separate item, "the war against terrorism," was named as a positive reason by 32 percent of Bush voters. (Negative views on Bush's handling of these issues were not measured.)
Bush on social-economic issues-Bush recorded a small net gain of +6 on the issue of abortion (20 percent positive response of Bush voters minus 14 percent negative response of Kerry voters). However, Bush obtained mainly negative ratings on a number of other social and economic issues, including tax cuts (20 percent positive versus 30 percent negative, a net of -10); Social Security program (6 percent positive versus 14 percent negative-a net of -8); and "Job losses, outsourcing, and little income growth" (26 percent negative, no comparable positive).
(Click for larger view of Figure 4.)
Kerry on social-economic issues-Senator Kerry scored well on "tax cuts for the middle class instead of richest" (25 percent positive versus 16 percent negative mention for raising taxes-a net of +9) and health care (26 percent positive; no comparable negative).
(Click for larger view of Figure 5.)
Bush persona-President Bush scored well on two personality characteristics: "Decisive leader" (31 percent positive mention among Bush voters, compared to 19 percent negative among Kerry voters for "his rigid/stubborn leadership style"-a net of +12); and "his religious faith" (29 percent positive, versus 10 percent negative for "pushes religion too much"-a net of +19).
(Click for larger view of Figure 6.)
Kerry persona-Kerry's "flip-flopping on issues" (48 percent negative mention) was by far his largest single negative, not nearly offset by his positive rating on "For change and a new direction" (25 percent positive mention, yielding a net of -23).
(Click for larger view of Figure 7.)