Our friends across the aisle at Democracy Corps released a survey yesterday that received a lot of national attention.   Calling it a wake-up call, they noted “the results are sobering” for President Obama and the Democrats.  Their analysis is well worth reading, including the point that:

Historical doubts about the Democratic Party on national security show signs of reviving and many voters worry that the president and his administration are not dealing forcefully enough with terrorist suspects.  Additionally, the troubled economy is driving down public perceptions of America’s strength and standing in the world.

Now, they also point to solid ratings for the President on a number of national security issues, and provide strategic advice on improving the standing of liberals on national security issues.  Take the time to read their recommendations, so we know what to expect from the more liberal side of the Democratic Party.

I do want to highlight some of the key data.  As you look at this, I am going to focus on the data among likely voters.  (Not because it is better for Republicans — although it usually is — but because that’s who is, um, likely to vote):

  • Only 41% believe American is more safe from foreign threats and dangers than two years ago, while 44% believe we are less safe. 
  • Likely voters also believe the United States is less respected around the world (51%) rather than more respected (41%).
  • President Obama does have a 57% approval rating on national security (40% disapprove), and 54% approve/41% disapprove on fighting terrorism, and a 52% approve/42% disapprove on foreign policy. 
  • The President does receive a negative rating on “interrogation and prosecution of terrorism suspects” — 44% approve/51% disapprove.
  • Republicans in Congress receive a better rating (45% approve/46% disapprove) on national security than do Dems in Congress (41% approve/51% disapprove). 
  • Only 38% say Obama is doing better than George W. Bush on national security, but only 33% say he’s doing worse.  Fully 28% say they are about the same.   The numbers only change one point on “combating terrorism and handling terrorism suspects.”

They then asked a series of issues, and asked if the Dems or GOPers would do a better job with the issue.  GOPers have double digit advantages on “national security,” “keeping America safe,” “ensuring a strong military,” “combatting terrorism,” and “making America safer from nuclear threats.”  The Dems have a double digit lead on “improving global respect for America.”  (They can have that one!  While they did not ask, I have little doubt that it would have been a much lower priority for most voters when compared to the other issues.)

Finally, they did a series of partisan message testing that — unfortunately — they did not follow up with a follow-up rerating the two parties on a number of the issues to see if the message battle moved numbers.  Rather than rehash that here, go to the link above and read questions (and results) 62-72.

Republicans are in good shape on national security issues.  Remember — go after the policies, not the person.  Obama may fall further, but right now people like him more than they like what he is doing.  Eventually that catches up to him personally — albeit not yet.

This election is shaping up well for Republicans — we can run on offering balance to the big government, big spending ways of the Democrats.  Our issues are spending/debt, economy/jobs, health care, role of government, and national security.   While national security is not as red hot as some of these other issues, it does provide Republicans with another message for Independents.

Public Opinion Strategies