TOPICS > Politics

The Running Mate

September 1, 2004 at 12:00 AM EDT


TERENCE SMITH: And once again I’m joined by our man with the numbers: Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center.

When you look at your polls and others, what is the public’s impression and image of Vice President Cheney?

ANDREW KOHUT: Vice President Cheney has become an unpopular vice president. In our poll 48 percent in August said they favorable view of him; 42 percent unfavorable view. And other polls have his ratings even lower.

TERENCE SMITH: And how did that compare with what they thought of him when he first came into office?

ANDREW KOHUT: Well, he started — very popular. He started 65 percent popular favorable, 18 percent unfavorable. He was very popular in the last campaign. In fact he pretty much outpolled Sen. Lieberman throughout the campaign and in the post mortems of that election. So this is a transformation of his image.

TERENCE SMITH: Quite a drop. I mean, is there a historical parallel for that sort of change in the course of a single administration?

ANDREW KOHUT: If you look at other vice presidents going all the way back to Nixon, at this time at the end of the first term they generally poll about 60 percent, with the only exception being Dan Quayle who was never very popular. So Cheney, Vice President Cheney is the only vice president to really come down in public esteem over the course of this first term and it’s been quite a drop.

TERENCE SMITH: You’ve referred to him, Cheney, as the Velcro vice president. What do you mean by that?

ANDREW KOHUT: He’s a lightning rod for a lot of criticisms of Bush administration policies that seem to stick him. He’s considered a Bush hawk on Iraq, the Halliburton controversies have hurt his image. And he’s seen as an ultraconservative, seen as much more conservative than the average voter.

TERENCE SMITH: Among women, is there a difference? Women and men when they look at….

ANDREW KOHUT: There’s a very big gender gap. Vice President Cheney’s image has fallen by over 20 points among women and much less among men and importantly some very significant political changes. When he took office, moderate and conservative Democrats who the Republicans hoped to woo from Sen. Kerry had a 55 percent positive view, favorable view of him. Today that number is 18 percent among this potential swing constituency. That is a considerable change in opinion.

TERENCE SMITH: That seems huge. What would explain that particularly among women if their view has changed so sharply?

ANDREW KOHUT: A lot of it Iraq. I mean, even in mid ’03 Vice President Cheney’s favorable ratings were up in the 60s. And as opinion has shifted against the decision to go to war especially among women, he’s been very much criticized.

TERENCE SMITH: Okay. But at the same time he’s a source of strength for the ticket with another group.

ANDREW KOHUT: He gets a 92 percent favorable rating from conservative Republicans. Only the president gets a better rating. He gets a 98 percent favorable rating. So the two of them are the apple… they are big stuff to the conservative Republicans.

TERENCE SMITH: Contrast that image with what your polling shows the public feels about John Edwards, the Democratic vice presidential candidate.

ANDREW KOHUT: Oddly enough of the four men or curiously enough of the four men on the ticket, Edwards has a 62 percent favorable rating, the most favorable rating of the four. He’s obviously the least known. And we’re going to have quite a study in contrasts when the two get to debate. You have an inexperienced but popular candidate who the voters don’t know much about. Then you have an experienced vice president who has become very unpopular.

TERENCE SMITH: Fascinating. Andy Kohut, thank you very much. Jim?