In the 2000 presidential race, with education a salient issue, the candidate’s poll numbers on education (e.g. “Who Do You Trust…”) moved independently of other numbers. But this time they seem to move in concert with broader perceptions of the candidates.
The new ABC News/Washington Post poll is further evidence. A month ago, when asked who they trust to handle education voters preferred Kerry 52-43. When asked the same question last week the answer was still Kerry, but only 45 -44. Yet nothing major happened on education in the last month, no big Bush push or Kerry mishap. Instead, how the voters view Bush and Kerry on education seems to largely be a function of how they view them on other issues voters consider more important right now. If Kerry gets a bounce coming out of the convention then expect those numbers to move again.
Though education analysts hate to admit it, since it’s the issue we generally care most about, this election is going to turn on issues besides education. But, there’s hope! Education will probably still be a framing issue, meaning both candidates can use it to help shape broader perceptions of their candidacies.