Swift Boat TV Ads Packing Punch, Says Leading Pollster

Six out of ten voters in 19 “swing” or “battleground” states have heard of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth television ad questioning John Kerry’s war record, says a seasoned national pollster.

“Something like this can matter in what is likely to be a very close race,” says Tony Fabrizio of the Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates polling firm. “In fact, it could be John Kerry’s undoing.”

Fabrizio, who is best known for his work as pollster for 1996 Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole, said he did his survey on the ad independently and not on behalf of the Republican Party, the Bush campaign, or the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. “We are doing [polling in] the 19 states strictly for ourselves,” he said in an interview with HUMAN EVENTS. He does such surveys, he explained, to obtain data he can use in articles and on television and radio talk shows.

Fabrizio polled nearly 1,000 voters in 19 swing states. Nearly 60% said they had heard of the Swift Boat ad. Although half of those surveyed said the commercial had not influenced their vote, 19% said it made them “more likely” to vote for Kerry, and 27% said it made them “less likely” to vote for Kerry.

Fabrizio said the poll asked respondents to answer some “true or false” questions about Kerry. “About 90% responded that it was true Kerry was a Vietnam veteran and perhaps two-thirds knew that he won three Purple Hearts in Vietnam,” he said. Those who knew of the decorations Kerry won, he said, were “probably 10-to-12 points more pro-Kerry” than those who simply knew he was a veteran or supported him because he was the Democratic nominee.

“In other words, knowing he has three Purple Hearts gives John Kerry more persona,” said Fabrizio. “And if that part of his record is successfully questioned, then Kerry has suffered a hit. And in a close race where every little bit counts, Kerry can’t afford to sustain too many minor hits like this.” Fabrizio’s findings were seconded in a study of the Swift Boat ads by the firm HCD Research. Prof. Chris Borrick of Muhlenberg College, who did the study with HCD, told the New York Post: “The whole goal of a negative ad is to plant a seed of doubt–and it did.” HCD’s chief Glenn Kessler (who wasn’t paid by anyone for the analysis), added that “Obviously, the Swift Boat Veterans’ intent was to publicly question Kerry’s war record and it looks like they succeeded.”