Split decision on economy, national security

SPLIT DECISION ON ECONOMY, NATIONAL SECURITY…. The latest numbers from Gallup show that Americans have more confidence in Republicans when it comes to national security, and more confidence in Democrats when it comes to the economy. In other words, not too much has changed — except one thing.

Americans continue to give the Republican Party a slight edge over the Democratic Party — 49% vs. 42% — in their perceptions of the party that will better protect the United States from international terrorism and military threats. The Republicans’ edge on this issue is unchanged from last year but has diminished from earlier in the decade. […]

The new results are from an Aug. 31-Sept. 2 survey in which Gallup also asked Americans which party is better for keeping the country prosperous — a question instituted in 1951. Democrats currently lead on that measure by 50% to 39%, marking the fourth straight year in which the party has held a double-digit advantage.

On both questions, there’s a predictable partisan split — Dems trust Dems more, Republicans trust Republicans more — with independents preferring Democrats on the economy by a narrow margin, and Republicans on national security by a sizable margin.

Given the devastating national security failures during the Bush/Cheney era, one would like to think the GOP would fare far worse on this question, but some misguided perceptions are hard to break. Nevertheless, the poll results suggest very little has changed of late on these broad questions.

What has changed, however, is something Gallup didn’t ask about: prioritizing the two areas of interest.

I remember plenty of instances in which Democrats, around 2004, would say something along the lines of, “Voters are with us on everything except national security.” The observation wasn’t wrong, but it was imprudent — it didn’t matter if voters backed Dems on everything except national security when national security was their principal concern.

And that’s what’s changed — people aren’t as scared of terrorism as they used to be. On the two broadest issues on the national landscape, the parties each enjoy the edge on one, but for now, it’s Democrats with a large lead on the issue Americans care about most.