Bush Gains In Post-Convention Poll

GENERIC Trail Bytes, Bush Cheney, Kerry Edwards, campaign logos, election 2004 CBS

One week after their Convention, the Republican ticket of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney hold a seven-point lead over Democrats John Kerry and John Edwards among registered voters.

The Republicans' gain in voter support comes about through two changes that appear to have happened at that Convention -- a major improvement in the President's approval ratings on handling terrorism (already the area where he scored best), and significant negative changes in perceptions of the Democratic nominee.

PRESIDENTIAL HORSERACE
(Registered Voters)

Bush-Cheney
Now
49%
August
45%

Kerry-Edwards
Now
42%
August
46%

Nader-Camejo
Now
1%
August
1%

The Bush ticket's four point gain in support after the Convention comes in part from some weakening of Kerry support among Democrats, but especially from gains with independent voters. In this poll, for the first time since last spring, Bush holds a clear lead with Independents.

PRESIDENTIAL CHOICE AMONG INDEPENDENTS
(Registered Voters)

Bush-Cheney
Now
48%
August
39%

Kerry-Edwards
Now
39%
August
44%

Nader-Camejo
Now
2%
August
4%

Nine in ten Republicans say they will vote for Bush, but only eight in ten Democrats now say they will vote for Kerry.

Kerry has lost support with other groups that had supported him prior to the Republican convention. Then, Kerry held a seven-point lead over Bush among women. Now, support for Kerry among women has dropped 10 points, and Bush has a five-point edge. Male voters before the convention gave Bush a seven-point lead; his lead with men now is 15 points.

Kerry's strongest support comes from people living in cities, African American voters and those who don't attend religious services. Bush receives the support of suburban and rural voters, voters over age 65, veterans, and votes who attend church every, or nearly every week.

Bush retains a clear advantage over his opponent in the strength of his support. 64 percent of Bush voters say they strongly support their candidate, compared to 43 percent of Kerry voters who say the same.

CONVENTION IMPACT: MAKING THE CASE ON TERRORISM
One of the largest gains for Bush comes in the public's assessment of his handling of the campaign against terror. Even before the Convention, this was Bush's strength -- even when his approval rating on the economy, the war in Iraq, and overall dropped below 50 percent, a majority continued to approve of this handling of terrorism.

And the Republican National Convention appears to have increased that approval rating even more. Bush registered gains in other areas (for the first time since April, a majority approves of how he is handling his job overall), but jumped nine points in approve of his handling of the campaign against terrorism.

BUSH'S HANDLING OF TERRORISM

Approve
Now
62%
August
53%

Disapprove
Now
31%
August
38%

BUSH'S OVERALL JOB RATING

Approve
Now
50%
August
46%

Disapprove
Now
43%
August
45%

Bush's approval rating on handling terrorism has increased significantly among Democrats since before the Republican convention. Though most Democrats still disapprove of the President's handling of terrorism, 36 percent of Democrats now approve, up from 24 percent prior to the convention.

More Americans continue to disapprove than approve of Bush's handling of the war in Iraq but there has been some improvement for him on this issue. 45 percent approve of his handling of Iraq, while 49 percent disapprove. Prior to the Republican convention, 40 percent approved of Bush's handling of Iraq, while 54 percent disapproved.

BUSH'S HANDLING OF …

War in Iraq
Approve
Now
45%
August
40%
Disapprove
Now
48%
August
54%

Economy
Approve
Now
44%
August
37%
Disapprove
Now
48%
August
54%

Bush's rating on the economy has also improved. 44 percent of Americans now approve of his handling of the economy, compared to 37 percent prior to the convention.

The Republicans were not quite able to make the link between the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq. Just about half of the public now say the war in Iraq is part of the war against terrorism, but that belief has been stable for months. They were, however, able to convince more that the war in Iraq was the right thing to do; for the first time since April, a majority says the U.S. did the right thing getting involved in Iraq.

U.S. ACTION AGAINST IRAQ:

Right thing
Now
52%
8/2004
49%
7/2004
45%
4/2004
50%

Should have stayed out
Now
41%
8/2004
44%
7/2004
47%
4/2004
46%

However, this poll was conducted mostly before the news of the U.S. death toll in Iraq reaching 1,000.

CONVENTION IMPACT: MAKING THE CASE AGAINST KERRY
The impact of the convention is seen even more clearly when looking at the decline in voter assessments of the Democratic candidate. For the first time since June, overall opinion of Kerry is negative, and while overall opinion of Bush is up for the first time since spring, the Convention week appears to have had a greater impact on views of the challenger.

OPINIONS OF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
(Registered Voters)

Kerry
Favorable
Now
32%
August
38%
Unfavorable
Now
41%
August
34%
Undecided/Haven't heard
Now
27%
August
27%

Bush
Favorable
Now
47%
August
43%
Unfavorable
Now
39%
August
44%
Undecided/Haven't heard
Now
14%
August
13%

In addition, Kerry has lost a lot of ground on perception of his ability to handle terrorism and other foreign crises. The percentage that says they have not much or no confidence in Kerry's ability to make the right decisions about terrorism has risen 11 points, from 26 percent to 37 percent. Now just 26 percent say they have a lot of confidence in Kerry, while 47 percent have a lot of confidence in the President.

CONFIDENCE IN PROTECTING U.S. FROM TERRORISM
(Registered Voters)

Kerry
A lot
Now
26%
August
32%
Some
Now
34%
August
39%
Not much/none
Now
37%
August
26%

Bush
A lot
Now
47%
August
43%
Some
Now
26%
August
26%
Not much/none
Now
26%
August
30%

A majority of voters are now uneasy with the idea of Kerry handling an international crisis, and only 35 percent are confident about that prospect. While voters are closely divided over Bush in this regard, the President does enjoy a large edge over Kerry.

CONFIDENCE IN HANDLING INTERNATIONAL CRISIS
(Registered Voters)

Kerry
Confident
Now
35%
August
41%
Uneasy
Now
57%
August
49%

Bush
Confident
Now
51%
August
46%
Uneasy
Now
47%
August
52%

Kerry has also lost his lead on his ability to handle the economy, but neither candidate inspires much confidence here. 56 percent remain uneasy about Bush's approach to handling the economy, and now a majority is uneasy with Kerry's approach, too. For Kerry, this is a reversal from before the convention.

CONFIDENCE IN MAKING RIGHT DECISIONS ABOUT NATION'S ECONOMY
(Registered Voters)

Kerry
Confident
Now
42%
August
48%
Uneasy
Now
52%
August
45%

Bush
Confident
Now
41%
August
40%
Uneasy
Now
56%
August
57%

Kerry has also dropped eight points on the perception of his leadership abilities. He now trails Bush on this measure.

STRONG QUALITIES OF LEADERSHIP
(Registered Voters)

Kerry
Yes
Now
52%
August
60%
No
Now
40%
August
30%

Bush
Yes
Now
64%
August
59%
No
Now
34%
August
36%

The Convention did give voters a sense of what George W. Bush wants to do if re-elected. A majority of voters believe George W. Bush has a clear plan for what he wants to accomplish in the next four years if he returns to the White House. Fewer than half say that about Kerry today.

IS IT CLEAR WHAT CANDIDATES WANT TO ACCOMPLISH AS PRESIDENT?
(Registered Voters)

Kerry
Yes
40%
No
55%

Bush
Yes
54%
No
40%

Kerry has even lost his (shrinking) edge on sharing voters' priorities. Now more voters say he does not than say he does, while assessments of Bush are mixed.

DOES CANDIDATE SHARE YOUR PRIORITIES?
(Registered Voters)

Kerry
Shares your priorities
Now
39%
August
43%
Does not
Now
48%
August
42%

Bush
Shares your priorities
Now
47%
August
44%
Does not
Now
47%
August
51%

The Republican Convention's success even went as far as to make Kerry, not Bush, appear to be the candidate who is more likely to be on the attack, a turnaround from a few weeks ago. By eight points, voters see the Bush campaign as explaining what it would do, not attacking Kerry.

CANDIDATES ARE SPENDING MORE TIME:
(Registered voters)

Kerry
Explaining what they would do
Now
42%
August
47%
Attacking their opponent
Now
47%
August
42%

Bush
Explaining what they would do
Now
49%
August
44%
Attacking their opponent
Now
41%
August
43%

BUSH'S BOUNCE IN PERSPECTIVE
Few incumbent presidents of the last twenty years have received much of a "convention bounce." In 1992, George H. W. Bush received a two-point bounce, and Ronald Reagan received no bounce at all in 1984. In 1996, Bill Clinton enjoyed a five-point rise in the polls. Before that, both Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan received significant bounces after their conventions. Still, in more recent history, the largest convention bounces have been received by candidates from the party not occupying the White House -- candidates who begin their conventions less well known to voters.

INCUMBENTS'S SHARE OF THE VOTE

Bush (2004
Pre-Conv.
45%
Post-Conv.
49%
Bounce (+4)

Clinton (1996)
Pre-Conv.
49%
Post-Conv.
54%
Bounce (+5)

Bush (1992)
Pre-Conv.
37%
Post-Conv.
39%
Bounce (+2)

Reagan (1984)*
Pre-Conv.
53%
Post-Conv.
53%
Bounce (0)

Carter (1980)*
Pre-Conv.
29%
Post-Conv.
39%
Bounce (+10)

Nixon (1972)*
Pre-Conv.
53%
Post-Conv.
64%
Bounce (+11)

(*1968-1984 results are from Gallup Polls)

This year, however, Bush's post-convention gains exceed those of his Democratic challenger, who had the support of 49 percent of voters before the Democratic Convention, and 49 percent of voters afterwards.

But voter preferences can change. Just after the Democratic convention, Kerry held a five-point lead over Bush. Bush and Kerry divided male voters (who traditionally vote Republican), and Kerry held a double-digit lead over Bush among Independent voters. And it should be kept in mind that in a CBS News/New York Times Poll conducted just after Labor Day in 2000, Al Gore led George W. Bush by 46 percent to 42 percent.

More than half of voters – 51 percent -- say they are now paying a lot of attention to the presidential campaign -- a level of interest that was matched only just days before the 2000 election. Another 37 percent are paying some attention. Few have tuned out altogether.



This poll was conducted among a nation-wide random sample of 1,058 adults interviewed by telephone September 6-8, 2004. There were 909 registered voters. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on all adults and all registered voters.

For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.



  • John Esterbrook

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