Bush, Kerry Seen As Strong Leaders

GENERIC George Bush John Kerry Presdential election campaign CBS/AP

OTHER DOMESTIC ISSUES: TAXES AND HEALTH CARE
Republicans traditionally have an advantage on tax issues, but few voters ever think any President will lower their taxes. Voters currently are more likely to view Kerry as someone who would raise their taxes, but a sizable number think Bush would raise them, too. 45 percent say their taxes will go up if Kerry is elected; while 42 percent say their taxes will stay the same. If Bush is re-elected, 36 percent think their taxes will increase, and 55 percent say they will stay the same.

Health care is mentioned more often than taxes as an issue voters care about. Like the tax issue, many voters see no difference between the candidates. Half think their health care costs will remain the same under either a Kerry administration or a second Bush administration. However, voters are over three times as likely to say their health care will become more affordable if Kerry is elected. 22 percent say their healthcare will be more affordable if Kerry becomes President, compared to just 6 percent who say this will happen if Bush is re-elected.

KERRY VS. BUSH: TAXES AND HEALTHCARE
(Registered Voters)

If Bush Is re-elected
Personal taxes will:
Go Up
36%
Go down
5%
Stay the same
55%

Your health care costs will:
Be more affordable
6%
Less affordable
39%
Stay the same
51%

If Kerry is elected
Personal taxes will:
Go up
45%
Go down
6%
Stay the same
42%

Your health care costs will:
Be more affordable
22%
Less affordable
22%
Stay the same
51%

ASSESSING THE CANDIDATES' PERSONAL QUALITIES
Both Bush and Kerry continue to be viewed as strong leaders, though perceptions of Bush as a leader have declined since March. Many voters have accepted the argument that Kerry is a flip-flopper: Bush still has an advantage over Kerry on saying what he believes. Although similar percentages of voters think each candidate shares their priorities, more think Bush does not share their priorities than think Kerry does not.

EVALUATIONS OF KERRY
(Registered Voters)

Strong qualities of leadership
Now
60%
7/2004
58%
Pre-Dem. Convention (3/2004)
61%

Shares your priorities
Now
43%
7/2004
47%
Pre-Dem. Convention (6/2004)

Doesn't share your priorities
Now
42%
7/2004
40%
Pre-Dem. Convention (6/2004)
47%

Says what he believes
Now
34%
7/2004
35%
Pre-Dem. Convention (6/2004)
34%


EVALUATIONS OF BUSH
(Registered Voters)

Strong qualities of leadership
Now
59%
7/2004
58%
Pre-Dem. Convention (3/2004)
67%

Shares your priorities
Now
44%
7/2004
41%
Pre-Dem. Convention (6/2004)
41%

Doesn't share your priorities
Now
51%
7/2004
55%
Pre-Dem. Convention
55%

Says what he believes
Now
52%
7/2004
48%
Pre-Dem. Convention (6/2004)
58%

A positive sign for Kerry is that voters view him overall more favorably than not. 38 percent of voters now have a favorable opinion of John Kerry, 34 percent have an unfavorable opinion, and 27 percent are undecided or haven't heard enough about him.

OPINIONS OF THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
(Registered voters)

John Kerry
Favorable
38%
Not favorable
34%
Undecided/Haven't heard
27%

George W. Bush
Favorable
43%
Not favorable
44%
Undecided/Haven't heard
13%

Opinions of Bush are more evenly divided. 43 percent have a favorable view of Bush, while 44 percent view him unfavorably.

THE VICE PRESIDENTS: EDWARDS AND CHENEY
Many voters remain unable to offer an opinion on Democratic Vice Presidential nominee John Edwards. But among those that can rate him, the view remains heavily favorable. 35 percent have a favorable opinion of him, while less than one in five views him unfavorably.

OPINIONS OF THE VP CHOICES
(Registered voters)

Edwards
Favorable
Now
35%
7/2004
35%

Not favorable
Now
19%
7/2004
18%

Undecided/Haven't heard
Now
45%
7/2004
46%

Cheney
Favorable
Now
29%
7/2004
31%

Not favorable
Now
37%
7/2004
35%

Undecided/Haven't heard
Now
33%
7/2004
33%

Voters' opinions of Vice President Dick Cheney are quite different. 37 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him, while 28 percent have a favorable one. But a third of voters are still unable to offer an opinion of the Vice President.

Among the key group of Independent voters, opinions of Edwards are similar to voters overall: 30 percent have a favorable view of him; while 12 percent view him unfavorably. Opinions of Cheney, however, are more negative among Independents than among voters overall. 43 percent of Independents have an unfavorable opinion of Cheney, while just one in five has a favorable one.

PRESIDENTIAL ASSESSMENTS
As has been the case this year, a majority of Americans thinks the country is on the wrong track, and just two in five now say the country is headed in the right direction. Sentiments among voters are similar.

COUNTRY IS HEADED IN THE:

Right direction
All
39%
Community lost jobs
14%
Registered voters
41%

Wrong track
All
55%
Community lost jobs
80%
Registered voters
53%

Eight in ten of those who say their community has lost jobs in the last four years think the country has seriously gotten off on the wrong track.

Just 37 percent of Americans now approve of Bush's handling of the economy, and 40 percent approve of the President's handling of Iraq. Bush continues to receive his strongest approval rating for his handling of the campaign against terrorism, with 53 percent approving. His rating on foreign policy is unchanged from last month. Overall, 46 percent now approve of the way Bush is handling his job as President.

BUSH APPROVAL RATINGS

Overall
Now
46%
7/2004
44%

Handling terrorism
Now
53%
7/2004
52%

Handling foreign policy
Now
41%
7/2004
39%

Handling Iraq
Now
40%
7/2004
38%

Handling economy
Now
37%
7/2004
39%

ASSESSING IRAQ AND THE WAR ON TERRORISM
The war in Iraq continues to divide the country. Just under half of Americans - 49 percent - believe the invasion was the right thing to do. This number fell to under 50 percent last spring as U.S. military casualties began to mount, and has remained there below that level since. Today 44 percent say that looking back, the U.S. should have stayed out altogether.

U.S. ACTION AGAINST IRAQ:

Right thing
Now
49%
7/2004
45%
5/2004
49%
12/2003
64%

Should have stayed out
Now
44%
7/2004
47%
5/2004
45%
12/2003
28%

Views on the war remain partisan. Republicans in overwhelming numbers say it was the right thing to do; three out of four Democrats say they U.S. ought to have stayed out.

Americans continue to feel that the effort to bring peace to Iraq is going badly for the U.S.

HOW IS THE WAR IN IRAQ GOING FOR U.S.?

Well
Now
46%
7/2004
43%
5/2004
37%
12/2003
47%

Badly
Now
51%
7/2004
54%
5/2004
60%
12/2003
51%

And Americans do not perceive much of a payoff back home yet from the war in Iraq. More than 4 in 10 believe the war has actually increased the terror threat to the U.S. so far -- the opposite of its intended consequence. Another 40 percent say it has not changed that threat, while just 16 percent say it has decreased it so far.

IRAQ WAR MADE TERROR THREAT TO THE U.S.

Increase
Now
43%
6/2004
47%
4/2004
41%
5/2003
34%

Decrease
Now
16%
6/2004
13%
4/2004
18%
5/2003
15%

Stay the same
Now
40%
6/2004
38%
5/2004
39%
5/2003
49%

Fewer than 4 in 10 Americans see the Iraq war as a major component of the broader war on terror; 12 percent see it as just a minor part. 44 percent think it is an altogether separate endeavor. Those who say the war is not part of the war on terror are especially likely to think the action has heightened the threat to Americans at here at home. But even among those who say the Iraq war is a major part of the struggle against terrorism, the majority feels the war has not yet alleviated the danger to the U.S. from terrorism.

Fear of another terrorist attack in the U.S. lingers. Most Americans believe another attack in the U.S. is likely in the next few months--– a sentiment they have harbored since the tragedies of 9/11.

LIKELIHOOD OF TERROR ATTACK IN U.S. IN NEXT FEW MONTHS
Very likely
Now
17%
7/2004
18%
8/2003
15%
5/2003
24%

Somewhat likely
Now
50%
7/2004
48%
8/2003
49%
5/2003
47%

Not very/Not at all likely
Now
28%
7/2004
28%
8/2003
33%
5/2003
27%

Recent Department of Homeland Security warnings about potential threats to financial buildings in New York and Washington D.C. have drawn both praise and criticism. But most Americans would rather err on the side of caution: they feel it is a good idea to issue warnings, even if the information is not specific.

SHOULD GOVERNMENT ISSUE WARNINGS WITHOUT SPECIFIC INFORMATION?

Yes
Now
68%
5/2002
71%

No
Now
27%
5/2002
25%

Still, the warnings inspire a mix of security and anxiety in the public. Those feelings are not much different from those found in the earlier days of the warnings system in 2003.

HAVE WARNINGS MADE YOU FEEL…?

Mostly secure
Now
40%
2/2003
37%

Mostly anxious
Now
37%
2/2003
40%

Women are more likely than men, by 42 percent to 33 percent, to say the terror warnings make them anxious. And those under 30 also say the warnings make them anxious -- the highest of any age group. While feelings about the terror warnings differ little among those in the cities, suburbs and rural areas, residents of the Northeast are more likely than those living in other areas of the country to say the warnings make them more anxious.




This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1,009 adults, interviewed by telephone August 15-18, 2004. There were 835 registered voters in the sample. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for the full sample and for the sample of registered voters.

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


  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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