CBS Poll: Bush Leads By A Hair

Pallbearers carry the casket of entertainer and civil rights activist Lena Horne, into Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in New York, Friday, May 14, 2010. Horne, known for her signature song "Stormy Weather" and for her triumph over bigotry, died Sunday at New York Presbyterian Hospital. She was 92. (AP Photo/Steve Chernin) AP Photo/Steve Chernin

The contest for the White House continues to be close. President George W. Bush has a narrow edge over Senator John Kerry among likely voters nationwide -- but his 48 percent to 45 percent lead is within the poll's margin of error. The second debate appears to have had little impact on voters, who again say John Kerry did the better job in that debate. After the first debate on September 30th Kerry came back from a nine-point deficit to tie the race.

CHOICE FOR PRESIDENT
(Likely voters)

Now - After 2nd debate
Kerry-Edwards
45%
Bush-Cheney
48%
Nader-Camejo
2%

After 1st debate
Kerry-Edwards
47%
Bush-Cheney
47%
Nader-Camejo
1%

Before 1st debate
Kerry-Edwards
42%
Bush-Cheney
51%
Nader-Camejo
8%

In the two-way race without Nader, likely voters give the President only a one-point edge.

Voters say they are focused on the issues: 71 percent of registered voters say the candidates' stances on issues will determine their vote, while 19 percent point to personal qualities.

MOST IMPORTANT IN VOTE FOR PRESIDENT IS…
(Registered voters)

Candidates' stances on issues
71%
Candidates' personal qualities
19%

That focus on the issues -- which most voters see as the biggest difference between the two -- could help Kerry. Likely voters making their decisions based mainly on issues are for Kerry, 51 percent to 41 percent. Those voting mainly on personal qualities are strongly for Bush.

PRESIDENTIAL VOTE BY WHAT'S MORE IMPORTANT
(Likely voters)

Issues
Kerry 51%
Bush 41%

Qualities
Kerry 26%
Bush 65%

THE ISSUES: THE ECONOMY AND JOBS
Kerry has an advantage on one of the major issues -- the economy. 53 percent of voters think if Kerry is elected he will boost the number of jobs in the U.S.; a third think he will not. Voters are much less confident in Bush on this issue. 39 percent think Bush will increase the number of jobs if he is re-elected, but 54 percent do not expect an increase in a second Bush administration.

WILL … INCREASE THE NUMBER OF JOBS IN THE U.S.?
(Registered Voters)

Kerry
Yes 53%
No 34%

Bush
Yes 39%
No 54%

Nearly three out of four voters who say Kerry will likely increase jobs also say they will vote for him next month. However, 22 percent of this group says they will vote for Bush; these voters are mostly Republicans and most say they voted for Bush in 2000.

44 percent of voters say Kerry is describing the state of the economy accurately when he talks about it, but almost as many -- 41 percent -- think he is making the economy sound worse than it really is.

But just a third of voters say Bush is describing the condition of the U.S. economy accurately: 61 percent thinks Bush is making it sound better than it is.

THINK CANDIDATES ARE MAKING THE U.S. ECONOMY SOUND …
(Registered Voters)

Better than it is
Kerry
8%
Bush
61%

Worse than it is
Kerry
41%
Bush
2%

Describing it accurately
Kerry
44%
Bush
34%

Voters also think Bush is portraying a too-optimistic picture about Iraq. According to a CBS News/New York Times Poll conducted last week, 50 percent said Bush was making things in Iraq sound better than they really are.

Many voters do perceive a loss of jobs in their community. 46 percent of voters say the number of jobs in their area has decreased over the last four years and just one in five say jobs have increased in that time. Three in 10 say the number has stayed about the same.

JOBS IN COMMUNITY IN THE PAST FOUR YEARS:
(Registered Voters)

Increased
Now
20%
9/2004
18%

Decreased
Now
46%
9/2004
45%

About the same
Now
30%
9/2004
31%

Voters are divided in their overall views of the nation's economy, with just over half assessing it as good. Voters are now slightly more negative about it than they were a week ago. 52 percent now say the economy is good, while 47 percent say it is bad.

VIEWS OF THE ECONOMY
(Registered Voters)

Good
Now
52%
After 1st debate
56%

Bad
Now
47%
After 1st debate
43%

40 percent of Americans (and 42 percent of voters) approve of how President Bush is handling the economy, while 51 percent disapprove.

THE ISSUES: TAXES
Despite a pledge from Kerry at last week's debate that he would not raise taxes on families earning under $200,000 a year, more voters think their taxes will go up if Kerry is elected president than if Bush is re-elected. But voters don't think Bush will necessarily lower their taxes if he wins another term. Most say their taxes would stay the same under Bush, but 31 percent say Bush will raise them.

PERSONAL TAXES WILL:
(Registered voters)

Go up
If Kerry is elected - Now
46%
If Kerry is elected - 9/2004
51%
If Bush is re-elected - Now
31%
If Bush is re-elected - 9/2004
36%

Go down
If Kerry is elected - Now
8%
If Kerry is elected - 9/2004
6%
If Bush is re-elected - Now
5%
If Bush is re-elected - 9/2004
5%

Stay the same
If Kerry is elected - Now
42%
If Kerry is elected - 9/2004
38%
If Bush is re-elected - Now
61%
If Bush is re-elected - 9/2004
55%

THE ISSUES: THE WAR IN IRAQ
Voters remain divided over whether the U.S. did the right thing in taking military action in Iraq, and they do not think either Bush or Kerry has a clear plan for dealing with the situation there. In fact, most do not see the situation in Iraq improving no matter which of these candidates is elected president.

U.S. ACTION AGAINST IRAQ:
(Registered voters)

Right thing
Now 49%
After 1st debate 49%
9/2004 52%

Should have stayed out
Now 46%
After 1st debate 47%
9/2004 43%

53 percent think Bush still has yet to develop a clear plan for dealing with Iraq, despite being engaged in the conflict for more than one year. Voters also say that Kerry, the challenger, has not shown them that he has one either.

DOES … HAVE A PLAN FOR DEALING WITH THE IRAQ SITUATION?
(Registered Voters)

Kerry
Yes
Now
28%
After 1st debate
31%
No
Now
61%
After 1st debate
58%

Bush
Yes
Now
41%
After 1st debate
39%
No
Now
53%
After 1st debate
56%

Among Republican voters, 73 percent think Bush does have a clear plan for Iraq. However, many Democrats are not convinced that Kerry does: 49 percent of Democrats think Kerry does have a plan for dealing with Iraq, but 38 percent think he does not.

Looking ahead, voters don't think either presidential candidate will improve the situation in Iraq if elected; in fact, most voters think the situation will stay the same or get worse either way. Only 30 percent think things in Iraq will get better under a Kerry administration, while 32 percent think things will improve in a second Bush administration.

THE SITUATION IN IRAQ WILL:
(Registered voters)

Get better
If Kerry is elected 30%
If Bush is re-elected 32%

Get worse
If Kerry is elected 31%
If Bush is re-elected 28%

Stay the same
If Kerry is elected 33%
If Bush is re-elected 37%

And the current situation is not perceived to be good. More than half believe things in Iraq are going badly for the U.S. 53 percent now say things are going badly there, while 45 percent of voters say things in Iraq are going well for the U.S.

HOW ARE THINGS IN IRAQ GOING FOR U.S.?
(Registered voters)

Well
Now 45%
9/2004 42%

Badly
Now 53%
9/2004 55%

54 percent of Americans (and 53 percent of voters) disapprove of the way the President is handling the situation in Iraq, while 43 percent approve.

In this CBS News Poll voters were asked to volunteer a question that they would ask the candidates, if they had the chance. More voters had questions for President Bush than John Kerry. Many of the questions for Bush concerned Iraq, often expressing a desire to hear a strategy for getting U.S. troops out of that country or a longer-term agenda for the region. Voters' questions of Kerry often looked for specificity in his plans -- the word "plan" came up often -- as voters said they want to hear more of the particular steps he would take in Iraq or to increase jobs and help the economy.

CANDIDATE QUALITIES
About one in five voters say they are voting mainly on the candidates' personal qualities instead of their positions on the issues. Most of these evaluations changed little after the second presidential debate. Somewhat fewer voters now have a lot of confidence in Kerry's ability to protect the U.S. from terrorism compared to last week (but two-thirds still have at least some confidence in Kerry on this question.) A majority of voters say Kerry understands their needs and problems, more than say that about Bush.

31 percent of voters now have a lot of confidence that Kerry would make the right decisions to protect the U.S. from terrorism if he is elected. After the first presidential debate, Kerry saw a 14-point jump on this question, and 39 percent had a lot of confidence. But some of that bounce has slipped away.

CONFIDENCE KERRY WILL PROTECT U.S. FROM TERRORISM
(Registered Voters)

A lot
Now
31%
After 1st debate
39%
Before 1st debate
25%
8/2004
32%

Some
Now
34%
After 1st debate
31%
Before 1st debate
35%
8/2004
39%

Not much/none
Now
34%
After 1st debate
28%
Before 1st debate
38%
8/2004
26%

Kerry's drop in the number of voters who have a lot of confidence in his ability to protect the country from terrorism comes mostly from women voters (an 11-point decline), Democrats (a 13-point loss), liberals (a 14-point decrease), and moderates (a 16-point drop).

In comparison, 46 percent of voters have a lot of confidence in Bush's making the right decisions to protect the U.S. from terrorism, also slightly down from last week. 28 percent have some confidence. Bush has led Kerry on this question throughout this campaign.

CONFIDENCE BUSH WILL PROTECT U.S. FROM TERRORISM
(Registered Voters)

A lot
Now
46%
After 1st debate
52%
Before 1st debate
50%
8/2004
43%

Some
Now
28%
After 1st debate
23%
Before 1st debate
24%
8/2004
26%

Not much/none
Now
25%
After 1st debate
24%
Before 1st debate
25%
8/2004
30%

54 percent of Americans overall (and 56 percent of registered voters) approve of the President's handling of the campaign against terrorism, which remains the area where his approval is highest. But even that has declined somewhat in the month since the Republican National Convention.

BUSH'S HANDLING OF TERRORISM
(All Americans)

Approve
Now 54%
Last week 57%
9/2004 62%

Disapprove
Now 39%
Last week 37%
9/2004 31%

On at least one level, Kerry connects with voters more than Bush does. A majority, 56 percent, of voters says Kerry understands the needs and problems of people like themselves. 46 percent of voters say this about Bush.


UNDERSTANDS THE NEEDS AND PROBLEMS OF PEOPLE LIKE YOU
(Registered Voters)

All
Kerry 56%
Bush 46%

Liberals
Kerry 79%
Bush 24%

Moderates
Kerry 56%
Bush 41%

Conservatives
Kerry 41%
Bush 70%

Independents
Kerry 57%
Bush 41%

Men
Kerry 60%
Bush 46%

Women
Kerry 53%
Bush 47%

Attend church weekly
Kerry 47%
Bush 55%

Both men and women are more likely to say Kerry understands them than say this about Bush, as do majorities of liberals, moderates, and Independent voters. Conservative voters and voters who attend church every week are more likely to say Bush understands them better.

Kerry's overall favorability rating among voters is now 38 percent, compared with Bush's 45 percent. These numbers -- and many other evaluations of the two candidates -- have changed little since last week.

VIEWS OF CANDIDATES' PERSONAL QUALITIES
(Registered Voters)

Overall favorability
Kerry
38%
Bush
45%

Strong qualities of leadership
Kerry
54%
Bush
62%

Likely to increase jobs
Kerry
53%
Bush
39%

A lot of confidence in protecting U.S. from terrorism
Kerry
31%
Bush
46%

Has clear plan for Iraq
Kerry
28%
Bush
41%

Shares Americans' moral values
Kerry
58%
Bush
64%

Understands your needs and problems
Kerry
56%
Bush
46%

Shares your priorities
Kerry
44%
Bush
50%

Says what he believes
Kerry
37%
Bush
58%

Among all Americans, the President's overall job approval rating stands at 43 percent. This is down from 47 percent last week. The President's lowest job approval rating came last May.

BUSH JOB APPROVAL
(All Americans)

Approve
Now
43%
Last week
47%
9/2004
50%
5/2004
41%

Disapprove
Now
48%
Last week
43%
9/2004
42%
5/2004
52%

THE VOTERS: SUPPORT FROM THE BASE
Most of the President's voters call themselves strong supporters, but reservations have risen among his backers. Now, after the second debate, 64 percent voters who would choose Bush over Kerry in a two-way race call themselves strong supporters of the President, while 27 percent have reservations -- despite their intention to vote for Bush. After debate number one, 71 percent of his voters were strong supporters while fewer, 21 percent, had reservations.

BUSH VOTERS: STRENGTH OF SUPPORT
(Likely voters)

Strongly favor
Now
64%
After 1st debate
71%

Like with reservations
Now
27%
After 1st debate
21%

Dislike other candidate
Now
8%
After 1st debate
8%

A smaller portion of Kerry's voters are strong supporters -- only about half of Kerry's backers describe themselves as such -- and Kerry's strong debate performances have not been able to boost these numbers. About one in four are with Kerry mainly because they dislike the incumbent. This, too, is mostly unchanged since before the debates.

KERRY VOTERS: STRENGTH OF SUPPORT
(Likely voters)

Strongly favor
Now
49%
After 1st debate
51%

Like with reservations
Now
26%
After 1st debate
25%

Dislike other candidate
Now
23%
After 1st debate
23%

The number of voters the candidates are fighting over remains small: more than eight in ten likely voters who have chosen a candidate today say they have made up their minds about it.

Kerry appears to have lost ground among women and moderates. He now gets 43 percent of the likely women's vote and now trails Bush among them. After his first debate Kerry held the support of 49 percent of likely women voters and led Bush. One possible explanation: confidence in Kerry's ability to handle terrorism has declined sharply among women voters since last week.

Kerry has also slipped among moderates. Today he gets 46 percent of their votes, down from the 57 percent he held after the first debate. And Kerry has also lost ground in the suburbs -- today garnering 43 percent of likely suburban votes, down from 48 percent after debate one.

PRESIDENTIAL HORSE RACE AMONG GROUPS
(Likely voters)

KERRY
Men
Now
47%
After 1st debate
45%

Women
Now
43%
After 1st debate
49%

Republicans
Now
4%
After 1st debate
4%

Democrats
Now
86%
After 1st debate
87%

Independents
Now
43%
After 1st debate
45%

Liberals
Now
75%
After 1st debate
76%

Moderates
Now
46%
After 1st debate
57%

Conservatives
Now
20%
After 1st debate
16%

Age 18 to 29
Now
56%
After 1st debate
54%

Age 65+
Now
50%
After 1st debate
45%

Suburbs
Now
43%
After 1st debate
48%

BUSH
Men
Now
46%
After 1st debate
48%

Women
Now
49%
After 1st debate
46%

Republicans
Now
93%
After 1st debate
92%

Democrats
Now
7%
After 1st debate
9%

Independents
Now
43%
After 1st debate
45%

Liberals
Now
20%
After 1st debate
17%

Moderates
Now
42%
After 1st debate
38%

Conservatives
Now
76%
After 1st debate
79%

Age 18 to 29
Now
35%
After 1st debate
42%

Age 65+
Now
41%
After 1st debate
50%

Suburbs
Now
49%
After 1st debate
47%

Seven in ten voters (including equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans) said they watched or listened to the second presidential debate, held last Friday. Among voters overall and those who watched the debate, Kerry was the winner by a double-digit margin, although not by as large a margin as he won the first debate.

WHO WON SECOND PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE?
(Registered voters)

Kerry
All
46%
Debate watchers
50%
1st debate
60%

Bush
All
28%
Debate watchers
32%
1st debate
23%

Tie
All
11%
Debate watchers
13%
1st debate
8%

Attention to this campaign continues to be high. More than half – 56% - of all registered voters are paying a lot of attention, and nine in ten are paying at least some. Levels of interest continue to exceed those expressed in October 1980, 1984, 1988, 1996 and 2000.

ATTENTION TO THE CAMPAIGN
(Registered voters)

A lot
Now
56%
10/2000
35%
10/1996
39%
10/1992
54%

Some
Now
33%
10/2000
44%
10/1996
48%
10/1992
38%

Not much/none
Now
11%
10/2000
20%
10/1996
13%
10/1992
8%

THE VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
Last week's vice presidential debate between John Edwards and Dick Cheney has led to few changes in voters' views of each candidate. Now, 34 percent of voters have a favorable impression of John Edwards, and 25 percent have an unfavorable view of him. 38 percent now have a favorable view of Dick Cheney.

VIEWS OF THE VICE-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
(Registered Voters)

EDWARDS
Favorable
Now
34%
Last week
31%

Not favorable
Now
25%
Last week
25%

Undecided
Now
40%
Last week
44%

CHENEY
Favorable
Now
38%
Last week
36%

Not favorable
Now
36%
Last week
36%

Undecided
Now
26%
Last week
28%

Views of each candidate are highly partisan, with voters from each party viewing their candidate positively and the opposing candidate negatively. Men and women voters see each candidate similarly.

As voters reflect back on the debate, somewhat more voters think Cheney did the better job than think Edwards did, by 37 percent to 32 percent. Cheney also emerged as the debate's winner among the 60 percent of voters who say they watched or listened to the debate. 46 percent of debate watchers say Cheney won, while 39 percent say Edwards did the best job.

WHO WON V.P. DEBATE?
(Registered voters)

Cheney
All
37%
Debate watchers
46%

Edwards
All
32%
Debate watchers
39%

Tie
All
10%
Debate watchers
12%



This poll was conducted among a nationwide sample of 1,183 adults, interviewed by telephone October 9-11, 2004, including 1,023 registered voters. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for registered voters and for the total sample. Each registered voter is assigned a probability of voting, which is used to calculate the likely voter results. The sum of these probabilities is the effective number of likely voters. The effective number of likely voters is 760. The margin of error for the number of likely voters could be plus or minus four points.

For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here. For information on how we define "likely voters," click here.
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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