Kerry Up 5 Points In CBS/NYT Poll

GENERIC George Bush John Kerry Presdential election campaign CBS/AP

Senator John Kerry heads toward his nominating convention holding a slight lead over President George W. Bush in the CBS News/New York Times poll, and the ticket of Kerry and his vice presidential nominee John Edwards seems to have generated increased enthusiasm for the Kerry candidacy.

This year the electorate is especially well tuned-in. Today, nearly half of all registered voters say they are paying a lot of attention to the race and nearly all voters are paying at least some. In 2000, just one-quarter were paying a lot of attention at this stage of the campaign. In fact, more voters in this poll say they are paying a lot of attention at this point in time than in any CBS News summertime election year poll.

ATTENTION TO THE CAMPAIGN

A lot
Now
47%
July 2000
26%
July 1996
31%

Some
Now
36%
July 2000
46%
July 1996
48%

Not much/none
Now
16%
July 2000
27%
July 1996
21%

In fact, attention was not this high even at the very end of two campaigns -- 1988 and 1996.

So it may be no surprise that most voters -- no matter whom they support -- say their minds are made up. In this poll, Senators Kerry and Edwards have a 49 percent to 44 percent lead over the GOP ticket of President George W. Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney. The race continues to be close; from April to June, before Edwards was selected, neither Presidential candidate built and held a sizeable lead in the head-to head matchups. However the slight boost Kerry received from naming Edwards earlier this month seems to have remained mostly intact.

KERRY-EDWARDS VS. BUSH-CHENEY: CHOICE IN NOVEMBER
(Registered voters)

Now
Kerry-Edwards
49%
Bush-Cheney
44%

7/7
Kerry-Edwards
49%
Bush-Cheney
44%

June
Kerry-Edwards
45%
Bush-Cheney
44%

May
Kerry-Edwards
49%
Bush-Cheney
41%

April
Kerry-Edwards
46%
Bush-Cheney
44%

Before the early July naming of John Edwards to the Democratic ticket, only the presidential candidates were mentioned in the presidential choice question.

The partisan divisions seen in June remain little changed, with Kerry and Bush holding the vast majority of their partisans, and Independents giving Kerry an eight-point lead. In June, Kerry had a seven-point lead with Independents; in May, he held a 16-point edge.

CANDIDATE SUPPORT BY PARTY

Reps
John Kerry
Now
6%
June
4%
George W. Bush
Now
91%
June
90%

Dems
John Kerry
Now
85%
June
82%
George W. Bush
Now
7%
June
10%

Inds
John Kerry
Now
48%
June
44%
George W. Bush
Now
40%
June
37%

Neither candidate has been able to shake loose much of the other's support: the vast majority of voters now backing both Bush and Kerry have already made up their minds, as has been the case since the spring.

IS YOUR MIND MADE UP?…
(Registered voters)

Yes
Bush voters
78%
Kerry voters
80%

No
Bush voters
21%
Kerry voters
19%

With Ralph Nader -- who has yet to qualify for the ballot in many states -- added to the vote choices, Kerry leads Bush 45 percent to 42 percent while Nader gets 5 percent.

John Kerry's own backers are beginning to focus on -- or find -- things to like about John Kerry, and are less likely to be supporting him simply because they dislike George W. Bush. Today, 41 percent of those who support Kerry do so because they favor him, and one quarter are with the Democrat mainly out dislike for Bush. One month ago -- before Edwards had been selected as his running mate -- more than a third of Kerry's support came mostly as a result of people looking for an alternative to the incumbent President.

Yet the Democratic Senator still has a way to go before his supporters match the enthusiasm of the President's backers. Six in ten behind George W. Bush back him strongly, and very few are siding with him simply for want of better choices.

CANDIDATE SUPPORT
(Registered voters)

Bush voters
Strongly favor candidate
Now
60%
June
56%

Support with reservations
Now
30%
June
32%

Dislike other candidates
Now
8%
June
11%

Kerry Voters
Strongly favor candidate
Now
41%
June
31%

Support with reservations
Now
31%
June
27%

Dislike other candidates
Now
27%
June
37%

As Kerry heads for the convention, and a new chance to introduce himself to the still-large number of Americans unfamiliar with him, his favorability ratings have improved. Today 36 percent hold a positive view of the Democratic nominee, up from 29 percent last month, and 33 percent an unfavorable one.

The President, meanwhile, continues to find the public views him in a slightly more negative than positive light.

OPINIONS OF THE CANDIDATES
(Registered Voters)

Bush
Favorable
Now
41%
June
39%

Unfavorable
Now
45%
June
45%

Undecided/Unknown
Now
13%
June
16%

Kerry
Favorable
Now
36%
June
29%

Unfavorable
Now
33%
June
35%

Undecided/Unknown
Now
29%
June
36%

Though still relatively unknown to America's voters, John Edwards receives far better favorable ratings than does his counterpart on the GOP ticket, Vice-President Dick Cheney.

OPINIONS OF THE VICE-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES

Cheney
Favorable
Now
28%
May
26%

Unfavorable
Now
37%
May
37%

Undecided/Unknown
Now
34%
May
36%

Edwards
Favorable
Now
35%
May
26%

Unfavorable
Now
13%
May
11%

Undecided/Unknown
Now
52%
May
62%

In the summer of 1992, when there were rumors about Vice President Dan Quayle's removal from the Republican ticket, Quayle had an even more negative image than Cheney does now. About half of voters had an unfavorable view of Quayle, and about a quarter had a favorable image.

IRAQ

The public's views of the war in Iraq continue to grow more critical of U.S. involvement there, and a majority now says the U.S. should have stayed out: 51 percent say that now, up from 46 percent last month, while 45 percent now say the U.S. did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq.

U.S. DID RIGHT THING TAKING ACTION AGAINST IRAQ?

Yes
Now
45%
6/2004
48%
3/2004
58%
12/2003
64%

No
Now
51%
6/2004
46%
3/2004
37%
12/2003
28%

Much of the change in support for U.S. involvement in Iraq has occurred within the past six months or so. Last December, just before Saddam Hussein was captured, twice as many Americans thought the U.S. had done the right thing as thought the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq.

The handover of power to Iraqis on June 28th has done little to dispel perceptions that things in Iraq are not going well for the U.S. 56 percent of Americans think things are going badly for the U.S. in its efforts to bring stability and order to Iraq, while fewer -- 43 percent -- think things are going well there. These views have changed little since late June, just before the handover of power.

HOW ARE THINGS GOING FOR U.S. IN IRAQ?

Well
Now
43%
6/2004
40%
12/2003
47%
7/2003
60%

Badly
Now
56%
6/2004
57%
12/2003
51%
7/2003
36%

The public's pessimistic views on the events in Iraq may be starting to hurt the Republican party. Slightly more Americans now say the Democrats are more likely than the Republicans to make the right decisions about the war in Iraq. 45 percent say the Democratic party is more likely to make the right decisions on Iraq, while 41 percent say the Republicans are.

By nearly two to one, Americans believe the war in Iraq has not been worth it in terms of the loss of life and other costs of the war. Although Americans have never broadly accepted this war as worth its costs, the last few months have shown an increase in the number who thinks it was not worth it.

HAS WAR IN IRAQ BEEN WORTH THE COSTS?

Yes
Now
34%
6/2004
32%
3/2004
47%
8/2003
46%

No
Now
62%
6/2004
60%
3/2004
43%
8/2003
45%

There is one improvement: while only a third of Americans now think the Iraqi people will be safer now that they have control of their own government, just before the handover of power half as many expected Iraqis would be safer following the transfer.

NOW THAT HANDOVER TOOK PLACE, IRAQIS WILL BE…

Safer
Now
34%
Pre-handover (6/2004)
16%

Less safe
Now
12%
Pre-handover (6/2004)
20%

About as safe
Now
48%
Pre-handover (6/2004)
59%

By nearly two to one, Americans think that U.S. foreign policy post-Iraq should not include pre-emptive military action. 60 percent feel the U.S. should not attack another country unless it attacks the U.S. first; 33 percent think the U.S. ought to attack any country it thinks might attack the U.S. These views have been fairly consistent over the past year.

THE THREAT OF TERRORISM

Since Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge's warning last week about possible terrorist attacks in the months before the November election, Americans have become more likely to think another terrorist attack in the U.S. over the next few months is likely. 71 percent think such an attack is likely now, up from 55 percent in April. The percentage who thinks another attack is very likely has doubled during that time frame, from 12 percent to 24 percent.

LIKELIHOOD OF TERRORIST ATTACK IN U.S.

Very likely
Now
24%
4/2004
12%

Somewhat likely
Now
47%
4/2004
43%

Not very/not at all likely
Now
27%
4/2004
41%

Concerns about a terrorist attack are about at the level they were in much of 2002 and 2003. Concern had fallen earlier this year.

SAME SEX MARRIAGE

Despite this week's Senate debate over a Constitutional amendment that would prohibit same sex marriage (and the initiative's failure), there has been little change in the public's views on this issue. 28 percent believe same sex couples ought to be allowed to legally marry, another 31 percent think such couples should be able to form legal civil unions, and 38 percent think there should be no legal recognition of such relationships.

SAME-SEX COUPLES SHOULD BE ALLOWED:

To legally marry
Now
28%
5/2004
28%
3/2004
22%

To form civil unions
Now
31%
5/2004
29%
3/2004
33%

No legal recognition
Now
38%
5/2004
40%
3/2004
40%

Support for same sex marriage among Democrats has increased since May, from 32 percent to 40 percent.

GEORGE W. BUSH

President George W. Bush's job approval rating in this poll is 45 percent; 48 percent disapprove. This is about where his rating has hovered over the past few months, though an improvement from the low of 41 percent recorded in May. Other evaluations are also little changed from a month ago.

THE PRESIDENT'S APPROVAL RATINGS

Overall
Now
45%
6/2004
42%

Terrorism
Now
51%
6/2004
52%

Economy
Now
42%
6/2004
40%

Foreign policy
Now
39%
6/2004
39%

Iraq
Now
37%
6/2004
36%

As has been the case since January, most Americans continue to believe the nation is on the wrong track. Today 56 percent say it is on the wrong track and 36 percent say it is going in the right direction.



This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 955 adults interviewed by telephone July 11-15, 2004. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the entire sample. Error for subgroups may be higher.

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

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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