Poll: Bush And Kerry Tied

GENERIC John Kerry and George Bush over U.S. flag
AP / CBS
In the days after what most voters saw as a clear win for him in the first presidential debate, Senator John Kerry has bounced back -- his overall ratings have improved and the presidential race has tightened once again. The Democratic candidate and President George W. Bush are tied: 47 percent of likely voters support Kerry, and 47 percent support George W. Bush. In a CBS News Poll conducted the week before the debate, the Bush-Cheney ticket held a nine-point lead over Kerry and his running mate John Edwards among likely voters.

PRESIDENTIAL HORSE RACE
(Likely voters)
Kerry-Edwards
Now
47%
Pre-debate
42%

Bush-Cheney
Now
47%
Pre-debate
51%

Nader-Camejo
Now
1%
Pre-debate
2%

Kerry and Bush are similarly tied among registered voters. 47 percent support Kerry and 47 percent back Bush. Kerry trailed Bush by eight points the week before.

Kerry and Bush were also very close in this poll in interviews conducted in the 15 battleground states, as they were before the debate. 48 percent of likely voters favor Kerry, 46 percent Bush. That suggests that much of the post-debate change took place in non-battlegrounds, those states without campaign ads or visits from the candidates. The debate may have been the first opportunity for those voters to see both candidates and campaigns make their case since the conventions.

THE DEBATE VICTORY
Kerry scored a solid success in the first presidential debate. By more than two to one, voters said that Kerry, not Bush, did the best job in that debate; 60 percent declared Kerry the winner, and 23 percent said Bush won. 77 percent of registered voters said they watched or listened to the presidential debate.

WHO WON LAST THURSDAY'S DEBATE?
(Registered voters)
John Kerry
60%
George W. Bush
23%

Even those voters who did not see or hear the debate are more likely to describe Kerry as the winner -- 49 percent to 17 percent. 90 percent of Kerry voters choose Kerry as the winner, as do 30 percent of Bush voters.

But while Kerry's success in the debate may have reinvigorated his candidacy for the time being, it is no guarantee of success in November. In 2000, debate watchers thought Democratic candidate Al Gore won his first debate with George W. Bush by 43 percent to 30 percent.

AFTER THE DEBATE: KERRY'S GAINS
Kerry significantly improved his favorability rating among voters after the debate. 40 percent now view Kerry favorably, an 8-point jump from before the debate, and his highest favorability rating ever in the CBS News poll.

VIEWS OF KERRY
(Registered voters)
Favorable
Now
40%
Pre-debate
32%

Not favorable
Now
41%
Pre-debate
44%

Undecided
Now
17%
Pre-debate
24%

17 percent are still unable to form an opinion of Kerry, though that is down from a quarter before the debate.

The first debate focused on national security and foreign policy, and John Kerry made especially large gains with voters on qualities essential for a Commander-in-Chief -- protecting the nation, and dealing with international crises. The President held his ground on these measures.

Kerry's performance gave many Americans new confidence that he would protect the nation from terrorism. Today 39 percent say they have a lot of confidence that he would do so -- up 14 points from the 25 percent who said this before the debate, and even more than said this after his July convention.

CONFIDENCE IN KERRY TO PROTECT U.S. FROM TERRORISM
(Registered voters)
A lot
Now
39%
Pre-debate
25%
8/2004
32%

Some
Now
31%
Pre-debate
35%
8/2004
39%

Not much/none
Now
28%
Pre-debate
38%
8/2004
26%

Despite these large gains, Kerry still lags behind the President on this measure. 52 percent of Americans have a lot of confidence in Bush making the right decisions to protect the U.S., just about as many as said so before the debate.

CONFIDENCE IN BUSH TO PROTECT U.S. FROM TERRORISM
(Registered voters)
A lot
Now
52%
Pre-debate
50%

Some
Now
23%
Pre-debate
24%

Not much/none
Now
24%
Pre-debate
25%

More Americans now have confidence that Kerry could handle an international crisis, though most remain uneasy about the prospect. While both candidates get mixed ratings here, more voters have confidence in Bush. 41 percent now express confidence in Kerry's ability, up from 32 percent pre-debate. The President's ratings did not move on this: today 51 percent express confidence, the same as before the debate.

CONFIDENCE IN HANDLING INTERNATIONAL CRISIS
(Registered voters)
Kerry
Confident
Now 41%
Pre-debate 32%
Uneasy
Now 54%
Pre-debate 60%

Bush
Confident
Now 51%
Pre-debate 51%
Uneasy
Now 46%
Pre-debate 48%

Kerry made up some -- but not all -- of the ground he lost on belief that he possesses strong qualities of leadership since his nominating convention. Today most voters -- 56 percent -- say Kerry possesses these qualities, up from 48 percent pre-debate.

DOES KERRY HAVE STRONG QUALITIES OF LEADERSHIP?
(Registered voters)
Yes
Now
56%
Pre-debate
48%
8/2004
60%

No
Now
37%
Pre-debate
45%
8/2004
32%

The changes in Kerry's leadership evaluations are driven largely by Independents. 54 percent of Independents now say Kerry has strong leadership qualities, up from 47 percent before the debate.

But Kerry still trails Bush, whose ratings did not change, on this measure. Bush's ratings did not change much after his debate performance. Today 62 percent say Bush has strong qualities of leadership; 61 percent said so pre-debate.

DOES BUSH HAVE STRONG QUALITIES OF LEADERSHIP?
(Registered voters)
Yes
62%
Pre-debate
61%
8/2004
59%

No
Now
36%
Pre-debate
37%
8/2004
39%

Voters see contrasting visions of how to handle general decisions of war and peace in these two men. 46 percent think President Bush would not be careful enough about involving the U.S. in a war -- something only 13 percent say of John Kerry. But 31 percent say John Kerry would be too careful about involving the U.S. in a war -- which only 4 percent think is true of President Bush. Just about half the voters think each candidate would handle the matter about right.

IN DECIDING WHETHER TO GO TO WAR, THE CANDIDATES WOULD BE…?
(Registered voters)
Not careful enough
Kerry 13%
Bush 46%

Too careful
Kerry 31%
Bush 4%

About right
Kerry 49%
Bush 46%

Both Kerry and Bush are seen to care a lot about the people serving in the military. 50 percent of voters say Bush cares a lot and another 27 percent say he cares some. 53 percent say Kerry cares a lot and another 30 percent say he cares some. Veterans see both candidates equally on this, with most of them saying Kerry and Bush do care.

The President stressed his diplomatic efforts over the past four years in the debate, but voters are split over whether he has the respect of foreign leaders. Voters are also divided on whether Kerry has the respect of other leaders -- many, though, cannot evaluate him on this.

DOES … HAVE THE RESPECT OF FOREIGN LEADERS?
(Registered voters)
Kerry
Yes 35%
No 29%
Don't know 36%

Bush
Yes 46%
No 44%
Don't know 10%

But while Kerry made strides in his personal evaluations, and Bush held steady, neither did much Thursday night to convince voters that they have a clear plan for dealing with one of the top issues on voters' minds -- the situation in Iraq. 56 percent say Bush does not have a plan, and 58 percent say Kerry does not.

DOES ... HAVE A PLAN FOR DEALING WITH THE IRAQ SITUATION?
(Registered voters)
Kerry
Yes 31%
No 58%

Bush
Yes 39%
No 56%

THE WAR IN IRAQ
Voters are now more closely divided over whether the U.S. did the right thing in taking military action in Iraq. 49 percent think it was the right thing to do, while 47 percent think the U.S. should have stayed out. Last week, 52 percent said going into Iraq was the right thing and 43 percent thought the U.S. should have stayed out.

U.S. ACTION AGAINST IRAQ:
(Registered voters)
Right thing
Now 49%
Pre-debate 52%

Should have stayed out
Now47%
Pre-debate 43%

One problem for the President is that while many voters see the war in Iraq as part of the war on terrorism, they don't necessarily think it has had a positive effect. In fact, four in 10 voters say the threat of terrorism against the U.S. has increased as a result of the war.

THREAT OF TERRORISM AGAINST U.S. AS A RESULT OF IRAQ WAR
(Registered Voters)
Increased 40%
Decreased 22%
Stayed the same 36%

And 45 percent of voters think that the conflict in Iraq is creating more terrorists who plan to attack the U.S. rather than eliminating them. Just 27 percent think U.S. action there is helping to eliminate terrorists.

U.S INVOLVEMENT IN IRAQ IS …
(Registered Voters)
Creating more terrorists 45%
Eliminating terrorists 27%
Having no effect 19%

However, just over half the voters accept the argument that the war in Iraq is part of the war on terrorism, and 41 percent say it is a major part. 47 percent do not view the Iraq war as part of the war on terrorism. But fewer voters than ever in this poll now believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in the September 11th attacks. 33 percent of voters still think Saddam Hussein was personally involved, but 56 percent think he was not.

WAS SADDAM HUSSEIN PERSONALLY INVOLVED IN THE ATTACKS OF SEPTEMBER 11?
(Registered Voters)
Yes
Now 33%
9/2004 39%
5/2003 51%
9/2002 49%

No
Now 56%
9/2004 51%
5/2003 38%
9/2002 35%

THE CANDIDATES, THE VOTE AND IRAQ
Voters' opinions of the war are strongly tied to their vote preference for president. Over eight in 10 voters who think going into Iraq was the right thing say they will vote for Bush in November. 85 percent of those who think the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq plan to cast their vote for Kerry. Voters who believe that Iraq is a major component of the war on terrorism say they'll vote for Bush, while those who think Iraq is a separate conflict say they will vote for Kerry.

THE WAR IN IRAQ AND THE VOTE
(Registered Voters)
Kerry
Right thing 12%
Stayed out 85%
Major part of war on terror 9%
Separate war 82%
Decreased terror threat 11%

Bush
Right thing 84%
Stayed out 8%
Major part of war on terror 86%
Separate war 11%
Increased terror threat 20%
Decreased terror threat 84%

In last week's presidential debate, both candidates were asked about a timetable for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq. For each candidate, a majority of voters think they do not have a clear plan for getting American soldiers out of Iraq.

65 percent of voters do not think Bush has a plan for bringing the troops in Iraq home; just over a quarter thinks he has one. Numbers for Kerry are only marginally better. 59 percent think Kerry does not have a clear plan for getting U.S. troops out of Iraq, while 29 percent think he does. Even among those who watched the debate, majorities do no think either candidate has a plan for getting the troops out of Iraq.

CLEAR PLAN FOR GETTING U.S. TROOPS OUT OF IRAQ
(Registered Voters)
Yes
Kerry
29%
Bush
28%

No
Kerry
59%
Bush
65%

Voters are skeptical about whether they are getting a true picture of what's really going on in Iraq from either presidential candidate. Half of voters say that George W. Bush is making things in Iraq sound better than they are. 42 percent think he is describing the situation in that country accurately, while 5 percent think he is making things there sound worse.

On the other hand, 43 percent think when John Kerry talks about things in Iraq he is making things sound worse than they really are, and just as many think he is describing the situation accurately. Very few think he is making things in Iraq sound better than they really are.

THINK CANDIDATES ARE MAKING THINGS IN IRAQ SOUND …
(Registered Voters)
Better
Kerry 6%
Bush 50%

Worse
Kerry 43%
Bush 5%

Describing accurately
Kerry 43%
Bush 42%

THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION: IRAQ, TERRORISM, AND NORTH KOREA
Most voters evaluate the current administration's planning and decision making for the war negatively. Almost six in 10 think the Bush administration did a poor job of thinking through what would happen in Iraq as a result of the war. A third think they did a good job of it.

BUSH ADMINISTRATION JOB THINKING THROUGH WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IN IRAQ
(Registered Voters)
Good job 34%
Poor job 59

More than half of voters say the Bush administration was too quick to get the U.S. involved in a war with Iraq. Another 38 percent think the timing of the U.S. action was about right. Only 7 percent say the U.S. too slow to go to war with Iraq.

47 percent of voters think the Bush administration has focused too much on Iraq and not enough on al Qaeda, while 44 percent think the administration has struck the right balance.

FOCUS OF BUSH ADMINISTRATION:
(Registered Voters)
Too much on Iraq 47%
Too much on al Qaeda 4%
Balance about right 44%

Voters don't think the Bush administration's policies have succeeded in limiting other countries' weapons programs. Three in ten say the administration's policies have resulted in other countries expanding their weapons programs; while 27 percent say those policies have had no impact on weapons programs elsewhere. Just 23 percent think they have resulted in limiting weapons programs.

BUSH ADMINISTRATION POLICES HAVE RESULTED IN OTHER COUNTRIES:
(Registered Voters)
Expanding weapons programs 31%
Limiting weapons programs 23%
No effect 27%

Voters also don't believe the Bush administration has done enough in trying to limit the development of weapons in North Korea specifically. Just one in five say the administration has done enough, but 57 percent think they haven't.

LIMITING NORTH KOREAN WEAPONS DEVELOPMENT:
(Registered Voters)
Bush administration has done enough 22%
Bush administration has NOT done enough 57%
Don't know 21%

But overall, more than half of voters still believe that the administration policies have had a positive effect: 56 percent say the policies of the Bush administration have made the U.S. safer from terrorism. However, 27 percent think the country is less safe.

BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S POLICIES MADE U.S. SAFER FROM TERRORISM
(Registered Voters)
Yes, safer 56%
No, less safe 27%
No effect 13%

THE CAMPAIGN: VOTER ATTENTION AND CANDIDATE SUPPORT
Attention to the campaign remains at near-record levels. 56 percent of voters are now paying a lot of attention to the campaign, and another 33 percent are paying at least some. The last time interest in a presidential election was this high was in late October 1992, and at no time did the election campaigns of 1996 and 2000 generate this much interest.

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%

Since the debate, voters are more likely to think that both candidates are discussing the issues that matter most to them. The economy and jobs and the war in Iraq remain the issues most voters want the candidates to discuss. Health care is also high on the priority list. Only 3 percent of voters volunteer terrorism.

ISSUE WANT THE CANDIDATES TO DISCUSS
(Registered voters)
Economy/jobs 23%
War in Iraq 20%
Health care 11%
Terrorism 3%

A third of voters still say that neither candidate is talking about the issues they want addressed in the campaign. 29 percent think both candidates are discussing their issue, up from 24 percent before the debate. 17 percent say only Kerry is discussing the issue they care about most, compared to 11 percent who say this about Bush.

ARE CANDIDATES DISCUSSING ISSUE YOU WANT TO HEAR ABOUT?
(Registered voters)
Kerry is
Now 17%
9/2004 16%

Bush is
Now 11%
9/2004 16%

Both are
Now 29 %
9/2004 24%

Neither is
Now 33%
9/2004 35%

Although the presidential contest is now close, the level of enthusiasm for each candidate has hardly changed. Voters from both the Kerry and Bush camps still express markedly different levels of enthusiasm for their candidate. 71 percent of Bush's supporters say they strongly favor their candidate, 21 percent support him but with reservations, and only 8 percent will vote for Bush because they dislike Kerry.

In contrast, a greater share of Kerry's support still rests on the "anti-Bush" vote: 51 percent of Kerry's voters strongly favor him, 25 percent have reservations, and 23 percent are voting for him because they don't like Bush.

STRENGTH OF SUPPORT
(Likely voters)
Bush voters
Strongly favor 71%
Like with reservations 21%
Dislike other candidate 8%

Kerry voters
Strongly favor 51%
Like with reservations 25%
Dislike other candidate 23%

The President has a record of energizing his supporters. Throughout the 2000 campaign, more Bush voters than Gore voters were enthusiastic about their candidate. With a month to go before Election Day, more than eight in ten of each candidate's supporters say their mind is made up.

PERSONAL VIEWS OF THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
In evaluations of his personal qualities, Kerry also made some gains. He convinced more voters -- although not a majority -- that he has a clear plan for what he wants to accomplish as President. 45 percent now say Kerry has set out clearly what he wants to accomplish, the highest evaluation he has received on this question in the CBS News poll, and up from 37 percent before the debate.

HAS KERRY MADE IT CLEAR WHAT HE WANTS TO ACCOMPLISH?
(Registered Voters)
Yes
Now 45%
Pre-debate 37%

No
Now 51%
Pre-debate 57%

Voters still say Kerry has been spending most of his time attacking Bush rather than explaining his positions, though the number who think this is less than it was before the debate. 56 percent now say Kerry has been mainly on the attack, down from 61 percent before the debate. 48 percent now say Bush has been spending most of his time attacking Kerry, up from 44 percent before the debate.

JOHN KERRY HAS SPENT MOST OF HIS TIME…
(Registered voters)
Explaining what he would do
Now
35%
Pre-debate
33%

Attacking Bush
Now
56%
Pre-debate
61%

GEORGE W. BUSH HAS SPENT MOST OF HIS TIME…
(Registered voters)
Explaining what he would do
Now
41%
Pre-debate
48%

Attacking Kerry
Now
48%
Pre-debate
44%

Kerry made only slight gains changing the Bush campaign's portrayal of him as a "flip-flopper" on issues, and the impression remains strong. By 60 percent to 35 percent, voters say Kerry says what he thinks people want to hear most of the time, instead of what he really believes. Before the debate, voters said that about Kerry by 65 percent to 30 percent.

WHAT DOES KERRY SAY MOST OF THE TIME?
(Registered Voters)
What he really believes
Now
35%
Pre-debate
30%

What people want to hear
Now
60%
Pre-debate
65%

Voter assessment of George W. Bush looks very much like the views of Kerry. Bush's favorability rating is 44 percent, close to where it was before the debate. But just as many voters now view the President unfavorably, up from 38 percent before the debate.

VIEWS OF BUSH
(Registered Voters)
Favorable
Now 44%
Pre-debate 46%

Not favorable
Now 44%
Pre-debate 37%

Undecided
Now 11%
Pre-debate 15%

By 55 percent to 42 percent, voters think Bush has laid out a clear plan for what he wants to accomplish in the next four years if he is reelected, unchanged from before the debate and still more than think Kerry has a plan. And in contrast to Kerry, voters think Bush says what he really believes most of the time, by 59 percent to 38 percent.

Bush is better-liked as a person than Kerry is. Six in voters say Bush is someone they would like personally, while 48 percent say this about Kerry. Voters see both candidates as sharing the moral values most Americans try to live by, even though neither shares the same priorities for the country as voters have.

VIEWS OF THE CANDIDATES
(Registered Voters)
Kerry
Leadership qualities
Strong qualities of leadership 56%
Has clear plan for presidency 45%
Confidence dealing with international crisis 41%
A lot of confidence in protecting U.S. from terrorism 39%
Has clear plan for Iraq 31%
Has clear plan for getting troops out of Iraq 29%

Personal qualities
Overall favorability 40%
Shares Americans' moral values 59%
Would like him personally 48%
Shares your priorities 43%
Says what he believes 35%

Bush
Leadership qualities
Strong qualities of leadership 62%
Has clear plan for presidency 55%
Confidence dealing with international crisis 51%
A lot of confidence in protecting U.S. from terrorism 52%
Has clear plan for Iraq 39%
Has clear plan for getting troops out of Iraq 28%

Personal qualities
Overall favorability 44%
Shares Americans' moral values 68%
Would like him personally 61%
Shares your priorities 47%
Says what he believes 59%

BUSH'S APPROVAL RATINGS
The President's job approval ratings among all Americans have not changed much since before the debate. His overall approval rating among all Americans is now 47 percent. It was 48 percent before the debate. His specific approval ratings (on handling the economy, terrorism and Iraq) are unchanged.

BUSH APPROVAL RATINGS
Overall
Now 47%
Pre-debate 48%

Terrorism
Now 57%
Pre-debate 56%

Iraq
Now 45%
Pre-debate 45%

Economy
Now 45%
Pre-debate 43%

Foreign policy
Now 44%
Pre-debate (8/2004) 41%

A majority, 55 percent, of the public continues to say the economy is good.

But a majority also thinks the country has seriously gotten off on the wrong track; 4 percent say the country is going in the right direction. So far this year, a majority of Americans have said the U.S. is on the wrong track.

DIRECTION OF THE COUNTRY
Right direction
Now 40%
Pre-debate 41%
5/2004 30%
1/2004 42%

Wrong track
Now 51%
Pre-debate 54%
5/2004 65%
1/2004 53%

THE NEXT DEBATE: EDWARDS VS. CHENEY
Tuesday night the two candidates for Vice President will meet in their debate. Each candidate is viewed favorably by about three in ten voters, but Vice President Dick Cheney is viewed negatively by more voters than John Edwards is. Almost twice as many voters have yet to form an opinion about Edwards as have about Cheney.

VIEWS OF THE VICE-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
(Registered Voters)
Favorable
Edwards
31%
Cheney
36%

Not favorable
Edwards
25%
Cheney
36%

Undecided
Edwards
44%
Cheney
28%

Men are more slightly more likely than women to have unfavorable opinions about Edwards, and to have favorable opinions of Cheney. Women voters are more likely than men to say that they haven't heard enough about either candidate to form an opinion.

A majority -- 52 percent -- of voters have confidence in Dick Cheney to be an effective President if necessary, while 37 percent do not -- probably reflecting the close partisan division in the poll, and not necessarily Cheney's experience as Vice President. By 46 percent to 31 percent, voters think Edwards could be an effective President as well.

CAN HE BE AN EFFECTIVE PRESIDENT IF NECESSARY?
(Registered Voters)
Yes
Edwards
46%
Cheney
52%

No
Edwards
31%
Cheney
37%

Don't know
Edwards
23%
Cheney
11%

KERRY'S BASE OF SUPPORT
Since the debate, Kerry has gained some ground among some key groups of voters that he will need to win the presidency in November. He gained among seniors, bringing Bush's double-digit lead before the debate down to five points. Among suburban voters, the two are tied. Kerry has a small lead among those with lower education. As he did before the debate, Kerry leads handily among liberals, but also now has a double-digit lead over Bush among moderates. Before the debate, moderates were evenly divided between Kerry and Bush. Kerry also leads among voters under age 30.

Bush leads among conservatives, and among the most religious voters.

Both candidates have secured the support of a majority of likely voters from their own parties. About nine in ten Republican voters and Democratic voters will vote for their party's candidate in November. Independents are evenly split.

PRESIDENTIAL HORSE RACE AMONG GROUPS
(Likely voters)
Men
Kerry 45%
Bush 48%
Nader 2%

Women
Kerry 49%
Bush 46%
Nadir 1%

Republicans
Kerry 4%
Bush 87%
Nader 1%

Democrats
Kerry 87%
Bush 9%
Nader 0%

Independents
Kerry 45%
Bush 45%
Nader 3%

Liberals
Kerry 76%
Bush 17%
Nader 2%

Moderates
Kerry 57%
Bush 38%
Nader 1%

Conservatives
Kerry 16%
Bush 79%
Nader 2%

Age 18-29
Kerry 54%
Bush 42%
Nader 4%

Age 65+
Kerry 45%
Bush 50%
Nader 1%

Suburbs
Kerry 48%
Bush 47%
Nader 1%

High school or less
Kerry 48%
Bush 45%
Nader 2%

Some college +
Kerry 46%
Bush 49%
Nader 1%

Attend church every week
Kerry 32%
Bush 63%
Nader 1%

Never attend church
Kerry 56%
Bush 38% Nader 3%



This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 979 adults interviewed by telephone October 1-3, 2004. There were 851 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. 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 561. The margin of error for the number of likely voters could be plus or minus 4 points.

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