Poll: Part 3

THE CAMPAIGN AND THE CANDIDATES
Despite the recent drops in the President's ratings, he has not lost ground against his Democratic rival John Kerry -- but the contest continues to be extremely close. If the presidential election were held today, 46 percent of voters say they would vote for Kerry, and 44 percent would vote for Bush. In a CBS News poll conducted between March 30 to April 1, Kerry held a five-point edge over Bush, while earlier that month Bush led Kerry by three points.

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

John Kerry
Now
46%
3/30-4/1
48%
March
43%

George Bush
Now
44%
3/30-4/1
43%
March
46%

There are still six months of the campaign to go, but three quarters of voters say they have already made up their mind in their candidate choice. 55 percent of Bush's voters say the support him because they strongly favor him, but many of Kerry's voters are motivated as much by their dislike of the President: one-third of Kerry's voters say they strongly favor Kerry, 28 percent support him with some reservations, and 38 percent say they support Kerry because they dislike Bush.

SUPPORT CANDIDATE BECAUSE…
(Registered voters)

Strongly favor candidate
Bush voters
55%
Kerry voters
32%

Support with reservations
Bush voters
35%
Kerry voters
28%

Dislike other candidates
Bush voters
8%
Kerry voters
38%

But assessments of the President have deteriorated on several fronts. Over half of voters now say they are uneasy about Bush's approach in dealing with an international crisis, more than at any time since the summer before September 11, 2001. Just 44 percent now have confidence in Bush's ability to deal wisely with an international crisis, a 22-point drop from a year ago.

CONFIDENCE IN BUSH'S HANDLING OF INTERNATIONAL CRISIS
(Registered Voters, Except 4/2003 )

Have confidence
Now
44%
3/10-14/2004
53%
4/2003
66%
6/2001
43%

Uneasy
Now
53%
3/10-14/2004
46%
4/2003
31%
6/2001
51%

But Kerry also has a negative assessment on this question, although he has made small gains in the last month. 39 percent of voters are confident in Kerry's ability to handle an international crisis, up from 33 percent in March. 47 percent are still uneasy about Kerry's approach.

CONFIDENCE IN KERRY'S HANDLING OF INTERNATIONAL CRISIS
(Registered Voters)

Have confidence
Now
39%
3/1-14/2004
33%

Uneasy
Now
47%
3/10-14/2004
48%

Recent turmoil in Iraq has also hurt voters' confidence in the decisions Bush makes about the war that started just over a year ago. A majority have at least some confidence in the President's making the right decisions about Iraq, but only 28 percent say they have a lot of confidence. 42 percent say they have little or no confidence in Bush making the right decisions about the war in Iraq. A year ago, 49 percent of Americans had a lot of confidence that Bush would make the right decisions about Iraq, and just 23 percent were not confident.

CONFIDENCE IN CANDIDATE'S ABILITY TO MAKE THE RIGHT DECISIONS ABOUT IRAQ
(Registered Voters)

A lot
Bush
28%
Kerry
18%

Some
Bush
30%
Kerry
43%

Not much/none
Bush
42%
Kerry
35%

That puts the President at about the same level with John Kerry on this issue. 61 percent of voters now say they have at least some confidence in Kerry's ability to make the right decisions about Iraq (fewer have a lot of confidence in Kerry than in Bush, however), while 35 percent don't have much confidence.

Right now, voters view both candidates more negatively than positively, although the margins are relatively small. Twice as many voters have no opinion about Kerry as have no opinion about Bush.

OPINIONS OF THE CANDIDATES
(Registered Voters)

Now
Favorable
G.W. Bush
38%
Kerry
27%

Unfavorable
G.W. Bush
43%
Kerry
33%

Undecided
G.W. Bush
19%
Kerry
40%


1992
Favorable
George H.W. Bush
35%
Clinton
26%

Unfavorable
George H.W. Bush
44%
Clinton
40%

Undecided
George H.W. Bush
20%
Clinton
34%

1992 was the last presidential election in which both candidates were viewed more negatively than positively at this point of the campaign. In April 1992, voters viewed then-President George H. W. Bush unfavorably by 44 percent to 35 percent, and had unfavorable views about Bill Clinton by 40 percent to 26 percent.

For now, Bush holds an edge over Kerry on likeability and having a vision for the country (although both get very positive marks on this). Bush leads Kerry by 10 points on sharing the moral values most Americans try to live by. Voters don't see either candidate as sharing their priorities, but fewer say that about Kerry than about Bush.

EVALUATIONS OF THE CANDIDATES
(Registered Voters)

Has vision for the country
Bush Yes
77%
Bush No
19%
Kerry Yes
69%
Kerry No
20%

Shares moral values
Bush Yes
68%
Bush No
25%
Kerry Yes
58%
Kerry No
23%

Likeable personality
Bush Yes
57%
Bush No
37%
Kerry Yes
48%
Kerry No
33%

Says what he believes
Bush Yes
53%
Bush No
43%
Kerry Yes
29%
Kerry No
61%

Shares priorities
Bush Yes
42%
Bush No
55%
Kerry Yes
37%
Kerry No
45%


Kerry continues to suffer from charges that he "flip-flops" on issues: by two to one, voters say most of the time Kerry says what he thinks people want to hear, instead of what he really believes. By 53 percent to 43 percent, voters say Bush says what he believes most of the time.

Overall, six in ten voters say it is somewhat or very important for a president to have served in the military. Kerry's service in the U.S. Navy in Vietnam is seen by almost half the voters as a valuable experience that would help him be an effective president. 45 percent say his Vietnam experience wouldn't matter much.

CANDIDATE'S MILITARY EXPERIENCE
(Registered Voters)

Would help him be effective president
Kerry in Vietnam
48%
Bush in Nat'l Guard
23%

Would be an obstacle
Kerry in Vietnam
6%
Bush in Nat'l Guard
8%

Wouldn't matter
Kerry in Vietnam
45%
Bush in Nat'l Guard
68%

On the other hand, just under a quarter think Bush's experience in the U.S. National Guard helps him to effectively serve as President, but over two-thirds say it doesn't matter much.

THE CANDIDATES AND THE ISSUES
Economy and jobs continues to top the list of issues voters most want to hear the candidates discuss. But the war in Iraq, although still in second place, is now mentioned by one in five voters, a 10-point jump from 11 percent six weeks ago, and the highest it has ever been since the CBS News/ New York Times Poll began asking this question last December.

ISSUE VOTERS MOST LIKE TO HEAR CANDIDATES DISCUSS
(Registered Voters)

Economy and jobs
Now
25%
3/2004
31%

War in Iraq
Now
21%
3/2004
11%

Health care/Medicare
Now
8%
3/2004
10%

Education
Now
5%
3/2004
4%

Looking ahead, voters see the economy as more likely to get worse if Bush is re-elected than if Kerry is elected in November, although more think either way the economy will stay the same or get better. Kerry may be hurt by the public's perception of his as a tax raiser: 47 percent of voters think their taxes will go up if Kerry is elected. 58 percent think their taxes will stay the same if Bush is re-elected.

THE ECONOMIC PICTURE
(Registered Voters)

The economy will:
Get better if Bush is reelected
27%
Get better if Kerry is elected
28%
Get worse if Bush is reelected
28%
Get worse if Kerry is elected
18%
Stay the same if Bush is reelected
42%
Stay the same If Kerry is elected
44%

Personal taxes will:
Go up if Bush is reelected
34%
Get better if Kerry is elected
47%
Go down if Bush is reelected
5%
Go down if Kerry is elected
6%
Stay the same if Bush is reelected
58%
Stay the same if Kerry is elected
39%

Voters have at least some confidence that each candidate would make the right decisions to protect the U.S. from terrorist attack.

THE NADER FACTOR
If Independent candidate Ralph Nader is included on the ballot in November and the election were held today, 41 percent of voters would vote for Kerry; 43 percent would vote for Bush. Nader would draw 5 percent of the vote, mostly at the expense of Kerry, who holds a two-point edge in the two-way contest.

KERRY VS. BUSH VS. NADER: CHOICE IN NOVEMBER
(Registered Voters)
Kerry
41%
Bush
43%
Nader
5%

Just one in ten voters now view Nader favorably, while 31 percent of voters view him unfavorably. 57 percent have no opinion about Nader.

Did Nader help Bush win in 2000? Voters are evenly divided: 44 percent think the 2000 election result would not have been different if Nader had not run for president, but another 44 percent think Al Gore would probably have won had Nader not been on the ballot. This year Nader may not qualify to be on the ballot in all 50 states.

IF NADER HAD NOT RUN FOR PRESIDENT IN 2000…
(Registered Voters)

Gore would have won
All
44%
Bush voters
23%
Kerry voters
67%

No difference
All
44%
Bush voters
64%
Kerry voters
24%

67 percent of Kerry voters think Gore probably would have won the 2000 election had Nader not run, but 64 percent of today's Bush voters say that would have made no difference in the outcome.

MILITARY FAMILIES
Recently, photos of caskets containing the remains of those soldiers who died in the Iraq war were published contrary to Pentagon policy. The Pentagon cited family privacy concerns as a reason to not publish such pictures. In this poll, 63 percent of Americans say the public should be allowed to see pictures of the caskets of soldiers killed in Iraq and the same number of military family members agree.

SHOULD THE PUBLIC BE ALLOWED TO SEE PICTURES OF CASKETS OF SOLDIERS KILLED IN IRAQ?

Yes
Total
63%
Military households
61%

No
Total
29%
Military households
30%

Military families are like the public overall on other issues. Both groups are opposed to reinstating the draft to provide soldiers for the Iraq war. 60 percent of military family members are opposed to reinstating the draft to provide soldiers for the Iraq conflict; so are 70 percent of Americans overall.

REINSTATING THE MILITARY DRAFT

Favor
Total
24%
Military households
31%

Oppose
Total
70%
Military households
60%

Six in ten military family members now say the war was NOT worth the costs, and the same number think the Bush Administration was too quick to get American military forces involved, figures close to the overall totals. Nearly half of those living in military households think the U.S. made a mistake getting involved in the war with Iraq, identical to the number of Americans overall. On whether the U.S. did the right thing in taking action against Iraq, 48 percent of those in military familes say the U.S. did the right thing as do 47 percent of Americans overall.

THE IRAQ WAR

Worth it
Total
33%
Military households
33%

Not worth it
Total
58%
Military households
60%

Mistake
All
48%
Military households
48%

Not a mistake
All
46%
Military households
48%

Bush Administration too quick to get military involved
All
61%
Military households
62%

Right thing
All
47%
Military households
48%

Stayed out
All
46%
Military households
43%

As for the value of a president's military experience, voters living in military households are a bit more likely than voters overall to say it is very important for a president to have served in the military. 29 percent of voters who live in military household say it is very important for a president to have served in the military compared to 22 percent of American voters overall.

IMPORTANCE OF A PRESIDENT'S MILITARY EXPERIENCE
(Registered Voters)

Very
Total
22%
Military households
29%

Somewhat
Total
38%
Military households
35%

Not
Total
39%
Military households
36%

49 percent of voters living in military households think John Kerry's military experience in Vietnam would help him be an effective president. However, 43 percent say his military experience wouldn't matter that much. 5 percent view his experience as an obstacle.

CANDIDATES' MILITARY EXPERIENCE
(Voters in Military Households)

Help
Kerry in Vietnam
49%
Bush in National Guard
21%

Obstacle
Kerry in Vietnam
5%
Bush in National Guard
11%

Doesn't matter
Kerry in Vietnam
43%
Bush in National Guard
66%

George W. Bush's National Guard experience is viewed differently. 66 percent of voters living in military households say Bush's National Guard experience doesn't matter that much. One in five says his experience makes him a more effective president, while 11 percent view Bush's National Guard experience as an obstacle.

CBS NEWS/NEW YORK TIMES POLL: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, ONE YEAR LATER
It has been one year since the Bush Administration declared major combat ended in Iraq, and in that time, some views on Iraq, the direction of the country, and the President's job performance have dropped considerably.

Yet views of the economy -- which, unlike the Iraq war, loomed as a potential obstacle to the President's re-election one year ago - have risen in that time.

ONE YEAR LATER

Bush job approval
Now
46%
One year
ago 67%

Bush approval on Iraq
Now
41%
One year ago
74%

Bush approval on handling terrorism
Now
60%
One year ago
79%

Bush tried enough diplomacy with Iraq
Now
34%
One year ago
67%

Bush too quick to use force in Iraq
Now
61%
One year ago
31%

U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq going well
Now
38%
One year ago
72%

U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq going badly
Now
60%
One year ago
24%

Iraqis are grateful to U.S.
Now
38%
One year ago
53%

Iraqis are resentful of U.S.
Now
48%
One year ago
26%

Iraq war improved U.S. image in Arab world
Now
10%
One year ago
34%

Made image worse
Now
71%
One year ago
44%

Iraq war major part of war on terror
Now
38%
One year ago
53%

Iraq war separate from war on terror
Now
45%
One year ago
30%

Believe Saddam involved in 9/11
Now
39%
One year ago
53%

Iraq was an immediate threat
Now
32%
One year ago
58%

Iraq could have been contained
Now
48%
One year ago
32%

U.S. going in right direction
Now
36%
One year ago
56%

U.S. on wrong track
Now
55%
One year ago
36%

Believe U.S. economy is good
Now
55%
One year ago
44%

Bush approval on economy
Now
39%
One year ago
42%





This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1,042 adults, interviewed by telephone April 23-27, 2004. The sample included 856 registered voters. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the samples of registered voters and all adults. 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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