With the next presidential election about 18 months away, many Americans today think President Bush will be re-elected to a second term and, in head-to-head matchups, Bush bests the top Democratic contenders.

In the latest FOX News nationwide poll of registered voters, conducted by Opinion Dynamics Corporation May 6-7, a majority (61 percent) predicts Bush will be re-elected, while 20 percent think he will be a one-term president.

Republicans are confident in their party leader retaining his office, as fully 85 percent think Bush will be re-elected compared to only 38 percent of Democrats. Independents fall in between with 57 percent thinking Bush will win in 2004.

Who is the opponent Bush is expected to defeat? The Democratic Party officially kicked off its primary season last week with a debate among nine candidates in South Carolina. Among Democrats nationally, the poll finds Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman (search) edges out the others to capture the top spot of those looking for that party’s nomination.

Lieberman leads the group with 19 percent, followed by Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt (search) (14 percent) and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (search) (12 percent). The most recent candidate to enter the race officially, Florida Sen. Bob Graham (search), receives four percent — about the same as former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (search) (five percent), North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (search) (five percent) and New York Minister Al Sharpton (search) (five percent). Former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (search) receives two percent followed by Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich (search) at one percent.

"People should remember that a year is a lifetime in politics," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "At this stage in 1992, Bill Clinton was barely a blip on the Democratic primary screen and then-President Bush was regarded as unbeatable because of his war victory. Things can change and change rapidly."

In hypothetical matchups, all of the Democratic candidates tested achieve about the same level of backing, with President Bush coming out on top by almost two-to-one.

Some Key Matchups
Bush 58% v. Kerry 29
Bush 57% v. Lieberman 31
Bush 56% v. Gephardt 30

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton (search) is not an announced presidential candidate, but there is continuing speculation about her running — if not in 2004, then possibly in 2008. The former first lady’s numbers are similar to those of the other Democratic contenders (Bush 60 percent to Clinton 30 percent). This represents a six percentage point gain for the New York senator — six months ago the numbers were Bush 59 percent and Clinton 24 percent.

When asked which Democrat would be toughest for Bush to defeat, Republicans and Democrats agree that candidate would be Joe Lieberman. This early in the campaign season, many voters are unsure which Democrat would be the strongest against the president, but as of today 24 percent of Republicans and 15 percent of Democrats say Lieberman.

Sentiment is split on the start of the next presidential campaign. Even though the last election went into overtime, about equal numbers of voters say they are looking forward to (42 percent) the start of the 2004 campaign as say they are dreading it (43 percent). Democrats are slightly more likely than Republicans to say they are looking forward to the 2004 campaign (48 percent and 43 percent respectively), and independents are the most likely to be dreading it (54 percent).

Polling was conducted by telephone May 6-7, 2003 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ±3 percentage points. Results are of registered voters, unless otherwise noted. 

1. I'm going to read you a list of names of some possible candidates for the Democratic nomination for president in the next election. If a 2004 Democratic primary for president were held today, which ONE of the following candidates would you most likely vote for? (Well, to whom do you lean at this time?) (RANDOMIZE)

  SUMMARY
  Among Democrats (n=318)
Lieberman 19%
Gephardt 14
Kerry 12
Dean 5
Edwards 5
Sharpton 5
Graham 4
Moseley Braun 2
Kucinich 1
(Else/Other) 3
(Not sure) 29
(Would not vote) 1

                 Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt

  Dem Ind
6-7 May 03 14% 7%
25-26 Feb 03 16 13
14-15 Jan 03 15 8

                 Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman

  Dem Ind
6-7 May 03 19 13
25-26 Feb 03 15 13
14-15 Jan 03 29 28

                 Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry

  Dem Ind
6-7 May 03 12 12
25-26 Feb 03 10 10
14-15 Jan 03 13 17

                 North Carolina Sen. John Edwards

  Dem Ind
6-7 May 03 5 6
25-26 Feb 03 6 4
14-15 Jan 03 8 8

                 Former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun

  Dem Ind
6-7 May 03 2 3
25-26 Feb 03 5 1

                 Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean

  Dem Ind
6-7 May 03 5 2
25-26 Feb 03 4 2
14-15 Jan 03 2 2

                 New York Minister Al Sharpton

  Dem Ind
6-7 May 03 5 2
25-26 Feb 03 4 3
14-15 Jan 03 5 2

                 Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich

  Dem Ind
6-7 May 03 1 2
25-26 Feb 03 2 1

                 Florida Sen. Bob Graham

  Dem Ind
6-7 May 03 4 5

                 (Someone else/Other)

  Dem Ind
6-7 May 03 3 12
25-26 Feb 03 5 10
14-15 Jan 03 8 11

                 (Not sure)

  Dem Ind
6-7 May 03 29 28
25-26 Feb 03 33 43
14-15 Jan 03 20 24

                 (Would not vote)

  Dem Ind
6-7 May 03 1 8

2. Which Democrat do you think would be the toughest opponent for President Bush to run against in 2004? (OPEN)

  All Rep Dem Ind
(Joe Lieberman) 17% 24% 15% 9%
(Dick Gephardt) 11 10 10 12
(John Kerry) 10 9 11 11
(Hillary Clinton) 8 6 10 7
(Al Gore) 5 4 8 4
(Bob Graham) 4 4 4 7
(John Edwards) 2 1 2 3
(Al Sharpton) 2 1 3 -
(Howard Dean) 1 - 2 2
(Carol Moseley Braun) 1 - 1 1
(Dennis Kucinich) - - - -
(Other - specify) 1 - 1 2
(Not sure) 38 41 33 42

 

3. If the election for president of the United States were held today, for who would you vote if the candidates were: (rotate order)
1. Republican George W. Bush 2. Democrat John Kerry 3. (Not sure/Other)4. (Would not vote)

  Bush Kerry (NS/Other) (Would not vote)
6-7 May 03 58% 29 11 2
17-18 Dec 02 57% 29 12 2

4. For whom would you vote if the candidates were: (rotate order)
1. Republican George W. Bush 2. Democrat Joe Lieberman 3. (Not sure/Other) 4. (Would not vote)

  Bush Lieberman (NS/Other) (Would not vote)
6-7 May 03 57% 31 10 2
17-18 Dec 02 56% 31 10 3
6-7 Aug 02 55% 30 14 1
6-7 Jun 01 53% 32 14 1

5. For whom would you vote if the candidates were: (rotate order)
1. Republican George W. Bush 2. Democrat Dick Gephardt 3. (Not sure/Other)4. (Would not vote)

  Bush Gephardt (NS/Other) (Would not vote)
6-7 May 03 56% 30 12 2

6. For whom would you vote if the candidates were: (rotate order)
1. Republican George W. Bush 2. Democrat Hillary Clinton 3. (Not sure/Other) 4. (Would not vote)

  Bush Clinton (NS/Other) (Would not vote)
6-7 May 03 60% 30 8 2
19-20 Nov 02 59% 24 16 1
6-7 Aug 02 58% 28 12 2
10-11 Jan 01 45% 34 21 -

7. Would you say you are looking forward to the start of the 2004 presidential campaign or dreading it?

1. Looking forward to it 42%
2. Dreading it 43
3. (Not sure) 15

8. President Bush has completed over half of his term in office. Based on what you know right now, do you think he will be re-elected in 2004 or not?

1. Yes, Bush will be re-elected 61%
2. No, Bush will not be re-elected 20
3. (Depends/Too soon to say) 14
4. (Not sure) 5