When President George W. Bush is matched against the top Democratic contenders, he continues to best each of them. But Bush beats Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (search), the current Democratic frontrunner, by only four percentage points today. A month ago, the spread was 22 points (54 percent Bush and 32 percent Kerry).

In the latest Fox News poll, Bush outdoes his Democratic competitors by as little as four percentage points (Kerry) and up to as many as 19 points [both former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (search) and retired Gen. Wesley Clark (search)].

Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters on February 4 and 5.

No matter which candidate Americans plan to support, nearly half — including 77 percent of Republicans and 26 percent of Democrats — believe President Bush will win the November election. Overall, 32 percent think he will be defeated, including 57 percent of Democrats and seven percent of Republicans.

Even more Americans prefer Bush as a dinner companion than as a candidate. A 51 percent majority would rather have dinner with Bush and 32 percent choose Kerry, four percent spontaneously offered "both" and 10 percent volunteered "neither." Separately, about half say they would choose former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (search) as their dinner companion while about a third would rather dine with New York Sen. Hillary Clinton (search).

Bush Over Democrats
54% to 35 over Dean
53% to 36 over Clinton
53% to 34 over Clark
50% to 37 over Edwards
47% to 43 over Kerry

The poll finds Kerry soundly leading his competitors in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, receiving 54 percent today (among Democrats), up from 29 percent two weeks ago and — just to show what a difference a month can make — Kerry was the preferred candidate of only seven percent in early January.

North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (search) is the only other candidate to receive double-digit support and comes in a distant second with 12 percent. Clark (eight percent) and Dean (seven percent) are essentially tied today, a dramatic shift since pre-Iowa polling when Dean was the clear frontrunner.

Support for Kerry appears to be more solid than that for other candidates with 58 percent of Democratic voters backing him saying they support him "strongly."

President Bush’s overall job rating is unchanged from the end of January. Today, 53 percent approve and 41 percent disapprove of the job he is doing as president. A slightly higher number (56 percent) have a favorable opinion of the president personally. Of the other members of the Bush administration tested, Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) is the only one who has a higher favorable rating (75 percent) than the president.

Even though over half approve of Bush’s job performance specifically, fewer Americans say that government policies overall are working well right now (36 percent) than say policies are in need of a "big change" (58 percent). Not surprisingly, there is a huge partisan gap with 65 percent of Republicans saying things are working well and 82 percent of Democrats saying there need to be big changes in policies.

"The problem Bush faces is that when the public looks at the economy, Iraq or virtually any other issue, they see a series of bad signals," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "While the economy may be recovering, it seems a new 'plant closing/more layoffs' story leads every news cycle. While Iraq may be 90 percent or 95 percent pacified, a soldier dies there or in Afghanistan just about every day. This drip, drip, drip of bad news is eroding the support the president formerly had."

The economy is the top priority for Americans, with a third saying it is the most important issue for the government to address right now. Currently just under a quarter of the public (23 percent) cite Iraq, terrorism or a national defense-related issue as the top concern.

Iraq and Pre-war Intelligence

Despite former chief weapons inspector David Kay’s (search) statement that intelligence agencies incorrectly concluded Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, three-quarters of Americans believe the United States is safer today without Saddam in power and fully 86 percent believe the Iraqi people are better off.

The public thinks the most likely reason weapons have not been found in Iraq is that they were moved to another country before the war began (65 percent), but the second most likely reason people think inspectors have come up empty-handed is because there "were no weapons" and the U.S.-led coalition was misled (55 percent).

Even with Kay’s comments on intelligence failures, 17 percent of Americans say they are "very confident" and 54 percent "somewhat confident" that U.S. intelligence agencies will be able to uncover real threats to the country in the future. In addition, a clear majority (64 percent) says they would not be willing to pay more in taxes to improve the country’s intelligence gathering operations.

Polling was conducted by telephone February 4-5, 2004 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. LV = likely voters

1. What do you think is the most important issue for the federal government to address today? (DO NOT READ)

4-5 Feb 04 18-19 Nov 03 9-10 Sep 03 29-30 July 03
(Economy/Jobs/
Unemployment)
31% 28% 38% 40%
(Health Care/
Prescription Drugs)
15 13 7 10
(Defense/Military/
Homeland/National Security)
9 5 8 7
(War/Iraq/
Saddam Hussein)
7 15 6 4
(Terrorism – not Iraq) 7 8 14 7
(Education) 5 4 7 5
(Balanced budget/
Deficit)
4 3 3 2
(Domestic issues/
Take care of U.S.)
3 5 3 1
(Social Security/
Medicare)
3 4 2 4
(Taxes) 2 3 2 3
(Foreign affairs/
Mideast – not Iraq)
1 1 1 2
(Crime/Drugs) 1 1 1 1
(Judicial nominations) - 1 na na
(Environment/Energy) - 1 1 1
(Iran) - - - -
(N. Korea) - - - -
(Other) 4 3 2 3
(Don't know/Refused) 8 5 5 9

2. - 8. I'm going to read the names of some people. Please tell me whether you have a generally favorable or unfavorable opinion of each. If you've never heard of one, please just say so. (RANDOMIZE)
SCALE: 1. Favorable 2. Unfavorable 3. (Can't say) 4. Never heard of

     George W. Bush

Favorable Unfavorable Can’t say Never heard
4-5 Feb 04 56% 37 7 -
21-22 Jan 04 54% 39 7 -
18-19 Nov 03 55% 39 6 -
28-29 Oct 03 56% 35 9 -
23-24 Sep 03 53% 40 7 -

     Dick Cheney

Favorable Unfavorable Can’t say Never heard
4-5 Feb 04 46% 39 14 1
21-22 Jan 04 43% 39 15 3
3-4 Jun 03 61% 25 10 4
3-4 Dec 02 57% 22 18 3
6-7 Aug 02 60% 25 12 3

     Colin Powell

Favorable Unfavorable Can’t say Never heard
4-5 Feb 04 75% 16 8 1
15-16 Oct 97 79% 8 7 6

     Donald Rumsfeld

Favorable Unfavorable Can’t say Never heard
4-5 Feb 04 43% 33 18 6

     Condoleezza Rice

Favorable Unfavorable Can’t say Never heard
4-5 Feb 04 48% 23 18 11

     John Ashcroft

Favorable Unfavorable Can’t say Never heard
4-5 Feb 04 38% 32 22 8
24-25 Jan 01 34% 22 30 14

     Rudy Giuliani

Favorable Unfavorable Can’t say Never heard
4-5 Feb 04 66% 13 16 5
11-12 Mar 03 74% 6 10 10
19-20 Sep 01 76% 6 10 8
9-10 Feb 00 39% 18 24 19
2-3 Jun 99 29% 19 22 30

9. Do you approve or disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as president?

Approve Disapprove (DK)
4-5 Feb 04 53% 41 6
21-22 Jan 04 53% 39 8
7-8 Jan 04 58% 31 11
3-4 Dec 03 52% 34 14
18-19 Nov 03 52% 41 7

10. In general, do you think government policies are working pretty well right now or are policies in need of a big change?

1. Government policies
     working pretty well
36%
2. Policies need big change 58
3. (Not sure) 6

11. Regardless of how you plan to vote, do you think President Bush will win the 2004 election or not?
SCALE: 1. Yes, Bush will win/be re-elected 2. No, Bush will not win/not be re-elected 3. (Depends/Too soon to say) 4. (Not sure)

  Bush will win Bush will not win (Depends) (Not sure)
4-5 Feb 04   48% 32 15 5
Dem 26% 57 13 4
Rep 77% 7 13 3
Ind 36% 38 19 7
28-29 Oct 03   45% 33 14 8
Dem 22% 57 14 7
Rep 72% 9 11 8
Ind 41% 27 20 12
9-10 Sep 03   49% 30 14 7
Dem 32% 49 13 6
Rep 72% 12 12 4
Ind 47% 32 12 9
6-7 May 03*   61% 20 14 5
Dem 38% 40 16 6
Rep 85% 4 8 3
Ind 57% 20 19 4
16-17 Apr 03**   60% 18 14 8
Dem 43% 32 18 7
Rep 83% 5 7 5
Ind 54% 14 18 14

*Wording: “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?”

**Wording: “Based on what you know right now, do you think President Bush will win re-election in 2004 or will the Democratic nominee win?”

12. I'm going to read you a list of 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? (If not sure: Well, to whom do you lean at this time?) (RANDOMIZE) Summary Among Democrats (n=309)

Kerry 54%
Edwards 12
Clark 8
Dean 7
Sharpton 5
Kucinich -
(Else/Other) 2
(Not sure) 10
(Would not vote) 2

     Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry

Dem Ind
4-5 Feb 04 54% 33%
21-22 Jan 04 29 26
7-8 Jan 04 7 4
18-19 Nov 03 8 8
14-15 Oct 03 10 7

     North Carolina Sen. John Edwards

Dem Ind
4-5 Feb 04 12% 11%
21-22 Jan 04 13 15
7-8 Jan 04 4 5
18-19 Nov 03 3 3
14-15 Oct 03 3 2

     Retired Gen. Wesley Clark

Dem Ind
4-5 Feb 04 8% 12%
21-22 Jan 04 11 7
7-8 Jan 04 13 9
18-19 Nov 03 14 10
14-15 Oct 03 13 11

     Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean

Dem Ind
4-5 Feb 04 7% 5%
21-22 Jan 04 17 4
7-8 Jan 04 20 14
18-19 Nov 03 18 16
14-15 Oct 03 12 10

     New York Rev. Al Sharpton

Dem Ind
4-5 Feb 04 5% 2%
21-22 Jan 04 3 1
7-8 Jan 04 2 1
18-19 Nov 03 2 1
14-15 Oct 03 2 3

     Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich

Dem Ind
4-5 Feb 04 -% 4%
21-22 Jan 04 1 1
7-8 Jan 04 3 1
18-19 Nov 03 2 3
14-15 Oct 03 2 1

     (Someone else/Other)

Dem Ind
4-5 Feb 04 2% 6%
21-22 Jan 04 3 3
7-8 Jan 04 5 7
18-19 Nov 03 6 2
14-15 Oct 03 - -

     (Not sure)

Dem Ind
4-5 Jan 04 10% 18%
21-22 Jan 04 17 27
7-8 Jan 04 25 33
18-19 Nov 03 22 25
14-15 Oct 03 27 33

     (Would not vote)

Dem Ind
4-5 Feb 04 2% 9%
21-22 Jan 04 - 8
7-8 Jan 04 2 10
18-19 Nov 03 3 10
14-15 Oct 03 8 17

13. Do you support (insert candidate choice) strongly or only somewhat?

Strongly Somewhat (Not sure)
All 38% 56 6

      (Among Democrats and Independents only, n=418)

Kerry voters 51% 45 4
Dean voters 39% 55 6
Edwards voters 45% 52 3
Clark voters 36% 58 6
Sharpton voters 44% 48 8
Kucinich voters 16% 60 24

14. If the election for president of the United States were held today, for whom 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)
4-5 Feb 04 47% 43 9 1
21-22 Jan 04 49% 42 8 1
7-8 Jan 04 54% 32 12 2
29-30 Jul 03 54% 35 8 3
6-7 May 03 58% 29 11 2
17-18 Dec 02 57% 29 12 2

15. For whom would you vote if the candidates were: (rotate order)(Push for decision) 1. Republican George W. Bush 2. Democrat Wesley Clark 3. (Not sure/Other) 4. (Would not vote)

Bush Clark (NS/Other) (Would
not vote)
4-5 Feb 04 53% 34 10 3
21-22 Jan 04 51% 37 11 1
7-8 Jan 04 52% 32 14 2
18-19 Nov 03 49% 36 13 2
23-24 Sep 03 46% 37 17* na

*(Neither/Not sure)

16. For whom would you vote if the candidates were: (rotate order)(Push for decision) 1. Republican George W. Bush 2. Democrat John Edwards 3. (Not sure/Other) 4. (Would not vote)

Bush Edwards (NS/Other) (Would
not vote)
4-5 Feb 04 50% 37 11 2
21-22 Jan 04 51% 39 9 1

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

Bush Dean (NS/Other) (Would
not vote)
4-5 Feb 04 54% 35 8 3
21-22 Jan 04 54% 34 9 3
7-8 Jan 04 54% 33 10 3
18-19 Nov 03 49% 36 12 3
29-30 Jul 03 55% 27 15 3

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

Bush Clinton (NS/Other) (Would
not vote)
4-5 Feb 04 53% 36 7 4
21-22 Jan 04 52% 39 7 2
18-19 Nov 03 52% 38 8 2
29-30 Jul 03 52% 35 10 3
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 -

19. Do you think New York Senator Hillary Clinton will be on the Democratic presidential ticket this year — either as the presidential or vice presidential nominee in November?

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Yes, as the presidential
    candidate
3% 5 1 2
2. Yes, as the vice
    presidential candidate
10 14 9 6
3. (Yes, either) 4 4 3 7
4. No 75 70 81 75
5. (Not sure) 8 7 6 10

20. Do you think gasoline prices today are:

1. Much too high, 54%
2. A little too high, 27
3. About right, 14
4. A little too much, 2
5. Or much too low? 1
6. (Not sure) 2

21. Have higher gasoline prices caused you and your family to change your driving habits or travel plans?

Yes No (Not sure)
4-5 Feb 04 32% 65 3
9-10 May 01* 35% 63 2
28-29 Jun 00* 43% 55 2
22-23 Mar 00* 42% 56 2

*Wording: “…caused you to change…”

22. If gasoline prices were cut by 50 cents per gallon, would that make a major difference or minor difference to your family’s finances or would it make no difference at all?

1. Major difference 44%
2. Minor difference 35
3. No difference 20
4. (Not sure) 1

23. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? The United States and the world are safer today without Saddam Hussein in power. Is that strongly or just somewhat (agree/disagree)?

1. Strongly agree 50%
2. Somewhat agree 24
3. Somewhat disagree 10
4. Strongly disagree 12
5. (Don’t know) 4

24. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? The Iraqi people are better off today without Saddam Hussein in power. Is that strongly or just somewhat (agree/disagree)?

1. Strongly agree 66%
2. Somewhat agree 20
3. Somewhat disagree 5
4. Strongly disagree 4
5. (Don’t know) 5

25. - 29. On the issue of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, how likely do you think it is that weapons have not been found for the following reasons. The first one is . . . How likely do you think it is that weapons have not been found because: (RANDOMIZE)
SCALE: 1. Very likely 2. Somewhat likely 3. Not very likely 4. Not at all likely 5. (Not sure)

TOTAL LIKELY Vry Swht TOTAL UNLKLY Ntvy Not (NS)
The weapons were moved into another country before the war began. 65% 31 34 31 14 17 4
The weapons were destroyed before the war began. 43% 14 29 50 20 30 7
The weapons are well hidden and are still in Iraq. 51% 23 28 42 18 24 7
Iraqi scientists lied to Saddam about there being weapons when there really were no weapons. 40% 14 26 48 20 28 12
There were no weapons, and the U.N. and the U.S.-led coalition were misled. 55% 28 27 38 17 21 7

30. How confident are you that U.S. intelligence gathering agencies will be able to uncover real threats to the United States in the future?

1. Very confident 17%
2. Somewhat confident 54
3. Not very confident 17
4. Not confident at all 7
5. (Not sure) 5

31. Would you be willing to pay more in taxes to increase government spending on intelligence gathering and improve intelligence gathering operations?

1. Yes 27%
2. No 64
3. (Not sure) 9

32. Do you think Democrats are trying to use the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as a political issue?

1. Yes 76%
2. No 18
3. (Not sure) 6

33. (If yes, n=679) Do you think it is fair or unfair for Democrats to use the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as a political issue?

1. Fair 45%
2. Unfair 48
3. (Not sure) 7

34. Some Democratic candidates for president have criticized President Bush for going to war in Iraq based on so-called "flawed" intelligence about the existence of weapons of mass destruction. How likely do you think it is that any of the Democratic candidates would have gotten better intelligence information before going to war in Iraq?

1. Very likely 14%
2. Somewhat likely 16
3. Not very likely 24
4. Not at all likely 37
5. (Don't know) 9

35. Who would you rather have dinner with – John Kerry or George W. Bush? (ROTATE)

All Dem Rep Ind Men Women
1. Kerry 32% 62% 6% 29% 30% 33%
2. Bush 51 23 83 46 54 49
3. (Both) 4 3 2 7 6 2
4. (Neither) 10 10 7 16 8 13
5. (Not sure) 3 2 2 2 2 3

36. Who would you rather have dinner with if the choices were Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton? (ROTATE)

All Dem Rep Ind Men Women
1. Giuliani 51% 30% 71% 50% 53% 48%
2. Clinton 31 56 10 28 30 32
3. (Both) 6 6 4 9 6 5
4. (Neither) 10 6 13 12 8 12
5. (Not sure) 2 2 2 1 3 3

37. Some people have suggested that the programming on MTV is now closer to pornography than legitimate entertainment—do you agree or disagree with this statement? Is that strongly or just somewhat (agree/disagree)?

1. Strongly agree 45%
2. Somewhat agree 19
3. Somewhat disagree 9
4. Strongly disagree 10
5. (Not sure) 17

38. Would you support stricter rules prohibiting nudity and sexually explicit content on regular television channels, and only allowing it on pay-per-view channels?

1. Yes 75%
2. No 19
3. (Not sure) 6

39. Based on what you know, would you agree or disagree that CBS and MTV demonstrated a lack of respect for the American people with the Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake halftime show during last Sunday’s Super Bowl?

1. Agree 56%
2. Disagree 29
3. (Haven’t seen it/
     Heard about it)
6
4. (Not sure) 9