02/20/04: Poll Shows Bush, Kerry in Dead Heat

Published February 20, 2004

| FoxNews.com

Democratic front-runner John Kerry would finish in a dead heat with President Bush if the presidential election were held today, according to a Fox News poll released Friday.

The Massachusetts senator and the president would both receive 45 percent of the vote.

With those numbers, the 2004 presidential election is shaping up to look a lot like 2000, when 48 percent of voters supported Republican George W. Bush and 48 percent backed Democrat Al Gore.

The Fox News poll, conducted by Opinion Dynamics Corporation on Wednesday and Thursday, also shows that Bush's approval rating has dropped below 50 percent for the first time in his presidency.

Forty-eight percent say they approve and 41 percent say they disapprove of Bush's job performance. This is a 10-percentage point drop in the president's rating since the beginning of the year.

"Democrats are clearly benefiting from a relatively exciting primary season," said Chris Anderson of Opinion Dynamics. "For over a month now the primaries have provided a Democrat, usually Senator Kerry, a weekly victory to celebrate on national television. The spotlight is on the Democrats and they are effectively using it to get their message out while highlighting Bush's weaknesses."

For more on the campaign, click to view Foxnews.com's You Decide 2004 page.

Since early January, Bush's approval among men is down 13 points, eight points among women, 14 points among Democrats and down 13 points among independents. Approval among Republicans holds steady at 86 percent.

In addition, many Americans are placing significant weight on the outcome of this year's race -- almost two-thirds think this presidential election will make more of a difference to the country's future than most.

When those who would vote for Bush are asked the main reason why, many (30 percent) say because "he's doing a good job," while others cite his personal character (23 percent), positions on the issues (15 percent) and leadership qualities (11 percent).

Kerry supporters most frequently say "he's not Bush" (27 percent) and another 11 percent "he can beat Bush," with 20 percent referencing his positions on the issues, that he is a Democrat (14 percent) and his personal character (eight percent).

If Green Party candidate Ralph Nader were to enter the race he would take four percent of the vote, with Bush and Kerry still almost evenly matched (43 percent-42 percent respectively). Nader's advisors told Fox News Friday that he would enter the race as an independent candidate.

Currently just over a quarter of the public rate the nation's economic conditions positively (three percent "excellent" and 25 percent "good"), while 39 percent say "only fair" and 32 percent say "poor."

On a more personal level, slightly more Americans say for their family it feels like the economy is getting worse (41 percent) than getting better (36 percent). Considerably more Republicans (62 percent) than independents (36 percent) or Democrats (14 percent) say it feels like the economy is getting better. Conversely, 66 percent of Democrats say the economy is getting worse, compared to 41 percent of independents and 17 percent of Republicans.

Far outweighing other issues, the economy (29 percent) tops the list of voters' concerns in the presidential election, followed by the issues of health care (16 percent), terrorism/homeland security (14 percent) and education (10 percent). Few say Iraq (four percent) will be the most important issue in their vote, while five percent say gay marriage and six percent say Social Security.

When choosing between just the issues of national security and the nation's economy, a plurality picks the economy (44 percent) over national security (31 percent), with almost a quarter (23 percent) volunteering the response "both."

"This is a tough choice to force on people," notes Anderson. "In some ways it's like asking them to choose between air and food."

Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to choose the economy, and Republicans are two-and-a-half times more likely than Democrats to say national security.

There continues to be widespread belief that the country is safer today after the capture of Saddam Hussein. Fully 75 percent agree the U.S. is safer (56 percent "strongly agree") and 21 percent say the country is no safer.

Much attention has recently been given to Bush's activities while he was in the National Guard during the 1970s, and Kerry's service in the Vietnam War and subsequent anti-war actions. Large majorities say Bush's service in the National Guard and Kerry's Vietnam War record will make no difference to their vote in November.

By more than two-to-one, the public says what a candidate did 30 years ago is irrelevant to this year's election.

Polling was conducted by telephone February 18-19, 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. Do you approve or disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as president?

18-19 Feb 04 48% 41 11
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

2. On a scale of excellent, good, only fair and poor, how would you rate economic conditions today?
SCALE: 1. Excellent 2. Good 3. Only fair 4. Poor 5. (Not sure)

Exclnt Good Fair Poor (NS)
18-19 Feb 04 3% 25 39 32 1
7-8 Jan 04 3% 31 42 22 2
18-19 Nov 03 2% 26 44 26 2
23-24 Sep 03 1% 17 42 39 1
12-13 Aug 03 1% 15 40 43 1

3. For you and your family, does it feel like the economy is getting better or worse?

Better Worse (Same) (Not sure)
18-19 Feb 04 36% 41 21 2
21-22 Jan 04 44% 34 19 3
14-15 Oct 03 35% 45 18 2

4. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: “The country is in serious moral decline.”

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Agree 71% 73% 69% 71%
2. Disagree 25 22 28 25
3. (Not sure) 4 5 3 4

5. Which one of the following issues will be most important to your vote for president? (ROTATE)

All Dem Rep Ind
The economy 29% 35% 21% 29%
Health care or Medicare 16 21 12 14
Education 10 11 8 14
Homeland Security 8 4 13 6
Social Security 6 8 3 6
Terrorism 6 2 11 5
Gay marriage 5 3 10 5
Taxes 4 2 6 4
Iraq 4 5 3 3
Foreign policy 3 3 2 5
(Not sure) 9 7 10 9

6. Which of the following will be more important to your vote for president?
SCALE: 1. National security 2. Nation’s economy 3. (Both) 4. (Neither) 5. (Not sure)

National Security Nation’s Economy (Both) (Neither) (NS)
18-19 Feb 04 31% 44 23 1 1
18-19 Jun 02* 52% 19 28 na 1

*Wording: “Which do you think is more important — national security or the nation's economy?”

7. 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?) (RANDOMIZE)

          Summary Among Democrats (n=345)

Kerry 58%
Edwards 21
(Else/Other) 2
(Not sure) 18
(Would not vote) 1

          Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry

Dem Ind
18-19 Feb 04 58% 29%
4-5 Feb 04 54 33
21-22 Jan 04 29 26
7-8 Jan 04 7 4

          North Carolina Sen. John Edwards

Dem Ind
18-19 Feb 04 21% 25%
4-5 Feb 04 12 11
21-22 Jan 04 13 15
7-8 Jan 04 4 5

          (Someone else/Other)

Dem Ind
18-19 Feb 04 2% 12%
4-5 Feb 04 2 6
21-22 Jan 04 3 3
7-8 Jan 04 5 7

          (Not sure)

Dem Ind
18-19 Feb 04 18% 23%
4-5 Jan 04 10 18
21-22 Jan 04 17 27
7-8 Jan 04 25 33

          (Would not vote)

Dem Ind
18-19 Feb 04 1% 11%
4-5 Feb 04 2 9
21-22 Jan 04 - 8
7-8 Jan 04 2 10

8. 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)
18-19 Feb 04 45% 45 9 1
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

9. (If supporting Bush, n=406) What would you say is the main reason you are supporting Bush? (OPEN ENDED)

Doing good job as president 30%
Character/Values 23
Positions on the issues 15
Strong Leader 11
Republican 6
Iraq/Saddam 5
Not Kerry 3
Tax cuts 2
Other 2
Don’t know/Refused 3

10. (If supporting Kerry, n=402) What would you say is the main reason you are supporting Kerry? (OPEN ENDED)

Not Bush 27%
Positions on the issues 20
Democrat 14
Elect-able/Can beat Bush 11
Character/Values 8
Strong Leader 7
Veteran/Military Service 3
Intelligent 2
Iraq 2
Don’t know/Refused 6

11. 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 John Edwards 3. (Not sure/Other) 4. (Would not vote)

Bush Edwards (NS/
Other)
(Would
not vote)
18-19 Feb 04 46% 41 11 2
4-5 Feb 04 50% 37 11 2
21-22 Jan 04 51% 39 9 1

12. For whom would you vote if the candidates were: (ROTATE)

1. Republican George W. Bush 43%
2. Democrat John Kerry 42
3. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader 4
4. (Not sure/Other) 9
5. (Would not vote) 2

13. Let's imagine the Constitution allowed former President Bill Clinton to run for a third term. For whom would you vote if the candidates were: Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton? (ROTATE)

Clinton Bush (NS/Other) (Would not vote)
18-19 Feb 04 42% 49 7 2
     Dem 78% 13 8 1
     Rep 8% 88 3 1
     Ind 37% 45 12 6
21 May 99* 34% 56 5 5
     Dem 63% 26 6 5
     Rep 8% 88 2 3
     Ind 27% 62 5 7

*Wording: “How would you vote if the candidates were Bill Clinton and George W. Bush?”

14. If John Kerry is the Democratic presidential nominee, which of the following do you think would make best vice presidential candidate? (RANDOMIZE)

All Dem Rep Ind
1. John Edwards 33% 34% 32% 33%
2. Wesley Clark 11 11 12 9
3. Hillary Clinton 18 30 6 19
4. Dick Gephardt 9 8 10 9
5. Bill Richardson 3 3 5 3
6. (None/Other) 11 4 17 11
7. (Not sure) 15 9 18 16

15. - 21. Which political party — the Republicans or the Democrats — do you think would do a better job on each of the following issues? (ROTATE)
SCALE: 1. Republicans 2. Democrats 3. (Equal) 4. (Don’t know)

          — SUMMARY —

Rep Dem (Equal) (DK)
The economy 38% 49 5 8
Terrorism 52% 29 8 11
Social Security 32% 50 6 12
Iraq 48% 34 6 12
Health Care 31% 52 7 10
Taxes 42% 41 6 11
Education 35% 49 7 9

          — PAST TREND —

          The economy

Rep Dem (Equal) (DK)
18-19 Feb 04 38% 49 5 8
20-21 May 03 39% 40 9 12
8-9 Oct 02 LV 41% 41 7 11
6-7 Aug 02 36% 43 9 12
26-27 Feb 02 41% 36 10 13

*"job maintaining a strong economy"

          Terrorism

Rep Dem (Equal) (DK)
18-19 Feb 04 52% 29 8 11
20-21 May 03 53% 19 14 14
8-9 Oct 02 LV 51% 25 10 14

          Social Security

Rep Dem (Equal) (DK)
18-19 Feb 04 32% 50 6 12
20-21 May 03 32% 46 9 13
8-9 Oct 02 LV 32% 46 8 14
6-7 Aug 02 30% 48 9 13
26-27 Feb 02 33% 44 9 14

*"job preserving Social Security”

          Iraq

Rep Dem (Equal) (DK)
18-19 Feb 04 48% 34 6 12
20-21 May 03 52% 20 12 16
8-9 Oct 02 LV 51% 26 8 15

          Health Care

Rep Dem (Equal) (DK)
18-19 Feb 04 31% 52 7 10
20-21 May 03 30% 48 9 13
8-9 Oct 02 LV 32% 48 7 13
28-29 Mar 01 36% 41 10 13

          Taxes

Rep Dem (Equal) (DK)
18-19 Feb 04 42% 41 6 11
20-21 May 03 40% 38 9 13
8-9 Oct 02 LV 45% 37 7 11
6-7 Aug 02 40% 41 7 12
26-27 Feb 02 40% 37 10 13

* "job keeping taxes down"

          Education

Rep Dem (Equal) (DK)
18-19 Feb 04 35% 49 7 9
20-21 May 03 35% 40 12 13
8-9 Oct 02 LV 38% 42 10 10
6-7 Aug 02 35% 44 10 11
26-27 Feb 02 36% 38 12 14

* "job improving education"

22. Which candidate do you think would do a better job as a wartime president — George W. Bush or John Kerry? (ROTATE)

Bush Kerry (NS/Other)
18-19 Feb 04 50% 38 12
     Dem 16% 73 11
     Rep 87% 6 7
     Ind 52% 32 16

23. Who do you think would do a better job on managing the country's economy — George W. Bush or John Kerry? (ROTATE)

Bush Kerry (NS/Other)
18-19 Feb 04 40% 47 13
     Dem 7% 85 8
     Rep 81% 11 8
     Ind 34% 43 23

24. In the future, if the United States were to be faced with a foreign crisis such as Iraq, which candidate would you trust to do a better job handling the situation — George W. Bush or John Kerry? (ROTATE)

Bush Kerry (NS/Other)
18-19 Feb 04 50% 40 10
     Dem 15% 75 10
     Rep 88% 8 4
     Ind 50% 35 15
21-22 Jan 04 49% 37 14
     Dem 15% 70 15
     Rep 91% 5 4
     Ind 41% 35 24

25. In general, do you think a candidate’s behavior 30 years ago is relevant to whether he should be elected president in 2004?

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Yes, relevant 21% 23% 17% 21%
2. No, not relevant 58 61 59 57
3. (Depends) 17 13 20 17
4. (Not sure) 4 3 4 5

26. Does George W. Bush’s service as a pilot in National Guard during the Vietnam War make you more likely to vote for him in November or less likely to vote for him, or will it make no difference to your vote?

All Dem Rep Ind
1. More likely 8% 2% 14% 7%
2. Less likely 11 23 2 6
3. No difference 79 73 83 85
4. (Not sure) 2 2 1 2

27. Does John Kerry’s military service during the Vietnam War make you more likely to vote for him in November or less likely to vote for him, or will it make no difference to your vote?

All Dem Rep Ind
1. More likely 18% 27% 9% 15%
2. Less likely 5 4 8 5
3. No difference 75 67 82 77
4. (Not sure) 2 2 1 3

28. Does John Kerry’s participation in antiwar protests after returning home from Vietnam make you more likely to vote for him in November or less likely to vote for him, or will it make no difference to your vote?

All Dem Rep Ind
1. More likely 14% 26% 3% 12%
2. Less likely 21 5 40 23
3. No difference 62 67 55 62
4. (Not sure) 3 2 2 3

29. Which will be more important to you in deciding whether to vote for George W. Bush this year: his 1970s National Guard service record or his record as a wartime president?

1. National Guard service record 2%
2. Record as a wartime president 66
3. (Both) 4
4. (Neither) 23
5. (Not sure) 5

30. Which will be more important in deciding whether to vote for John Kerry this year: his service record during the Vietnam War or his record as a U.S. senator?

1. Vietnam War service record 5%
2. Record as a U.S. senator 64
3. (Both) 9
4. (Neither) 16
5. (Not sure) 6

31. Do you think this year’s presidential election will make more of a difference or less of a difference to the future of the country than most other presidential elections?

All Dem Rep Ind
1. More of a difference than most 63% 68% 61% 58%
2. Less of a difference than most 8 8 9 7
3. (Same as most) 22 19 23 25
4. (Not sure) 7 5 7 10

32. 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)?

—— Agree —— —— Disagree ——  
TOT Strngly Smwht TOT Smwht Strngly (NS)
18-19 Feb 04 75% 56 19 21 10 11 4
4-5 Feb 04 74% 50 24 22 10 12 4

33. Martha Stewart was indicted on five federal counts, including conspiracy and obstruction of justice, and could go to jail if convicted. From what you've heard, do you believe Martha Stewart is guilty of these charges and should serve jail time, is guilty but the charges are not serious enough to justify jail time, or is she not guilty?
SCALE: 1. Guilty, should go to jail 2. Guilty, but no jail 3. Not guilty 4. (Not sure)

TOTAL Guilty, jail Guilty, no jail Not guilty (NS)
18-19 Feb 04 24% 35 59 13 28
17-18 Jun 03 35% 30 65 14 21

34. Which one of the following cases interests you the most? (RANDOMIZE)

Scott Peterson 21%
Martha Stewart 14
Michael Jackson 11
Kobe Bryant 8
Robert Blake 2
(All/Multiple) 8
(None) 31
(Not sure) 5

URL

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2004/02/20/022004-poll-shows-bush-kerry-in-dead-heat