03/25/04: Voters Still Evenly Divided

Published March 25, 2004

| FoxNews.com

The stalemate continues as President George W. Bush and Mass. Sen. John Kerry (search) are still in a dead heat in the latest Fox News poll, but a plurality expects Bush will win the upcoming election.

After several days of the Bush administration being harshly criticized by a former staffer, as well as two weeks of heavy and hard-hitting advertising by both campaigns, this week’s Fox News poll shows no movement in the vote for president. Bush and Kerry each capture the support of 44 percent of voters in a head-to-head matchup, if the presidential election were held today. Earlier in the month the race was also tied at 44 percent each.

When independent candidate Ralph Nader (search) is included he receives three percent, Bush 43 percent and Kerry 42 percent. Nearly half of voters (45 percent) say they have been paying "a lot" of attention to this year's presidential election and another 39 percent say "some" attention. By a margin of 43 to 36 percent voters think Bush will win in November.

Both Bush and Kerry are seen by more as being honest and trustworthy than not, and in general, both are viewed more positively than negatively. Bush has a 50 percent personal favorable rating and Kerry’s stands at 43 percent. It should be noted that many voters are still getting to know the Democratic challenger and one in five are unable to give an opinion of him.

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

In the days prior to and during the survey, there was considerable media coverage of former counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke’s (search) newly released book claiming the Bush administration mismanaged the war on terror. Many Americans say they have heard about Clarke’s criticisms of the administration and, of those familiar with his accusations, just over half (52 percent) find them believable.

Public opinion today is more divided on the success of the country’s efforts to fight terrorism than it was previously. Currently 41 percent think the U.S. and its allies are winning the war against terror and 44 percent disagree. Six months ago a majority (55 percent) believed the U.S. was winning the war against terrorism.

Almost half of Americans (49 percent) think the war on terror is as important today as it was just after 9/11 and another four in 10 think it is more important today. In addition, over six in 10 think it is likely terrorists will try to influence the outcome of this year’s presidential election with a major attack on U.S. soil later this year.

A 65 percent majority approves of the Bush administration’s response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and by almost two-to-one Americans continue to support the U.S. having taken military action against Iraq.

The poll finds voters think Bush would do a better job of protecting the nation from terrorist attacks than Kerry (50 percent to 27 percent). Kerry is seen as the candidate who would do better at protecting and creating jobs in the U.S. (48 percent to 31 percent).

Sixty-two percent believe unemployment is a big problem right now, while 31 percent believe Democrats are trying to politicize the jobs issue by making it seem like a bigger problem than it is. A plurality (43 percent) believes the current unemployment rate is higher than the average for the last 30 years, although the current rate of 5.6 percent is actually lower than the long-term average.

By a small margin more Americans say they are better off today than they were four years ago (40 percent better off, 35 percent worse off), and voters are split on whether the country’s economy is recovering (45 percent to 48 percent). There is a large partisan gap on this issue as 73 percent of Republicans say the economy is recovering compared to only 22 percent of Democrats.

As voters gear up for eight months of campaigning, more than twice as many say they are "dreading it" as say they are "looking forward to it." That feeling of dread may in part be caused by the tone of the campaigning to date, which more Americans describe as "rude and disrespectful" (40 percent) than as "polite and respectful" (29 percent).

"I'm personally dreading this election year," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman, "because it seems likely we're going to be repeating the same headline over and over again. About 45 percent of the people seem committed to President Bush and a like number are committed to replacing him with Senator Kerry. Since the voters for each candidate have negative views of the other, they aren't likely to even listen to the other side's campaign. This means a close election all the way to the end with each side trying to persuade the tiny number in the middle."

Over a third (37 percent) think the Kerry campaign has been the most negative so far, while 29 percent think the Bush campaign has and 19 percent think the campaigns have been equally negative. A majority of voters (61 percent) say if the campaign of the candidate they support gets too negative it would not make a difference, while 15 percent say they would vote against that candidate and 11 percent would then not vote at all.

Polling was conducted by telephone March 23-24, 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

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

1. George W. Bush

Favorable Unfavorable (Can’t say) (DK)
23-24 Mar 04 50% 43 7 -
3-4 Mar 04 52% 40 8 -
4-5 Feb 04 56% 37 7 -
21-22 Jan 04 54% 39 7 -
18-19 Nov 03 55% 39 6 -

2. John Kerry

Favorable Unfavorable (Can’t say) (DK)
23-24 Mar 04 43% 36 20 1
3-4 Mar 04 47% 28 20 5
21-22 Jan 04 43% 24 23 10
28-29 Oct 03 27% 26 22 25
12-13 Aug 03 22% 21 23 34

3. If the election for president of the United States were held today, for whom would you vote if the candidates were: (ROTATE)
SCALE: 1. Republican George W. Bush 2. Democrat John Kerry 3. Independent candidate Ralph Nader 4. (Not sure/Other) 5. (Would not vote)

Bush Kerry Nader NS/Other Would
not vote
23-24 Mar 04 43% 42 3 10 2
18-19 Feb 04* 43% 42 4 9 2

*Wording: ”Green Party candidate Ralph Nader”

4. 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)
23-24 Mar 04 44% 44 10 2
3-4 Mar 04 44% 44 11 1
18-19 Feb 04 45% 45 9 1
4-5 Feb 04 47% 43 9 1
21-22 Jan 04 49% 42 8 1

5. In the 2004 presidential election, let's say the Republican ticket is President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney versus a Democratic ticket of Massachusetts Senator John Kerry for president and North Carolina Senator John Edwards for vice president. If the election were held today, which ticket would you support?
SCALE: 1. Republican ticket, Bush-Cheney 2. Democratic ticket, Kerry-Edwards 3. (Neither) 4. (Not sure)

Bush-Cheney Kerry-Edwards (Neither) (NS)
23-24 Mar 04 43% 48 2 7
3-4 Mar 04 45% 45 2 8

6. What if the Democratic ticket is Senator John Kerry for president and New York Senator Hillary Clinton for vice president versus a Republican ticket of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney? If the election were held today, which ticket would you support?
SCALE: 1. Republican ticket, Bush-Cheney 2. Democratic ticket, Kerry-Clinton 3. (Neither) 4. (Not sure)

Bush-Cheney Kerry-Clinton (Neither) (NS)
23-24 Mar 04 47% 42 4 7
3-4 Mar 04 47% 42 4 7

7. What if the Democratic ticket is Senator John Kerry for president and Senator John Edwards for vice president versus a Republican ticket of President George W. Bush and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani? If the election were held today, which ticket would you support?

1. Republican ticket, Bush-Giuliani 45%
2. Democratic ticket, Kerry-Edwards 44
3. (Neither) 3
4. (Not sure) 8

8. What if the Democratic ticket is Senator John Kerry for president and Senator Hillary Clinton for vice president versus a Republican ticket of President George W. Bush and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani? If the election were held today, which ticket would you support?

1. Republican ticket, Bush-Giuliani 47%
2. Democratic ticket, Kerry-Clinton 42
3. (Neither) 4
4. (Not sure) 7

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

Approve Disapprove (DK)
23-24 Mar 04 47% 44 9
3-4 Mar 04 48% 44 8
18-19 Feb 04 48% 41 11
4-5 Feb 04 53% 41 6
21-22 Jan 04 53% 39 8

10. Regardless of how you plan to vote, who do you think will win the 2004 presidential election – George W. Bush or John Kerry?

1. Bush 43%
2. Kerry 36
3. (Depends/Too soon to say) 13
4. (Not sure) 8

(ROTATE NEXT TWO QUESTIONS) 11. In general, do you think John Kerry is honest and trustworthy?

1. Yes 47%
2. No 28
3. (Not sure) 25

12. In general, do you think George W. Bush is honest and trustworthy?

Yes No (Not sure)
23-24 Mar 04 52% 40 8
14-15 Oct 03* 64% 31 5
30 Jun-1 Jul 03 69% 25 6
11-12 Jul 01 69% 20 11
28-29 Jun 00 57% 26 17

*Oct 2003 and earlier: “…think President Bush is…”

13. Do you approve or disapprove of how the Bush administration handled the country’s response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks?

Approve Disapprove (DK)
23-24 Mar 04 65% 28 7

14. Retired national security official Richard Clarke recently released a book in which he criticizes the Bush administration’s handling of the war on terrorism. Have you heard or read anything about Richard Clarke’s criticism of the Bush administration?

1. Yes 65%
2. No 33
3. (Not sure) 2

15. (If yes, n=580) Do you find Richard Clarke’s accusations to be very believable, somewhat believable, not very believable, or not believable at all?

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Very believable 23% 48% 3% 17%
2. Somewhat believable 29 32 23 38
3. Not very believable 18 4 32 16
4. Not believable at all 18 1 33 17
5. (Not sure) 12 15 9 12

16. Do you believe the U.S. economy is recovering or not?

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Yes 45% 22% 73% 42%
2. No 48 74 19 51
3. (Not sure) 7 4 8 7

17. Are you better off or worse off financially today than you were four years ago?

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Better off 40% 21% 62% 35%
2. Worse off 35 52 15 38
3. (Same) 24 25 22 26
4. (Not sure) 1 2 1 1

18. Have you received or do you expect to receive a raise in pay this year?

1. Yes, have received 13%
2. Yes, expect to receive 26
3. No 42
4. (Not sure) 4
5. (Not employed) 15
6. (Refused) -

19. As far as you know, is the current unemployment rate, higher, lower or about the same as the average for the last 30 years?

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Higher 43% 57% 28% 45%
2. Lower 22 16 26 26
3. About the same 20 15 28 14
4. (Not sure) 15 12 18 15

20. Do you believe Democrats are trying to make the nation’s current unemployment rate seem like a bigger problem than it really is for political reasons, or do you believe there really is a big unemployment problem in the country right now?

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Democrats are trying to make
    unemployment seem like a big
    problem
31% 9% 58% 29%
2. Unemployment really is a big
    problem
62 85 36 61
3. (Not sure) 7 6 6 10

21. How much attention have you been paying to this year’s presidential election?
SCALE: 1. A lot of attention 2. Some attention 3. Not much attention 4. No attention at all 5. (Not sure)

A lot Some Not much None (NS)
23-24 Mar 04 45% 39 13 3 -
9-10 Sep 03* 31% 35 24 9 1

*Wording: “…are you paying to the 2004 presidential…”

22. Of the following, where do you get most of your information about the presidential candidates?

1. Newspaper coverage
    of the campaign
17%
2. Television coverage
    of the campaign
47
3. Campaign advertisements
    on television
2
4. Conversations with friends
    and neighbors
2
5. Candidate debates 2
6. The Internet 5
7. (Somewhere else) 4
8. (Combination) 21
9. (Not sure) -

23. Would you say you are looking forward to the next eight months of presidential campaigning or dreading it?

1. Looking forward to it 27%
2. Dreading it 61
3. (Not sure) 12

24. How would you characterize the tone of the presidential campaign so far — would you say the candidates and their campaigns have been:

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Generally polite and respectful, or 29% 35% 26% 24%
2. Generally rude and disrespectful? 40 33 48 41
3. (Mixed) 25 25 22 30
4. (Not sure) 6 7 4 5

25. Which presidential campaign do you think has been the most negative so far – (the Kerry campaign) or (the Bush campaign)? (ROTATE)

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Kerry 37% 9% 71% 32%
2. Bush 29 54 6 23
3. (Both equal) 19 19 13 29
4. (Neither) 4 6 3 3
5. (Not sure) 11 12 7 13

26. Please tell me which of the following statements you agree with more:

1. Negative ads are a legitimate campaign
    tool and can provide useful information
    on a competitor’s record, or
14%
2. Negative ads are inappropriate and usually
    provide misleading information about the
    competitor.
71
3. (Both) 8
4. (Neither) 4
5. (Not sure) 3

27. If the campaign of the presidential candidate you are currently supporting gets too negative, are you more likely to vote against that candidate, not vote at all, or do you not think it would really make a difference?

1. Vote against candidate 15%
2. Not vote at all 11
3. Not make a difference 61
4. (Depends/Not sure) 13

28. Which candidate do you think would do a better job of protecting the United States from terrorist attacks: George W. Bush or John Kerry? (ROTATE)

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Bush 50% 19% 86% 48%
2. Kerry 27 54 3 20
3. (Not sure/Other) 23 27 11 32

29. Which candidate do you think would do a better job of protecting and creating jobs in the United States: George W. Bush or John Kerry? (ROTATE)

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Bush 31% 5% 65% 24%
2. Kerry 48 79 15 45
3. (Not sure/Other) 21 16 20 31

30. Do you think the war against terrorism is more important, less important or equally important today compared to just after September 11?

All Dem Rep Ind
1. More important 41% 36% 46% 42%
2. Less important 7 11 3 6
3. Equally important 49 48 50 48
4. (Not sure) 3 5 1 4

31. Do you support or oppose the United States having taken military action to disarm Iraq and remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein? Is that strongly (support/oppose) or only somewhat (support/oppose)?

—— Support —— —— Oppose ——  
TOT Strngly Smwht TOT Smwht Strngly (NS)
23-24 Mar 04 61% 45 16 32 12 20 7
21-22 Jan 04 66% 48 18 28 11 17 6
18-19 Nov 03 66% 50 16 30 10 20 4
23-24 Sep 03 64% 47 17 30 12 18 6
22-23 Apr 03 76% 61 15 20 9 11 4
8-9 Apr 03* 81% 68 13 16 6 10 3
25-26 Mar 03* 78% 66 12 18 8 10 4

*Wording: “… United States taking military…”

32. How likely do you think it is that there will be a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil later this year to try to influence the outcome of the presidential election?

1. Very likely 23%
2. Somewhat likely 38
3. Not very likely 17
4. Not at all likely 11
5. (Not sure) 11

33. Do you think the capture of Usama bin Laden would increase or decrease the terrorist threat to the United States? Is that significantly (increase/decrease) or only somewhat (increase/decrease)?

1. Significantly increase 13%
2. Only somewhat increase 18
3. Only somewhat decrease 22
4. Significantly decrease 18
5. (No difference) 21
6. (Not sure) 8

34. As of right now, do you think the U.S. and its allies are winning the war against terrorism?

Yes No (Not sure)
23-24 Mar 04 41% 44 15
9-10 Sep 03 55% 33 12
3-4 Jun 03 57% 29 14
19-20 Nov 02 37% 42 21
8-9 Sep 02 36% 43 21

35. As you may know, serious allegations have recently been made of corruption in the "oil-for-food" program the United Nations administered during Saddam Hussein's last years in power. If it is found that Saddam pocketed or used billions of dollars intended to feed the Iraqi people to pay off high-level U.N. officials, do you think Kofi Annan should resign as secretary-general of the United Nations?

1. Yes 51%
2. No 18
3. (Don't believe the charges) 2
4. (Not sure) 29

36. Do you support or oppose an outside organization conducting an independent investigation of the U.N. management of the oil-for-food program?

1. Support 73%
2. Oppose 11
3. (Not sure) 16

37. Since the recent Madrid train bombing, Spain’s prime minister has said he will pull Spanish troops out of Iraq unless the United Nations takes control of military operations there. If Spain does withdraw its troops from Iraq, do you think it means they are caving into the terrorists or not?

1. Yes, caving to the terrorists 47%
2. No, not caving 40
3. (Not sure) 13

38. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: The Iraqi people are better off today because of the military action taken in Iraq by the U.S.-led coalition. Is that strongly or just somewhat (agree/disagree)?

1. Strongly agree 48%
2. Somewhat agree 26
3. Somewhat disagree 9
4. Strongly disagree 8
5. (Not sure) 9

39. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: Setting up a democracy in Iraq will make the world safer from terrorism. Is that strongly or just somewhat (agree/disagree)?

1. Strongly agree 28%
2. Somewhat agree 25
3. Somewhat disagree 16
4. Strongly disagree 18
5. (Not sure) 13

40. Which do you think is more important – for the United States to be well- liked by other countries around the world or to be respected by other countries around the world?

1. Well-liked 5%
2. Respected 82
3. (Both) 10
4. (Neither) 1
5. (Not sure) 2

URL

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2004/03/25/032504-voters-still-evenly-divided