President Bush is seen as the candidate best suited to handle terrorism and national crises, while Democrat John Kerry (search) tops Bush on handling domestic issues such as health care and Social Security (search). Just as both candidates are viewed as equally likely to inspire confidence in the presidency, there is little change in the tight presidential election, according to a Fox News poll released Thursday.

The national registered voter poll finds the Republican incumbent would receive the support of 43 percent to Kerry's 45 percent, if the presidential election were held today. When independent Ralph Nader (search ) is included, he receives three percent, Bush 42 percent and Kerry 42 percent.

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

Polling was conducted during a week that included nationwide mourning of former Republican President Ronald Reagan (search), and also showcased President Bush meeting with world leaders during the G8 summit and winning the unanimous adoption of a U.N. resolution on Iraq.

Opinion Dynamics Corporation (search) conducted the national registered voter poll for Fox News on June 8-9.

President Bush's overall approval rating held steady in the new poll, with 48 percent approving and 45 percent disapproving of the job he's doing as president. While there is little difference between how men and women rate the president's job performance, Republicans are about four times as likely to approve as Democrats, and whites are more than twice as likely as blacks are to approve.

The poll finds optimism about the nation's economy and continued majority support for military action in Iraq. On the economy, today 53 percent believe it is recovering, up from 45 percent in late March. A 55 percent majority feels optimistic about the country's economy right now and 38 percent pessimistic, a sentiment that is essentially unchanged for over a year.

"A belief in a strong national economy is crucial to the reelection chances of an incumbent president, and this year is no exception," notes Opinion Dynamics Corporation Senior Account Executive Lawrence Shiman. "The increase in the percentage of the public saying the economy is improving is a positive development for the president."

There are clear differences between groups on the economic outlook. Republicans are far more optimistic about the economy — 78 percent to 40 percent of Democrats. In addition, men are slightly more optimistic than women (60 percent and 53 percent respectively).

On Iraq, 60 percent support the U.S. military having taken action to disarm Iraq and remove Saddam and 34 percent oppose. However, only 39 percent agree that the Iraq war will ultimately make the United States safer, while 46 percent disagree.

Similar to views on the economy, support for the war in Iraq is divided along party lines. Fully 89 percent of Republicans support the action compared to 40 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of independents.

By a large margin, the economy and Iraq are the two most important issues to voters right now, far overshadowing issues such as education and health care.

Overall, the president is seen by more voters as the best candidate to handle defense and international issues, while Kerry gets the nod on most domestic issues. Voters think Bush would do a better job than Kerry on handling the issue of terrorism (by 15 percentage points), a "national crisis" (+14 points), foreign policy (+5 points) and the situation in Iraq (+4 points).

Kerry is chosen over Bush as the candidate who would do a better job handling the issues of health care (by 14 percentage points), social security (+11 points), gas prices (+7 points), education (+4 points) and the economy (+3 points). The candidates receive the same amount of support on handling the issues of taxes.

When looking at candidate quality measures, Bush has an advantage over Kerry on which candidate has the personality and leadership qualities a president should have (46 percent to 35 percent), and also a lead, though smaller, on which one has a more optimistic outlook on the future of the country (42 percent to 40 percent). Kerry and Bush are rated equally on which candidate would "inspire more confidence in the presidency."

Voters have a more positive than negative view of both Bush and Kerry. A 52-percent majority has a favorable opinion of Bush and 41 percent unfavorable. Voters have a more divided opinion of the Democratic candidate, but many are still unable to rate him. Kerry has a 44 percent favorable and 37 percent unfavorable rating, with 19 percent unsure.

"Despite the fact that the campaigns have run negative advertising in many key states, the percentage of the public with an unfavorable view of each candidate is not increasing and has even decreased in the case of Kerry. This may mean recent negative advertising has had little effect," comments Shiman.

Independent candidate Nader fares somewhat worse. Almost twice as many voters hold a negative view of Nader as a positive view (23 percent favorable, 43 percent unfavorable, 34 percent unsure).

With a 68 percent favorable rating, first lady Laura Bush has extremely high popularity. While more voters view Teresa Heinz Kerry (search) favorably (25 percent) than unfavorably (18 percent), more than half (57 percent) either have never heard of the Democratic contender's spouse or have yet to form an opinion of her.

Gas Prices Makes Families Change Plans

The continuing rise in gasoline prices is increasingly causing changes for American drivers. Today 42 percent report changing driving habits or travel plans because of high gas prices, up from 32 percent four months ago (February). At 47 percent, those living on the West coast are the most likely to say they have made changes because of the high prices.

While OPEC and domestic oil producers shoulder most of the public's blame for rising gas prices, more than one in five think the Bush administration is responsible. When asked directly if the president has control over gas prices opinion is split.

Nearly half (46 percent) think the president can control gas prices (20 percent think he has "a lot" of control and 26 percent "a little"), but 48 percent think the president does not have control over gas prices.

Remembering Reagan

After several days of tributes to the country's fortieth president, almost half of Americans say President Ronald Reagan will be most remembered for defeating the Soviet Union and bringing an end to the Cold War (search). Many others (29 percent) think he'll be remembered for his glass-half-full optimistic outlook for the country. Fewer than one in ten think Reagan's legacy will be focused on his domestic policies.

Overall, almost two-thirds of voters today say they supported Reagan's policies and less than 20 percent say they opposed them. In what may be attributable to a rally effect, today even four in 10 Democrats and 69 percent of independents say they supported Reagan's policies.

Polling was conducted by telephone June 8-9, 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

"Battlegrounds" include the following states: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The remaining non-battleground states are divided into "Red States" (voted for Bush in the 2000 election) and "Blue States" (gave their electoral votes to Gore).

1. – 6. 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.
SCALE: 1. Favorable 2. Unfavorable 3. (Can't say) 4. Never heard of

          ********** SUMMARY CHART **********

Favorable Unfavorable Can’t say Never heard
Laura Bush 68% 13 17 2
George W. Bush 52% 41 7 -
Bill Clinton 52% 40 7 1
John Kerry 44% 37 16 3
Teresa Heinz Kerry 25% 18 36 21
Ralph Nader 23% 43 28 6

     George W. Bush

Favorable Unfavorable Can’t say Never heard
8-9 Jun 04 52% 41 7 -
4-5 May 04 50% 42 8 -
6-7 Apr 04 49% 44 7 -
23-24 Mar 04 50% 43 7 -
3-4 Mar 04 52% 40 8 -

     John Kerry

Favorable Unfavorable Can’t say Never heard
8-9 Jun 04 44% 37 16 3
4-5 May 04 39% 40 19 2
6-7 Apr 04 43% 35 19 3
23-24 Mar 04 43% 36 20 1
3-4 Mar 04 47% 28 20 5

     Ralph Nader

Favorable Unfavorable Can’t say Never heard
8-9 Jun 04 23% 43 28 6
3-4 Mar 04 30% 40 22 8
12-13 Jul 00 43% 22 23 12

     Laura Bush

Favorable Unfavorable Can’t say Never heard
8-9 Jun 04 68% 13 17 2
3-4 Jun 03 73% 11 13 3
17-18 Dec 02 78% 9 10 3
16-17 Apr 02 74% 8 16 2
12-13 Dec 01 76% 5 17 2

     Bill Clinton

Favorable Unfavorable Can’t say Never heard
8-9 Jun 04 52% 40 7 1
21-22 Jan 04 47% 47 6 -
17-18 Jun 03 41% 52 7 -
11-12 Mar 03 47% 46 7 -
3-4 Dec 02 42% 50 8 -

     Teresa Heinz Kerry

Favorable Unfavorable Can’t say Never heard
8-9 Jun 04 25% 18 36 21

7. If the election for president of the United States were held today, for whom would you vote if the candidates were:
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)
All 42% 42 3 12 1
   Battlegrounds 40% 43 4 13 -
   Red states 48% 39 2 10 -
   Blue states 38% 44 4 12 2

TREND:

8-9 Jun 04 42% 42 3 12 1
18-19 May 04 40% 40 3 15 2
21-22 Apr 04 42% 40 2 14 2
23-24 Mar 04 43% 42 3 10 2
18-19 Feb 04* 43% 42 4 9 2

*Wording: ”Green Party candidate Ralph Nader”

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)
All 43% 45 10 2
   Battlegrounds 41% 46 13 1
   Red states 50% 40 8 2
   Blue states 38% 48 10 3

          TREND:

8-9 Jun 04 43% 45 10 2
18-19 May 04 42% 42 13 3
4-5 May 04 44% 41 13 2
21-22 Apr 04 43% 42 12 3
6-7 Apr 04 43% 44 12 1

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

Approve Disapprove (DK)
8-9 Jun 04 48% 45 7
18-19 May 04 48% 43 9
4-5 May 04 49% 43 8
21-22 Apr 04 50% 44 6
6-7 Apr 04 49% 44 7

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

Bush-Cheney Kerry-Gephardt (Neither) (NS)
8-9 Jun 04 44% 45 3 8
   Battlegrounds 41% 47 5 7
18-19 May 04 43% 42 3 12

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

Bush-Cheney Kerry-Dean (Neither) (NS)
8-9 Jun 04 44% 45 3 8
   Battlegrounds 42% 48 4 6

12. What do you think is the most important issue for the federal government to address today?

8-9
Jun 04
6-7
Apr 04
4-5
Feb 04
18-19
Nov 3
(Economy/Jobs/
Unemployment)
28% 34% 31% 28%
(War/Iraq/
Saddam Hussein)
23 13 7 15
(Health care/Prescription drugs) 10 10 15 13
(Terrorism – not Iraq) 7 8 7 8
(Defense/Military/
Homeland/National Security)
5 11 9 5
(Education) 4 4 5 4
(Social Security/Medicare) 4 3 3 4
(Balanced budget/Deficit) 2 2 4 3
(Domestic issues/
Take care of U.S.)
2 2 3 5
(Taxes) 2 2 2 3
(Foreign affairs/
Mideast – not Iraq)
2  1 1   1
(Environment/Energy) 1 - - 1
(Gas prices) 1 na na na
(Crime/Drugs) - - 1 1
(Judicial nominations) - - - 1
(Other) 5 7 4 3
(Don't know/Refused) 4 3 8 5

13. Which political party — (The Republican Party) or (The Democratic Party) — do you think has a better vision for the future of the country?

1. The Republican Party 36%
2. The Democratic Party 40
3. (Both equal) 7
4. (Neither) 8
5. (Not sure) 9

14. Would you say you feel optimistic or pessimistic about the U.S. economy right now? (If optimistic/pessimistic, is that strongly or only somewhat?)

—— OPTIMISTIC —— —— PESSIMISTIC ——  
TOTAL Strgly Smwht TOTAL Smwht Strgly (Neither/
Don’t Know)
8-9 Jun 04 55% 26 29 38 19 19 7
3-4 Mar 04 57% 25 32 36 22 14 7
9-10 Sep 03 56% 24 32 37 17 20 7
29-30 Jul 03 60% 22 38 33 20 13 7
6-7 May 03 58% 25 33 35 17 18 7

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

Yes No (NS)
8-9 Jun 04 53% 40 7
   Dem 32% 61 7
   Rep 78% 16 6
   Ind 53% 40 7
23-24 Mar 04 45% 48 7

16. – 18. Which candidate do you think:
SCALE: 1. George W. Bush 2. John Kerry 3. (Both) 4. (Neither) 5. (Not sure)

Bush Kerry (Both) (Nthr) (NS)
Would inspire more confidence
in the presidency?
42% 42 2 6 8
Has the personality and leadership
qualities a president should have?
46% 35 5 8 6
Has a more optimistic outlook on
the future of the country?
42% 40 5 4 9

19. – 28. Which candidate do you think would do a better job on the following issues?
SCALE: 1. George W. Bush 2. John Kerry 3. (Both) 4. (Neither) 5. (Not sure)

          ********** SUMMARY CHART **********

Bush Kerry (Both) (Nthr) (NS) B-K
The economy 41% 44 2 3 10 -3
Gas prices 32% 39 2 12 15 -7
Education 40% 44 3 3 10 -4
Foreign policy 45% 40 2 2 11 +5
Health care 34% 48 3 4 11 -14
The situation in Iraq 43% 39 1 6 11 +4
Taxes 41% 41 1 5 12 0
The war on terrorism 47% 32 3 6 12 +15
Social Security 33% 44 3 6 14 -11
A national crisis 48% 34 3 4 11 +14

PAST TREND:     

     The Economy

Bush Kerry (Both) (Nthr) (NS) B-K
8-9 Jun 04 41% 44 2 3 10 -3
4-5 May 04 41% 39 2 6 12 +2
6-7 Apr 04 39% 44 2 4 11 -5
3-4 Mar 04* 39% 46 na na 15 -7
18-19 Feb 04* 40% 47 na na 13 -7

*Wording: “Managing the country's”

     Gas Prices

Bush Kerry (Both) (Nthr) (NS) B-K
32% 39 2 12 15 -7

     Education

Bush Kerry (Both) (Nthr) (NS) B-K
8-9 Jun 04 40% 44 3 3 10 -4
4-5 May 04 42% 40 1 3 14 +2
6-7 Apr 04 38% 42 3 4 13 -4

     Foreign policy

Bush Kerry (Both) (Nthr) (NS) B-K
8-9 Jun 04 45% 40 2 2 11 +5
4-5 May 04 47% 37 1 4 11 +10
6-7 Apr 04 45% 37 2 3 13 +8

     Health care

Bush Kerry (Both) (Nthr) (NS) B-K
8-9 Jun 04 34% 48 3 4 11 -14
4-5 May 04 34% 41 2 8 15 -7
6-7 Apr 04 31% 47 2 5 15 -16

     The situation in Iraq

Bush Kerry (Both) (Nthr) (NS) B-K
8-9 Jun 04 43% 39 1 6 11 +4
4-5 May 04 48% 35 1 6 10 +13
6-7 Apr 04 47% 34 2 5 12 +13

     Taxes

Bush Kerry (Both) (Nthr) (NS) B-K
8-9 Jun 04 41% 41 1 5 12 0
4-5 May 04 44% 37 1 5 13 +7
6-7 Apr 04 43% 40 1 4 12 +3

     The war on terrorism

Bush Kerry (Both) (Nthr) (NS) B-K
8-9 Jun 04 47% 32 3 6 12 +15
4-5 May 04 52% 26 3 5 14 +26
6-7 Apr 04 51% 33 3 3 10 +18

     Social Security

Bush Kerry (Both) (Nthr) (NS) B-K
8-9 Jun 04 33% 44 3 6 14 -11
4-5 May 04 34% 37 2 9 18 -3

     A national crisis

Bush Kerry (Both) (Nthr) (NS) B-K
48% 34 3 4 11 +14

29. Who do you think is most to blame for rising gasoline prices? (Open Ended)

8-9 Jun 04 9-10 May 01
(Domestic oil producers/
Big oil companies)
25% 32%
(OPEC/Middle East) 25 19
(Bush administration) 22 9
(Auto industry/
Inefficient cars)
3 2
(Congress) 2 6
(Consumers) 2 6
(Clinton administration) na 3
(Environment) na 1
(Other — Specify) 4 1
(Not sure) 17 21

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

Yes No (Not sure)
8-9 Jun 04 42% 57 1
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…”

31. Do you believe the president has control over gasoline prices? (If yes, a lot of control or only a little control)

1. Yes, a lot of control 20%
2. Yes, a little control 26
3. No control over prices 48
3. (Not sure) 6

32. 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 ——  
TOTAL Strngly Smwht TOTAL Smwht Strngly (NS)
8-9 Jun 04 60% 45 15 34 9 25 6
   Dem 40% 25 15 50 11 39 10
   Rep 89% 74 15 10 3 7 2
   Ind 51% 34 17 43 15 28 6
21-22 Apr 04 65% 49 16 31 7 24 4
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…”

33. Do you think the U.S. military action in Iraq will ultimately make the United States safer or not?

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Yes 39% 20% 68% 30%
2. No 46 63 21 55
3. (Same) 5 3 5 8
4. (Not sure) 10 14 6 7

34. How confident are you that the June 30 handover of power in Iraq will go smoothly?

1. Very confident 7%
2. Somewhat confident 26
3. Not very confident 29
4. Not at all confident 30
5. (Not sure) 8

35. After the June 30 transfer of power in Iraq, do you think there will be more incidents of violence against U.S. military troops and American workers there, fewer incidents or will there be the same number of attacks after the transfer of power?

1. More incidents 38%
2. Fewer incidents 10
3. About the same 44
4. (Not sure) 8

36. While Ronald Reagan was president, did you generally support or oppose his policies? (If supported/opposed: Did you strongly support/oppose his policies, or only somewhat support/oppose them?)

All Dem Rep Ind
1. Strongly supported 42% 20% 69% 37%
2. Somewhat supported 23 21 21 31
3. Somewhat opposed 7 13 - 9
4. Strongly opposed 12 23 1 11
5. (Not sure) 16 23 9 12

37. Which one of the following do you think President Ronald Reagan will be most remembered for?

1. Bringing an end to the Cold War 46%
2. Promoting smaller government
    and lower taxes
9
3. Having an optimistic outlook
    and vision for the country
29
4. (Nothing) 3
5. (Other, Specify ________) 3
6. (Not sure) 10