WASHINGTON – President Bush is viewed by more American voters as decisive and arrogant than Democratic rival John Kerry (search), according to an Associated Press poll. Voters are more likely to see Kerry as intelligent.
Asked who makes them feel more optimistic about the future, slightly more voters choose Bush than Kerry, the poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs found. Both candidates are viewed as wealthy by nearly all voters, with slightly more seeing Bush as wealthy than Kerry.
Two-thirds in the poll think the president is decisive, the biggest character advantage the president has over Kerry in the poll. But a majority, 52 percent, also say they think Bush is arrogant.
"The quality I like about the president is he knows what he wants, and he focuses on what he wants to do. He's not wishy-washy," said Sam Werzberger, a 26-year-old independent from New York City, who hasn't decided for whom he will vote. "I've seen very little of Kerry, but he seems to say what people want to hear."
The poll asked voters whether they would or would not use each of seven words — likable, intelligent, decisive, compassionate, honest, arrogant and wealthy — to describe Bush and then Kerry.
Kerry and Bush are evenly matched on qualities like compassion, honesty and likability. But Bush has a 22-point edge over Kerry on the question of who is decisive. Two-thirds said Bush is decisive and fewer than half said that of Kerry. Only two-thirds of Democrats said Kerry is decisive.
As Kerry prepares to introduce himself to the public at the Democratic National Convention in two weeks, one of his biggest obstacles is convincing voters he can provide the kind of firm leadership needed in a time of war and terrorism.
Bush's confidence and unwillingness to change his stand despite opposition are viewed negatively by some. A majority, 52 percent, said he's arrogant, more than the 44 percent who view Kerry that way.
"I think they both kind of come off as arrogant," said Becky Robertson, a 31-year-old independent from Radcliffe, Ky. "That's a typical political thing."
The Bush re-election team spent more than $80 million during the spring trying to portray Kerry as a flip-flopper and a tax raiser. While the president has been unable to gain a lead in the race against Kerry, his campaign succeeded in raising doubts about Kerry's willingness to take a stand.
Kerry played a role in that perception after voting to authorize the war in Iraq, then struggling to explain his views on war when it was clear many Democratic voters in the primaries were opposed.
Four in five voters, 83 percent, say Kerry is intelligent, compared with 63 percent who view Bush as intelligent.
"I haven't heard much about Kerry, but he seems like a pretty sensible fellow," said Judy Bryson, a 56-year-old independent from Dalton, Ga. "I really like the man he's chosen to run with him as vice president."
Nine in 10 voters view the president as wealthy while nearly as many, 85 percent, see Kerry as wealthy. Both men are multimillionaires, but Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, inherited more than $500 million from her late husband, Republican Sen. John Heinz of Pennsylvania.
Within the last week, Kerry's campaign has been energized by the selection of John Edwards, a senator from North Carolina, to be his running mate. They projected a sunny, optimistic message as they barnstormed through swing states last week.
But when voters were asked which of the candidates makes them feel more optimistic about America, Bush had an edge. Half, 50 percent, chose Bush and 44 percent chose Kerry.
"Since 9/11, there has been no major terrorist attack on this country," said Bob Shea, a 52-year-old independent-leaning Democrat from Westfield, Mass. "So I have to say Bush and his administration have done a reasonable job."
The AP-Ipsos poll of 804 registered voters was taken July 5-7 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.