President George W. Bush (search) is seen as the candidate who would do a better job handling the war against terrorism and a national crisis, while voters see Democrat John Kerry (search) as the candidate better able to create jobs and handle domestic issues like prescription drug benefits. The president has made gains this month in his job performance rating, but the race for the White House remains extremely tight in the week before the Republican National Convention in New York. These are some of the findings of the latest FOX News national poll of likely voters.

The presidential race is tied with Kerry holding a one-point advantage over Bush among likely voters, down from a five-point edge immediately following the Democratic National Convention. When independent candidate Ralph Nader (search) is included, he receives three percent, Kerry 44 percent and Bush 43 percent.

More Bush voters say they back their candidate strongly. Fully 77 percent of Bush supporters say they back him "strongly" compared to 64 percent of Kerry voters.

Both candidates receive equally strong backing from their party faithful; Bush is supported by 88 percent of Republicans and Kerry by 85 percent of Democrats. Kerry has a small six-point edge over Bush among independent voters. By a four-point margin, women are more likely to pick Kerry over Bush, while men are evenly divided.

Among veterans, Bush tops Kerry by 51 percent to 42 percent in the two-way matchup. It should be noted that these results are based on a small number of veterans.

Bush receives his highest support among conservatives, whites, high-income families, those who frequently attend religious services and voters living in the South. Kerry’s strongest backers are young people, non-whites, liberals and those living in the Northeast and West.

Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 1,000 likely voters for FOX News on August 24-25. "Likely voters" are defined as respondents who are considered more likely to vote in the November presidential election. All FOX News polls between now and Election Day will focus on these voters to get a more accurate estimate of the election outcome.

A 43 percent plurality believes President Bush will win in November while just over a third (35 percent) believe Kerry will win. Republicans are more confident, with 72 percent saying Bush will be re-elected compared to 62 percent of Democrats who believe Kerry will prevail.

Just under half of voters (48 percent) say they would rather have Laura Bush than Teresa Heinz Kerry (33 percent) as first lady of the United States.

Job Ratings

The president’s approval rating has moved back to positive ground this week as 51 percent approve and 43 percent disapprove of his job performance. This is up markedly from three weeks ago, when 45 percent of likely voters approved and 47 percent disapproved of the job Bush was doing as president.

Not surprisingly, Bush voters overwhelmingly approve of the president’s job performance (94 percent), and Kerry voters largely disapprove (85 percent). Among the small number of undecided voters, 39 percent approve and 34 percent disapprove of the job Bush is doing.

The poll asked voters which candidate would do a better job handling various issues. Bush has the edge on the war on terrorism (+16), a national crisis (+13), improving U.S. intelligence operations (+8), Iraq (+5), and appointing justices to the United States Supreme Court (+1).

Kerry is seen as the candidate better able to handle the issue of prescription drug benefits (+19), protecting and creating jobs in the U.S. (+15), Social Security (+13), gas prices (+11), the economy (+6), and gay marriage (+6).

Bush has the advantage over Kerry, 47 percent to 40 percent, as the candidate having "the character to lead the United States through difficult times."

The economy is the issue voters say is most important for the government to address right now, with the war in Iraq, health care, terrorism and national security rounding out the top five spots.

"The fact is that the race hasn't moved more than a few points off dead even for months. The candidates have spent millions of dollars, interest groups have spent millions more, and nothing has changed," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "One reason is that people are increasingly listening only to those with whom they already agree. Many Americans pick their news, their books, and even their singers and comedians based on political orientation."

Economy

A 53 percent majority of voters feels optimistic about the nation’s economy right now, including 27 percent that feel "strongly" optimistic. Four in 10 feel pessimistic about the economy today (21 percent "strongly" pessimistic). Most Republicans are optimistic (80 percent) about the nation’s economy while among Democrats that drops to 33 percent.

Almost six in 10 voters (58 percent) rate their personal financial situation positively, up from 44 percent around this time last year (early September 2003).

Iraq

The public is divided on whether the United States made the right decision in taking military action in Iraq. When asked if taking action was the right decision, based on the intelligence available at the time, 47 percent say it was the right decision and 45 percent think it was the wrong decision. There are large partisan differences here, as 80 percent of Republicans think it was the right decision and almost as many Democrats (73 percent) think it was wrong.

Opinion is also divided on whether the war in Iraq will have been worth it five years from now — 40 percent say yes and 43 percent say no. Even so, half of voters believe the war in Iraq has played an important part in fighting the war against terrorism.

Kerry’s Vietnam Service Record

A group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (search) has been running advertisements in battleground states questioning John Kerry’s military record, and the ads have received considerable national media attention. Voters are somewhat split on whether the veterans have been fair in their criticism, but a 45 percent plurality believes the veterans have been unfair.

Over a third (36 percent) believe Kerry has been honest in his portrayal of his Vietnam combat record, 35 percent say he has exaggerated but not lied, 13 percent think he has lied and 16 percent are unsure.

More than twice as many people believe Kerry deserved his Purple Hearts as say his wounds were too minor to deserve that award.

Pdf: Click here for full poll results.