NEW YORK – While the presidential race is still a toss up in the key battleground state of Ohio, a FOX News poll released Tuesday shows President George W. Bush (search) currently has the advantage over Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry (search).
Bush leads Kerry by a margin of 49 percent to 44 percent. Independent candidate Ralph Nader (search) is still trying to get on the ballot in Ohio, and when he is included in the vote he garners three percent, Bush 47 percent and Kerry 45 percent.
The new poll shows little change from last month, although Bush has improved his standing slightly compared to polling conducted before the presidential debates. At that time Bush held a four-point lead over Kerry (48 percent to 44 percent), with Nader at two percent.
Men are much more likely to vote for Bush (52 percent to 41 percent), while the vote among women is closely divided and gives only a one point edge to Kerry (46 percent Bush to 47 percent Kerry). Majorities of married men and women support President Bush.
Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the Ohio poll of 800 likely voters for FOX News on October 17-18. “Likely voters” are defined as respondents who are considered more likely to vote in the November presidential election.
President Bush’s margin of victory over former Vice President Al Gore (search) in Ohio was less than four percent in 2000. The Buckeye state has 20 electoral votes, and residents there are arguably being exposed to some of the heaviest campaign advertising of all the battleground states.
"Ohio has been considered a key state for this election virtually since the polls closed in 2000," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "Both campaigns have sent their candidates through and, so far, neither has been able to open a commanding advantage. Bush holds a lead, but it is far from a comfortable one."
Overall, Ohio voters are split on the job Bush is doing as president — 50 percent approve and 48 percent disapprove of his performance. A month ago 49 percent approved and 46 percent disapproved.
The most important issues to Ohio voters in deciding which presidential candidate to support include the economy (27 percent), followed by the terrorism (19 percent), Iraq (16 percent) and health care (12 percent). Among Bush voters, a plurality says terrorism is the most important issue, while among Kerry voters a plurality says the economy.
When asked which candidate would do a better job on the issues, Bush continues to best Kerry on handling the war on terrorism (+15 points) and the situation in Iraq (+7 points). Kerry has the advantage on handling health care (+9 points) and the economy (+2 points). These results closely match those seen in the latest FOX News/Opinion Dynamics national poll of likely voters.
The poll also asked voters about ballot “Issue 1,” which would amend the Ohio constitution to ban same-sex marriages. Almost six in 10 likely voters say they plan to vote for the amendment and about a third against it. Most Bush supporters favor the amendment (79 percent), while over half of Kerry voters oppose it (55 percent).
In the state’s senate race, incumbent George Voinovich holds a decisive 30-percentage point lead over his Democratic challenger Eric Fingerhut (58 percent to 28 percent respectively).
A solid 57 percent majority of Ohio voters approve of the job Mike DeWine is doing as senator, 16 percent disapprove and 27 percent are unsure. About a third (34 percent) approve of the job Bob Taft is doing as governor, half disapprove and 16 percent have no opinion.
• Pdf: Click here for full poll results.