NEW YORK – With less than a week to go, a FOX News poll shows George W. Bush (search) continues to hold the lead over Democrat John Kerry (search) in the race for the presidency. Clear majorities of both Bush and Kerry supporters say they definitely plan to vote for their candidate, and the number saying they may change their mind is now fewer than one in 10. One source of the president's advantage is the war against terrorism — more than twice as many voters say Bush is the candidate who would more aggressively fight terrorism.
The poll shows President Bush has a five-point lead over Sen. Kerry among likely voters (50 percent to 45 percent), down from a seven-point lead last week when the president had a 49 percent to 42 percent edge. The number backing independent candidate Ralph Nader (search) is now less than 1 percent. Bush's lead is within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.
Among registered voters, Bush edges Kerry by 48 percent to 46 percent, with Nader at 1 percent, and in the two-way race Bush and Kerry are tied at 47 percent.
"One important thing to take away from this survey is the gap between likely voters and registered voters. Likely voters are those who express greater intention to vote, more interest in the election, and prior voting history. Both parties have made big investments in new registrations and get-out-the-vote operations this year," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman.
"Thus a higher turnout, bringing out some of the less likely voters would obviously help Kerry very much. Since neither campaign appears to have made much of a difference with millions of dollars of advertising, this election will boil down to who votes and how well each side does getting their people out."
In the head-to-head matchup, Republicans overwhelming support Bush (93 percent) just as Democrats overwhelmingly support Kerry (86 percent). For about the last month Kerry had been trailing among self-identified independents, but today they split their vote: 45 percent Bush to 46 percent Kerry.
Men support Bush by a 13 percentage-point margin, while women voters go narrowly for the Democrat (45 percent Bush, 49 percent Kerry). A slim 51-percent majority of married women back the president (44 percent Kerry), and Bush's edge among married men is even more notable (59 percent to 34 percent).
Those who attend religious services regularly give a double-digit edge to Bush, while those who attend less frequently back Kerry.
Overall, fully 87 percent of voters say their mind is made up, but 11 percent of Bush voters and seven percent of Kerry voters say there is a possibility they could change their vote.
Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national likely voter poll for FOX News on October 27-28.
As has been the case throughout the campaign, much of the senator's vote comes from an anti-Bush sentiment as 41 percent describe their vote as "against Bush" rather than "for Kerry" (51 percent). In contrast, since early August at least 80 percent of Bush voters have described their vote as "for Bush" and that is still the case today (16 percent say their vote is "against Kerry").
In addition to the vote question, many look to a president's job approval rating and the "right-wrong" track question as indicators of an incumbent's fate. Currently, 49 percent of likely voters approve of the job President Bush is doing and 46 percent disapprove. Views on how Bush is doing his job correlate strongly with vote preference: 93 percent of those that approve of his job performance are voting for him.
Overall, 42 percent of voters say the country is headed in the "right direction" and a slim 46 percent plurality says "off on the wrong track." Views here show large partisan differences — 75 percent of Republicans think the country is headed in the right direction, while 88 percent of Democrats say things are on the wrong track. Over a third (37 percent) of independents say right direction and 48 percent wrong track.
In 1996, when President Bill Clinton ran for re-election, 53 percent of voters said the country was headed in the right direction and 43 percent said wrong track, according to FOX News exit poll results.
Many voters (42 percent) say their views on whether the country is on the right track is based more on their personal experiences, 26 percent say more on what they hear in the media, and 31 percent say it is a combination.
A 24 percent plurality of voters say the most important issue to deciding their vote is terrorism, followed closely by the economy (21 percent). The list is rounds out with Iraq (17 percent), health care (nine percent) and Social Security (seven percent).
When choosing between just national security and the economy, by a 48 percent to 38 percent margin voters say national security will be more important to their vote, and 11 percent are unable to put one ahead of the other.
Even though more voters think the nation's economy is not getting stronger (49 percent) than think it is (45 percent), over half (63 percent) rate their personal financial situation as either "excellent" or "good."
Voters continue to say Bush would do a better job on terrorism (+16 points), Iraq (+10 points), and "protecting your family" (+12 points). Similarly, when asked which candidate would more aggressively fight terrorism, voters pick Bush by 61 percent to 28 percent.
The Democratic challenger tops the incumbent on the domestic side of things, as Kerry has the advantage on handling the economy (+2 points), health care (+7 points), education (+1 points), and "creating and protecting jobs" (+6 points).
By 48 percent to 40 percent Bush is chosen over Kerry as the candidate who would do a better job appointing justices to the United States Supreme Court. Even before Chief Justice William Rehnquist's recent hospitalization, many were speculating the next president would be in a position to appoint at least one justice.
Setting aside the issues and looking at candidate characteristics, the president has secured the "stronger leader" spot. Since early September, Bush has had a double-digit advantage over Kerry on this characteristic.
Bush leads Kerry, 49 percent to 39 percent, on which candidate is more likeable, and also on which is more likely to keep his word (47 percent to 40 percent). Views are evenly split on which one has a better vision for the future of the country, and on which "understands the average American."
Overall, more voters have a favorable view of Bush (50 percent) than unfavorable (44 percent), while for Kerry voters are divided (47 percent favorable and 46 percent unfavorable).
• Pdf: Click here for full poll results.