According to a national FOX News poll released Monday, 48 percent of likely voters back Kerry, 46 percent Bush, 1 percent independent candidate Ralph Nader (search) and 5 percent are undecided.
Among registered voters Kerry leads 47 percent to 45 percent, with Nader receiving 1 percent. Results among both likely voters and registered voters are within the poll's plus or minus three-percentage point margin of error.
"The important thing to remember about these figures is that the margin of error makes the race too close to call for either candidate," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman (search). "Well over 80 percent of the public made up their minds at least six months ago; the race has been fluctuating in a very narrow range since then. With all the early voting, provisional voting, legal challenges and so on, the real margin of error is probably even larger than what the statistics suggest."
Opinion Dynamics Corporation (search) conducted the national voter poll for FOX News on Saturday and Sunday, October 30-31.
Earlier in the month, male voters gave a double-digit edge to President Bush, but today they split their vote almost evenly. Women voters are divided as well, giving a slim two-point advantage to Kerry. Married women, a key-voting group, continue to support Bush strongly: 55 percent to 39 percent. Kerry receives the backing of a 63-percent majority of unmarried women.
Looking at other groups, by a margin of 52 percent to 42 percent whites back Bush, while over 80 percent of black voters support Kerry. Young voters are solidly behind the senator, and those over age 65 are more likely to back the president.
Throughout most of October independent voters were more likely to support Bush, but today independents split their vote and give a slim lead to Kerry: 46 percent to Bush's 42 percent. Frequent church attendees give a clear edge to President Bush (52 percent to 43 percent).
An overwhelming majority of each candidate's supporters say their vote is definite, but six percent of likely voters overall say they could change their mind before voting. In addition, about one in five voters report they have already voted by early or absentee ballot, and these voters break for Sen. Kerry by 48 percent to 43 percent.
Heading into Election Day, the president's overall job approval rating stands at 48 percent, with 46 percent disapproving. Looking at the sharply divided opinion on Bush's job performance goes a long way toward understanding the sharply divided vote: almost all of those approving of Bush's job performance are also voting for him, and conversely over 90 percent of those disapproving are backing Kerry.
On the Issues
The top issues on voters' minds have stayed relatively constant for months, with the economy or terrorism consistently capturing the first or second spot. Today, voters say terrorism (25 percent) will be the most important issue to their vote for president and almost as many say the economy (21 percent).
Iraq (17 percent) and health care (7 percent) are the other priority issues to many voters. Five percent or less say social security, taxes or education will be the deciding issue for them this election.
There are no surprises on which candidate voters trust more on the issues. The president retains the edge he has had since the beginning of this campaign on being the candidate that would do a better job on the war against terrorism (+12 points) and Iraq (+6 points).
Kerry bests Bush on which one would do a better job on the economy (+6 points) and health care (+10 points).
Voters are split about evenly on how they view the candidates. About half view each favorably, while almost as many express an unfavorable opinion.
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Bush and Kerry are closely matched on the candidate attributes of "keeping his word" (Bush +3) and "understands the average American" (Kerry +4). By a seven-percentage point margin the president is the one seen as being "a stronger leader," down from a 14-point edge over Kerry earlier this month (October 3-4).
• Pdf: Click here for full poll results.