NEW YORK – Thoughts of the Republican National Convention (search) appear to have faded as quickly as memories of Labor Day at the beach, as less than a week after the GOP gathering in New York City the latest FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll shows the presidential race in a dead heat.
Clearly President George W. Bush made gains in critical areas such as leadership and trustworthiness, but just days after his convention ended, Bush's edge over Democrat John Kerry (search) is razor thin.
Two months before Election Day, the poll finds Bush receives the backing of 47 percent of likely voters and Kerry 45 percent. When independent candidate Ralph Nader (search ) is included the results are essentially unchanged: Nader three percent, Bush 47 percent and Kerry 43 percent.
In the head-to-head matchup, Bush went from being one point behind Kerry before the convention to being two points ahead today. Bush's current level of support is his highest since late June, when he had a 48 percent to 42 percent advantage over Kerry among registered voters.
Small Bump for Bush Out of Republican National Convention
Some of Bush’s post-convention bump comes from an increase in support among men (up six points), veterans (up six points), and independents (up four points).
Opinion Dynamics Corporation (search) conducted the national poll of 1,000 likely voters for FOX News on September 7-8. "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.
Compared to earlier polling, the president made gains this week on several key attributes, including being a "strong leader" (up seven points) and "honest and trustworthy" (up six points).
While Kerry continues to maintain a four-point edge on which candidate "understands the average American better," that is down from an 11-point edge after the Democratic National Convention.
The almost even balance between the candidates is likely to continue as most voters not only have made up their mind, but also made their decision some time ago. Large majorities say they decided which candidate they were going to support over a month ago (85 percent) and the choice is definite (84 percent). In addition, there is widespread belief (78 percent) this year's election is more important than most.
"After the Democratic Convention, Kerry got a small bump in vote and a larger increase in some underlying attitudes," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "Now Bush is getting a small bounce in votes and a larger increase in some underlying attitudes. It is likely this will fade as the give-and-take of everyday campaigning continues.
"When we look at the small number of undecided voters we see that 36 percent have a favorable view of Bush, 34 percent an unfavorable view and 30 percent are undecided. At the same time, 37 percent are favorable toward Kerry, 24 percent are unfavorable and 39 percent not sure.
Since the undecided voters who like Kerry appear to be the same people who dislike Bush and vice versa, this means only a little more than a third of the already tiny undecided vote can be said to be 'in play'."
Though overall support is evenly divided, the reason behind each candidate's support is somewhat different. A large 82 percent majority of Bush supporters describes their vote as "for Bush;" however, Kerry supporters are more divided in how they describe their vote — a slim 51 percent majority says their vote is "against Bush" and 41 percent "for Kerry."
Hardly any voters — seven percent — say they will have to hold their nose and choose a candidate this year. Furthermore, a sizeable majority (68 percent) says they will be able to cast their vote "enthusiastically."
Today's post-Republican Convention poll shows favorable views of President Bush increased four points when compared to post-Democratic Convention results, while negative views of Sen. Kerry have gone up 10 points during the same time period.
President Bush's overall job approval rating is down two points, with 49 percent saying they approve and 44 percent disapprove. Republicans overwhelmingly approve of their party leader's job performance (93 percent). Other groups that give Bush high ratings include conservatives (70 percent), veterans (60 percent) and voters who attend religious services regularly (57 percent).
When asked which candidate would do a better job handling several key issues, domestic issues go in Kerry's favor while national security issues go in Bush's. For example, Kerry has the advantage on handling health care (by 15 points), the economy (by four points) and education (by two points).
On handling Iraq, Bush has a 10-point edge and on terrorism a 15-point edge. By 49 percent to 37 percent, voters think Bush would do a better job than Kerry handling the problem of North Korea and Iran developing nuclear weapons.
When asked to choose from a list of key issues, the economy and national security receive essentially equal levels of support as the most important in deciding which presidential candidate to support.
The top items are the economy (23 percent) and terrorism/homeland security (22 percent), followed by health care (12 percent), foreign policy (eight percent) and Iraq (eight percent).
When choosing between just the issues of the nation's economy and national security, 45 percent say security and 38 percent say the economy will be more important in deciding their vote for president this year.
A slim majority of voters are pessimistic about the economy today, with 51 percent saying it does not feel like the economy is getting stronger compared to 41 percent who say it is improving.
The poll asked voters how they would feel if Bush were to win in November and separately how they would feel if Kerry wins. A majority says they would feel positively if Bush wins (18 percent "enthusiastic," 17 percent "confident," and 19 percent "satisfied") and about four in 10 describe their feelings as negative (15 percent "dissatisfied," eight percent "angry" and 19 percent "scared").
While the specific categories receive slightly different results, the overall results are about the same for Kerry with just over half of voters saying they would feel positively (15 percent "enthusiastic," 12 percent "confident," and 24 percent "satisfied") and 43 percent negatively (18 percent "dissatisfied," three percent "angry" and 22 percent "scared").
Best Describes Feelings If . . .
Worry about Future Terrorist Attacks
Three years after 9/11, concern about future terrorist attacks is at about the same level it was immediately following the 2001 attacks. Today, 39 percent of voters say they are worried an attack might take place near their home or work, up from 35 percent in late September 2001, and 60 percent are not worried, down from 64 percent.
A 57 percent majority believes it is likely that terrorists will attack the United States in the next two months to try to influence the presidential election.
If there were a major attack before November 2, about a third of voters say it would make them more likely to vote to re-elect Bush, just under a third say less likely, and about a third say it would make no difference to their vote.
• Pdf: Click here for full poll results.