09/23/04 Poll: Bush Leads in Iowa, Ohio; Kerry Has Edge in Mich., Pa.

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President George W. Bush leads Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry (search) in Iowa and Ohio, while Kerry tops Bush in Michigan and Pennsylvania, according to new FOX New polls in these key battleground states.

In Iowa, Bush edges Kerry by 48 percent to 45 percent and independent candidate Ralph Nader (search) receives one percent. Former Vice President Al Gore (search) won Iowa by a whisker-thin margin (less than 5,000 votes) in the 2000 election.

The Ohio poll finds that Bush would best Kerry by 48 percent to 44 percent if the election were held today, with Nader at two percent. Bush's margin of victory in the Buckeye State was less than four percent in 2000.

The race is also closely matched in Michigan and Pennsylvania, where Kerry has narrow leads. Kerry receives 46 percent to Bush's 44 percent in the Michigan, with Nader at one percent. In Pennsylvania, Kerry has a 48 percent to 45 percent advantage (Nader receives one percent).

Nader is on the ballot in Iowa and Michigan, not on the ballot in Pennsylvania but he is contesting that decision, and on the ballot in Ohio but that, too, is in court.

Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the state polls (approximately 800 likely voters in each state) for FOX News on September 21-22. "Likely voters" are defined as respondents who are considered more likely to vote in the November presidential election.

A FOX News national likely voter poll taken during the same time period shows President Bush with a small advantage over Sen. Kerry. In the head-to-head matchup, Bush bests Kerry by 45 percent to 43 percent. When Nader is included he receives one percent, Bush 46 percent and Kerry 42 percent.

Of the states tested, President Bush's job approval is highest in Iowa (51 percent), and more approve than disapprove in Ohio (49 percent approve). Those in the Wolverine State of Michigan are evenly divided (46 percent approve, 46 percent disapprove), while in the Keystone State slightly more voters disapprove than approve (49 percent and 47 percent respectively). Nationally, 50 percent of voters approve and 45 percent disapprove of the job Bush is doing as president.

"Since these states are all considered battlegrounds by both campaigns, it is only natural that they essentially mimic the national results," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "It is likely that over the next six weeks, barring some major development, the narrow margins we see will swing back and forth as candidates devote time and effort to each state."

Even though voters in each of the states rate their personal financial situation more positively than negatively, across the board voters in these states are gloomy about the nation's economy. Majorities think the economy is not getting stronger, with the most pessimistic views held in Michigan, a state that has lost more than 200,000 jobs since 2001.

Is the Nation’s Economy Getting Stronger?

In three of the states (Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania), voters say the most important issue to their vote for president this year will be terrorism, most often followed by the economy, but health care and Iraq also receive significant support.

When asked which candidate would do a better job handling the war on terrorism, Bush has a double-digit lead over Kerry in each state except Pennsylvania. Bush also wins this issue on the national survey. Voters are more divided on whether Bush or Kerry would do a better job managing the economy, with Kerry coming out on top by between one and seven percentage points. Of the issues tested, Kerry does best on the issue of health care —- capturing a large lead in each state, as he does at the national level.

Who would do a better job on...

Majorities in each of these key states think Bush is a more likeable person and that he is the candidate more likely to keep his word.

Nearly half of voters in Iowa (48 percent) and 44 percent of Pennsylvania voters believe Bush is going to win their state, while by more than two-to-one voters in Ohio think Bush will win. Just over half of voters in Michigan (51 percent) think Kerry is going to win the electoral votes from their state.

• Pdf: Click here for full poll results.