NEW YORK – Two weeks before Election Day, President George W. Bush (search) leads Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry (search) in the race for the White House, according to a FOX News poll released Tuesday. In the days following the final presidential debate, Bush has not only continued to solidify his position with independent voters, but he is also holding his ground with women voters — a traditional Democratic voting group that Kerry needs in his column.
Today Bush has a five-point lead, receiving 48 percent to Kerry's 43 percent among likely voters. When independent candidate Ralph Nader (search) is included he receives 2 percent, Bush 49 percent and Kerry 42 percent. Two weeks ago Bush had a two-point lead over Kerry in the three-way race, and a three-point lead in the head-to-head matchup.
Men are more likely to support Bush over Kerry (51 percent to 41 percent), and women also give a slight edge to the president (47 percent to 45 percent). Married women, a voting group many are watching this year, give their support to Bush (49 percent to 43 percent), while single women support Kerry (49 percent to 41 percent).
By a margin of 52 percent to 34 percent, self-identified independent voters today are backing Bush. This is up from an 11-point advantage the president had among this group two weeks ago.
Opinion Dynamics Corporation (search) conducted the national poll of 1,000 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.
Are voters backing their candidate because they like him or because they dislike the other candidate? Almost all Bush supporters (81 percent) describe their vote as being "for Bush," with only 15 percent saying their vote is "against Kerry."
Supporters of the Democratic challenger are more divided, as 56 percent say their vote is "for Kerry" and 37 percent say "against Bush." Positive feelings among Kerry voters have increased significantly since early September when a large minority (41 percent) described their vote as "for Kerry" and a 51 percent majority said "against Bush."
Both Bush and Kerry voters ardently support their chosen candidate. The widespread feeling among each candidate's backers is that they would be disappointed if their guy loses. Seventy percent of Bush voters and 72 percent of Kerry voters say they would be "very disappointed" if their candidate loses the election.
Bush is viewed favorably by 49 percent and unfavorably by 45 percent, down slightly from earlier this month when his rating was 52 percent favorable and 43 percent unfavorable. Kerry's ratings are similar, although they have inched upward since early October. Today 48 percent have a favorable view of the senator (up from 46 percent) and 43 percent unfavorable (down from 44 percent).
"While the president holds a lead, the race is far from over," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "One odd factor is that much of the lead is concentrated in the so-called 'red states,' which were pretty much conceded to Bush at the beginning. Thus his national lead does not reflect a big lead in the battleground states that will decide the election. We may well be facing a situation, as we did in 2000, where the popular vote and the electoral vote produce different results."
Better Job on the Issues
The president's overall job approval rating is down a few ticks this week: 49 percent approve and 44 percent disapprove. Two weeks ago President Bush had a 53 percent approval rating, which was his highest in seven months. While the president receives remarkably high approval from Republicans (92 percent), a high number of Democrats disapprove (85 percent), with independents more divided (49 percent approve, 41 percent disapprove).
When the candidates are rated on the top issues, Bush soundly beats Kerry on handling the war on terrorism and also has the clear edge on handling the situation in Iraq. Kerry is seen as the candidate who would do a better job on health care and the economy. While Kerry still has the advantage on these domestic issues, Bush has improved his standing in these areas.
Would do a better job on . . .
During the final debate the candidates were asked a question about homosexuality, and in Kerry's response he mentioned Vice President Dick Cheney's lesbian daughter. A quarter of voters think the comment was appropriate and about two-thirds (64 percent) think Kerry's reference to Cheney's daughter was inappropriate, including 87 percent of Republicans, 40 percent of Democrats and 66 percent of independents.
More voters are confident in Bush than Kerry to provide the country with moral leadership. A 62 percent majority is confident, including 44 percent "very confident," Bush would provide moral leadership. In contrast, a 54 percent majority is confident Kerry would provide moral leadership if he were elected, including 30 percent saying "very confident."
Six in 10 voters are confident that Kerry would "look after the interests of Americans like you" compared to 58 percent who believe Bush would.
Majorities of voters are either very or somewhat confident in the leadership abilities of Bush (58 percent) and Kerry (55 percent), however by nine percentage points more voters are "very" confident in Bush's leadership.
Similarly, about half express confidence that each candidate will keep his campaign promises, with more voters being "very" confident in Bush doing so.
One promise Kerry has made is on taxes. The Democratic candidate has said, if elected, he would give additional tax breaks to most Americans and increase taxes only on those making more than $200,000 a year. Do voters believe him? Forty-five percent believe if Kerry becomes president their family would pay higher taxes, 12 percent say lower taxes and 34 percent think their taxes would stay the same.
War on Terrorism and Iraq
A sizeable majority (69 percent) views the "war on terrorism" as a real war, while about one in four think of it more as a figure of speech like the "war on drugs." Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to view it as a real war (87 percent and 56 percent respectively).
By a margin of 61 percent to 25 percent voters think Bush would more aggressively fight the war on terrorism than think Kerry would, and two-thirds say they would be concerned to change presidents given the unrest in the world at this time.
Opinion is sharply divided on what is more important in Iraq — 46 percent think it is more important to win the Iraq war and 46 percent say it is more important to end it. Most of those that want to win the war are Bush supporters and almost two-thirds of those wanting to "end it" are Kerry supporters.
War in Iraq: Which is more important — to win it or end it?
Election Results on Nov. 2?
Given the experience of 2000, many voters think it is unlikely this year's presidential election results will be known the night of the election. A third think the outcome will be known the next day, 14 percent think it will take several days, 14 percent a week or longer, leaving just under a third (32 percent) saying we will know the winner that night.
In a hypothetical $100 bet on the outcome of the presidential election, a 48-percent plurality of voters would put their money on Bush to win and 31 percent on Kerry.
• Pdf: Click here for full poll results.