Poll: A Look Ahead to the 2004 Presidential Election

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As the field of Democratic hopefuls continues to get more crowded, the number saying they would vote for a Democratic candidate in the 2004 presidential election is increasing.

The counts vary, but there are at least eight Democrats who have thrown their hat in the ring for the 2004 presidential nomination. The latest FOX News poll shows there is currently no clear frontrunner among the challengers, with Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman running slightly ahead of the pack.

The national poll of registered voters, conducted by Opinion Dynamics Corporation, asked self-described Democrats who they would vote for if the 2004 Democratic primary for president were held today. At 16 percent, Gephardt inches out Lieberman (15 percent) for the top spot, followed by Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (10 percent) and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (six percent).

Former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun (five percent), a newcomer to the field, receives about the same level of support as former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (four percent) and New York Minister Al Sharpton (four percent). The newest entrant, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich receives two percent.

Among Democrats (n=369, ±5%)

Support Increases for "Democrat" Over Bush

The country was evenly divided in the 2000 presidential election, but public support moved solidly behind President Bush following the events of Sept. 11. The most recent FOX News poll shows that the country is once again as divided as it was during the last presidential election.

Support to re-elect President Bush has dipped slightly in the last year, but the much of the shift has been from "undecided" to an unnamed Democratic challenger. When asked how they would vote if the 2004 presidential election were held today, a plurality says they would vote to re-elect Bush (42 percent) and almost as many (38 percent) say they would vote for the Democrat, up from 21 percent who said they would support the Democratic candidate in January 2002.

"While there is clearly reason for optimism among Democrats, the fact that there is no clear Democratic frontrunner may still mean an uphill battle for the eventual candidate," comments Opinion Dynamics Corporation Director Lawrence Shiman. "It is very early in the process, and the dynamics of the race may change dramatically as the Democratic field becomes better defined."

The increase in support for a Bush opponent comes from both Democrats and independents. Today, 31 percent of independents say they would vote for the Democratic candidate compared to 12 percent a year ago. In addition, Democrats are now more likely to say they will back their party’s candidate (72 percent now compared to 51 percent last year).

While President Bush's support has declined slightly overall, his strength among Republicans increased, with fully 89 percent of GOPers saying they would vote to re-elect Bush today, up from 84 percent last year.

Polling was conducted by telephone February 25-26, 2003 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of three percentage points. Results are of registered voters, unless otherwise noted.

33. I'm going to read you a list of names of some possible candidates for the Democratic nomination for president in the next election. If a 2004 Democratic primary for president were held today, which ONE of the following candidates would you most likely vote for? (Well, to whom do you lean at this time?) (RANDOMIZE)

Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry

North Carolina Sen. John Edwards

Former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean

New York Minister Al Sharpton

Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich

(Someone else/Other)

(Not sure)

34. If the 2004 presidential election were held today, do you think you would be more likely to vote (to re-elect President Bush) or (for the Democratic candidate)? (ROTATE)
SCALE: 1. Re-elect Bush 2. Vote for Democrat 3. (Depends on Democrat/too soon to say) 4. (Not sure/Undecided)