Issues and Personal Characteristics Differentiate Candidates

by David W. Moore

Terrorism issue helps Bush, the economy helps Kerry

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- In the wake of what most consider his successful debate performance against President George W. Bush last week, Democratic candidate John Kerry appears to be shifting his campaign focus from Iraq and foreign policy to domestic issues. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup survey over the weekend suggests that this strategy would probably be more effective than continuing to focus on Iraq. Bush continues to be rated higher than Kerry on dealing with military matters, while Kerry enjoys an edge on the economy and, as shown in other Gallup surveys, on domestic issues in general.

The current poll, conducted Oct. 1-3, finds Kerry and Bush in a dead heat in a three-way race, with both of them receiving 49% support among likely voters, and with Bush ahead by 49% to 47% among registered voters, well within the poll's margin of error. In each case, independent candidate Ralph Nader receives only 1% of the vote.

The candidates are also in a virtual dead heat overall on the issues, with likely voters equally divided as to whether they agree with each candidate on the issues that matter most to them. Forty-eight percent say they agree with Bush on these issues, 51% disagree. For Kerry, 50% agree, while 48% disagree.

Please tell me whether you agree or disagree with -- [ROTATED: George W. Bush/John Kerry] -- on the issues that matter most to you.     

2004 Oct 1-3

Agree

Disagree

No opinion

Likely Voters

 

 

 

George W. Bush

48%

51

1

John Kerry

50%

48

2

When it comes to specific issues, likely voters are more apt to believe Bush can handle terrorism better than Kerry, 54% to 43%. Bush also leads Kerry on the issue of Iraq, 51% to 47%. However, on the economy, Kerry now leads Bush, 52% to 44%.

Next, regardless of which presidential candidate you support, please tell me if you think John Kerry or George W. Bush would better handle each of the following issues. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

2004 Oct 1-3


Kerry


Bush

Advantage

Likely Voters

%

%

 

The economy

52

44

+8

The situation in Iraq

47

51

-4

Terrorism

43

54

-11

 

 

+

Advantage indicates Kerry lead

-

Advantage indicates Bush lead

 
The most important issues that likely voters cite as important to their vote are terrorism (mentioned by 30%), Iraq (27%), the economy (27%), and healthcare (14%).

If you had to choose, which of the following issues will be most important to your vote for president this year -- [ROTATED: the economy, terrorism, the situation in Iraq, (or) healthcare]?

 

Economy

Terrorism

Iraq

Healthcare

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

%

Likely Voters

 

 

 

 

 

2004 Oct 1-3

27

30

27

14

2

2004 Sep 24-26

31

35

19

12

3

2004 Sep 3-5

31

31

20

15

3

2004 Jul 19-21 ^

31

26

27

15

1

^ Re-calculated figures, removing volunteered "all" and "none" responses.

The poll shows an increase in the importance of Iraq compared with Gallup's measures in September, while the economy and terrorism have declined slightly. In a three-way race, which includes independent candidate Ralph Nader, likely voters who cite terrorism as the most important issue in their vote are very strong supporters of Bush, who leads Kerry by 83% to 16% among this group. However, likely voters who cite any of the other three issues all give majority support to Kerry -- people who mention Iraq as most important support Kerry 62% to 32%, the economy, 66% to 31%, and healthcare, 63% to 32%.

Personal Characteristics

When it comes to personal characteristics, Bush continues to lead by a wide margin as being perceived as a "strong and decisive leader." Fifty-five percent of likely voters describe Bush that way, compared with only 40% for Kerry. On the other hand, likely voters see Kerry as more able to express himself clearly, 58% to 38%. And they believe "intelligent" applies more to Kerry than Bush, 51% to 36%.

Among likely voters, Kerry also enjoys a slight advantage as the candidate who "cares about the needs of people like you," 50% to 44%. The two candidates are essentially tied on sharing voters' values and being honest and trustworthy.

Next, thinking about the following characteristics and qualities, please say whether you think each one applies more to John Kerry or more to George W. Bush. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]

2004 Oct 1-3


Kerry


Bush

Advantage

Likely Voters

%

%

 

Expresses himself more clearly

58

38

+20

Is intelligent

51

36

+15

Cares about the needs of people like you

50

44

+6

Shares your values

47

48

-1

Is honest and trustworthy

44

45

-1

Is a strong and decisive leader

40

55

-15

 

 

+

Advantage indicates Kerry lead

-

Advantage indicates Bush lead

 

 

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,016 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 1-3, 2004. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

For results based on the 491 national adults in the Form A half-sample and 525 national adults in the Form B half-sample, the maximum margins of sampling error are ±5 percentage points.

Results based on likely voters are based on the subsample of 772 survey respondents deemed most likely to vote in the November 2004 general election, according to a series of questions measuring current voting intentions and past voting behavior. For results based on the total sample of likely voters, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points. The likely voter model assumes a turnout of 55% of national adults. The likely voter sample is weighted down to match this assumption.

For results based on the sample of 934 registered voters, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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