Final Poll Shows Presidential Race to Be Dead Heat

by Frank Newport and David W. Moore

Bush 49%, Kerry 49%, Nader 1%

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Two days before the election, the final CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows a dead heat in the presidential race, with President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry each receiving 49% support among likely voters in the final allocated estimate. Independent candidate Ralph Nader garners 1% of the vote, and all other candidates an additional 1%.

The poll was conducted Oct. 29-31 among 2,014 national adults and includes 1,573 likely voters, and was weighted to reflect an estimated voter turnout of 60%. The final numbers also reflect Gallup's judgment of how undecided voters will cast their ballots.

Before allocation of the undecided vote, Gallup's likely voter model shows Bush ahead by two points, 49% to 47%, while the results among all registered voters show Kerry with a two-point lead, 48% to 46%.

Voter Presidential Preference

 

 

 

Bush

Kerry

Other

Undecided

 

%

%

%

%

Final Gallup estimate (with undecided vote allocated)

49

49

2

--

Likely voters (unallocated)

49

47

1

3

Registered voters (unallocated)

46

48

2

4

High-interest voters (unallocated)

47

49

1

3

The poll also shows that among "high interest" voters -- all Americans who express a high verbal commitment to voting, regardless of whether they have actually voted in previous elections -- Kerry enjoys a two-point lead, 49% to 47%.

In its traditional likely voter model, Gallup screens out older people if their past voting performance does not reinforce their stated intentions to vote. (Younger people who could not have voted in 2000 are included in the likely voter model, based solely on the intensity of their expressed commitment.) Some observers have suggested that in this election year, the intensity of the public's interest will stimulate a large number of older people to vote for the first time. If that is the case, then the "high interest" voter model could come closer to the final outcome than the traditional likely voter model.

Among all registered voters, 13% say they will be voting in a presidential election for the first time. Among Gallup's "likely voters," just 7% say they will be first-time voters.

Still, all of the differences in support between Kerry and Bush -- among traditional likely voters, all registered voters, and the new category of "high interest" voters -- are well within the poll's margin of error, confirming the general conclusion that the presidential race is too close to call.

The allocation of undecided voters is part of the tradition started in 1936 by Dr. George Gallup, who wanted to provide the public with the pollster's best estimate of what the data indicate. This year, the allocation of the undecided vote is based on Gallup's experience in previous presidential elections, showing that in election contests with an incumbent, virtually all of the undecided vote among likely voters will break for the challenger(s). Thus, in this case, with 3% undecided, 2% is allocated to Kerry and 1% to the Nader/other group, resulting in the estimated tie.

One in 11 Voters Could "Swing"

The poll finds that 9% of likely voters can be classified as potentially "swing" voters -- people whose commitment to a major candidate is not firm. Among all likely voters, 91% say their votes for one of the two major candidates are "certain" -- 46% for Bush and 45% for Kerry. The 9% who do not express a firm intention to vote for either major candidate include 3% who support Bush but could change their minds, 2% who support Kerry and could change their minds, and 4% who indicate no preference for either major candidate.

Trend in Support for Major Candidates

This year's presidential election has been marked by several phases. The race was close throughout the summer, with Bush moving ahead by significant margins immediately after the Republican convention, held in New York in late August and early September. Kerry rebounded after the first two presidential debates held on Sept. 30 and Oct. 8, and the race returned to a tie. After the third debate on Oct. 13, Bush regained a modest lead, which he held until this past weekend.

The Nader Factor

Nader's impact on the race has faded over the course of the campaign. Even in a late August poll, Nader received 4% support among likely voters, when Bush led Kerry by 48% to 46%. But since the beginning of October, after the first televised debate between the two major candidates, Nader has received just 1% of the vote. This year he will be on the ballot in just 35 states, compared with 47 states in 2000 when he represented the Green Party. Still, Nader is on the ballot in several of the major showdown states, including Florida, New Hampshire, Iowa, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, and his candidacy could be a factor in those contests.

Turnout a Major Concern

Survey indicators of voter interest and attention paid to the campaign suggest this year's election could produce a significantly higher turnout than was the case in either 1996 or 2000, when voter participation was 49% and 51%, respectively. Gallup's final likely voter model assumes a 60% turnout.

Both political parties are engaging in extraordinarily extensive get-out-the-vote efforts, and unanticipated, sharply differential turnout by supporters of one or the other candidate could make a substantial difference in the race.

It is important to bear in mind that the current survey findings refer to the popular vote, not the electoral vote. To report the electoral vote, it would be necessary to conduct separate full-scale surveys in each of the 50 states. As occurred in 2000, it is possible that in a close election such as this one, a candidate who wins the national popular vote could lose the Electoral College tally. A separate story outlining the scenarios concerning the national popular vote is posted in the Related Items section.

Other Dimensions

1. President Bush's job approval rating among the general public is now at 48%, no lower than it has been at other points in October, but below the 50% line that is symbolically important to an incumbent president. No president since Harry S Truman has been re-elected with a job approval rating below 50%.

2. Bush has lost positioning on both Iraq and terrorism to John Kerry over the last week. The most reasonable hypothesis is that the heavy emphasis by the Kerry campaign on the missing weapons in Iraq, perhaps coupled with the newly surfaced tape of Osama bin Laden, has hurt the president on both of these foreign policy dimensions.

Among all national adults, Kerry is now chosen by 49% of national adults as best able to handle Iraq, while Bush is chosen by 47%. This marks a significant pickup on this measure for Kerry, who was down nine points to Bush last week and has in general been less likely than Bush to be seen as better able to handle Iraq in every poll conducted since the time of the Democratic convention.

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]?

B. The situation in Iraq

 

 

Kerry

Bush

SAME (vol.)

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

Likely voters

       

2004 Oct 29-31

47

51

*

2

2004 Oct 22-24

42

56

1

1

2004 Oct 14-16

42

54

1

3

2004 Oct 9-10

46

50

1

3

2004 Oct 1-3

47

51

1

1

         

Registered voters

       

2004 Oct 29-31

49

48

*

3

2004 Oct 22-24

43

54

1

2

2004 Oct 14-16

45

51

1

3

2004 Oct 9-10

44

52

1

3

2004 Oct 1-3

45

51

1

3

         

National adults

       

2004 Oct 29-31 ^

49

47

*

4

2004 Oct 22-24

44

53

1

2

2004 Oct 14-16

45

51

1

3

2004 Oct 9-10

44

51

1

4

2004 Oct 1-3

44

51

1

4

2004 Sep 24-26

41

55

1

3

2004 Sep 3-5

41

54

1

4

2004 Aug 23-25 ^

43

49

1

7

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1

48

47

2

3

2004 Jul 19-21

44

49

1

6

2004 Jun 21-23 ^

46

47

1

6

2004 May 7-9 ^

45

48

1

6

2004 Mar 5-7

39

54

2

5

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.) Volunteered response

^ Asked of half sample

Bush's margin on handling terrorism is now 7 points over Kerry -- 51% choose Bush and 44% choose Kerry. This again marks a significant change. Last week, Bush had an 18-point margin over Kerry among national adults. The 7-point advantage is the lowest Gallup has recorded for Bush on this measure.

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]?

C. Terrorism

 

 

Kerry

Bush

SAME (vol.)

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

Likely voters

       

2004 Oct 29-31

43

54

1

2

2004 Oct 22-24

37

59

2

2

2004 Oct 14-16

36

61

2

1

2004 Oct 9-10

41

55

2

2

2004 Oct 1-3

43

54

1

2

         

Registered voters

       

2004 Oct 29-31

43

52

1

4

2004 Oct 22-24

38

57

2

3

2004 Oct 14-16

37

59

2

2

2004 Oct 9-10

39

56

2

3

2004 Oct 1-3

40

55

2

3

         

National adults

       

2004 Oct 29-31 ^

44

51

1

4

2004 Oct 22-24

39

57

1

3

2004 Oct 14-16

37

59

2

2

2004 Oct 9-10

39

56

2

3

2004 Oct 1-3

39

56

2

3

2004 Sep 24-26

34

61

1

4

2004 Sep 3-5

34

61

1

4

2004 Aug 23-25 ^

37

54

2

7

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1

41

54

2

3

2004 Jul 19-21

38

56

1

5

2004 Jun 21-23 ^

40

54

1

5

2004 May 7-9 ^

38

55

1

6

2004 Mar 5-7

33

60

2

5

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.) Volunteered response

^ Asked of half sample

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 2,014 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 29-31, 2004. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.

Results based on likely voters are based on the subsample of 1,573 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 maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. The likely voter model assumes a turnout of 60% of national adults, based on past U.S. voting history and the current level of interest in the election. The likely voter sample is weighted down to match this assumption.

For results based on the sample of 1,866 registered voters, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. This includes respondents who say they plan to register in states that allow same-day voter registration.

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.

Presidential Trial Heat Preference: Bush vs. Kerry vs. Nader

2. (Asked of those who have not already voted) Now, suppose that the presidential election were being held today, and it included John Kerry and John Edwards as the Democratic candidates, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney as the Republican candidates, and Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo as independent candidates. Would you vote for -- [ROTATED: Kerry and Edwards, the Democrats, Bush and Cheney, the Republicans, (or) Nader and Camejo, the independent candidates]?

2A. As of today, do you lean more toward -- [ROTATED: Kerry and Edwards, the Democrats, Bush and Cheney, the Republicans (or) Nader and Camejo, the independents]?

2-1. (Asked of those who already voted) Who did you vote for in the presidential election? [OPEN-ENDED]

 

 

Kerry/
Edwards

Bush/
Cheney

Nader/
Camejo

OTHER
(vol.)

NONE (vol.)

No
opinion

Likely voters

%

%

%

%

%

%

2004 Oct 29-31 ^†

47

49

*

1

*

3

Final allocated estimate

49

49

1

1

--

--

             

2004 Oct 22-24 ^†

46

51

1

*

*

2

2004 Oct 14-16 †

44

52

1

*

*

3

2004 Oct 9-10 †

49

48

1

*

*

2

2004 Oct 1-3 †

49

49

1

1

*

*

2004 Sep 24-26

44

52

3

--

*

1

2004 Sep 13-15 ‡

40

54

3

2

*

1

2004 Sep 3-5

45

52

1

--

*

2

2004 Aug 23-25

46

48

4

*

*

2

2004 Aug 9-11

46

48

3

*

1

2

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1

45

51

2

*

1

1

2004 Jul 19-21

47

46

4

*

1

2

2004 Jul 8-11 §

50

45

2

*

1

2

2004 Jun 21-23

47

48

3

*

*

2

2004 Jun 3-6

49

43

5

1

*

2

2004 May 21-23

47

46

4

*

1

2

2004 May 7-9

45

47

5

--

2

1

2004 May 2-4

47

47

3

*

1

2

2004 Apr 16-18

44

50

4

*

*

2

2004 Apr 5-8

43

47

4

1

2

3

2004 Mar 26-28

45

49

4

--

1

1

2004 Mar 5-7

50

44

2

1

1

2

             

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.) Volunteered response

^

Beginning with the Oct. 22-24, 2004, poll, those who indicated they had already voted were asked whom they voted for rather than whom they would for if the election were held today.

Beginning with the Oct. 1-3, 2004, poll, Nader/Camejo support is based only on residents from states where Nader was on the presidential ballot at the time the poll was released. In states where Nader was not on the ballot at the time of release (see list below), Nader voters' choice for president if Nader is not on the ballot (Q.3/3A) was substituted for their Nader vote.

Minor party candidates Michael Badnarik (Libertarian), David Cobb (Green), and Michael Peroutka (Constitution) also included, put into "other" category for trend purposes.

§

Vice presidential candidates Edwards, Cheney, and Camejo added beginning with the July 8-11, 2004, survey.

Q.2/2A/2-1 CONTINUED

 

 

Kerry/
Edwards

Bush/
Cheney

Nader/
Camejo

OTHER
(vol.)

NONE (vol.)

No
opinion

Registered voters

%

%

%

%

%

%

2004 Oct 29-31 ^†

48

46

1

1

1

3

2004 Oct 22-24 ^†

47

49

1

*

1

2

2004 Oct 14-16 †

46

49

1

*

1

3

2004 Oct 9-10 †

48

48

1

*

1

2

2004 Oct 1-3 †

47

49

1

1

1

1

2004 Sep 24-26

42

53

3

--

1

1

2004 Sep 13-15 ‡

42

50

4

2

1

1

2004 Sep 3-5

46

48

4

--

1

1

2004 Aug 23-25

46

46

4

*

1

3

2004 Aug 9-11

45

46

5

*

1

3

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1

47

48

2

*

1

2

2004 Jul 19-21

47

43

5

*

2

3

2004 Jul 8-11 §

50

42

4

*

1

3

2004 Jun 21-23

46

45

6

1

*

2

2004 Jun 3-6

45

42

7

1

1

4

2004 May 21-23

46

44

6

*

1

3

2004 May 7-9

46

41

7

*

3

3

2004 May 2-4

44

45

6

1

1

3

2004 Apr 16-18

44

47

5

*

1

3

2004 Apr 5-8

46

45

5

*

2

2

2004 Mar 26-28

43

48

5

--

1

3

2004 Mar 5-7

47

45

5

*

1

2

             

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.) Volunteered response

^

Beginning with the Oct. 22-24, 2004, poll, those who indicated they had already voted were asked whom they voted for rather than whom they would for if the election were held today.

Beginning with the Oct. 1-3, 2004, poll, Nader/Camejo support is based only on residents from states where Nader was on the presidential ballot at the time the poll was released. In states where Nader was not on the ballot at the time of release (see list below), Nader voters' choice for president if Nader is not on the ballot (Q.3/3A) was substituted for their Nader vote.

Minor party candidates Michael Badnarik (Libertarian), David Cobb (Green), and Michael Peroutka (Constitution) also included, put into "other" category for trend purposes.

§

Vice presidential candidates Edwards, Cheney, and Camejo added beginning with the July 8-11, 2004, survey.

3. Are you certain now that you will vote for [John Kerry/George W. Bush/Ralph Nader] for president, or do you think you may change your mind between now and the November election?

COMBINED RESULTS: Q.2/2A/3

 

 



Vote
for
Kerry,
cer-
tain

Vote for Kerry, may change mind



Vote
for
Bush,
cer-
tain

Vote for Bush, may change mind



Vote
for
Nader,
cer-
tain

Vote for Nader, may change mind





No
opin-
ion




NET:
Swing voters

Likely voters

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

2004 Oct 29-31

45

2

46

3

*

*

4

9

2004 Oct 14-16

41

3

48

4

*

*

4

11

2004 Sep 24-26^

37

7

47

5

1

2

1

15

2004 Sep 3-5

40

5

48

4

NA

NA

3

12

2004 Aug 23-25

39

8

44

6

NA

NA

3

17

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1

42

5

46

5

NA

NA

2

12

2004 Jul 19-21

43

6

40

7

NA

NA

4

17

2004 May 21-23

42

7

40

7

NA

NA

4

18

2004 Mar 26-28

40

7

44

7

NA

NA

2

16

2004 Mar 5-7

45

7

38

6

NA

NA

4

17

                 

Registered voters

               

2004 Oct 29-31

45

3

43

3

1

*

5

11

2004 Oct 14-16

42

4

45

4

*

1

4

13

2004 Sep 24-26 ^

35

7

46

7

*

3

2

19

2004 Sep 3-5

41

7

43

6

NA

NA

3

16

2004 Aug 23-25

39

9

39

8

NA

NA

5

22

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1

42

6

41

7

NA

NA

4

17

2004 Jul 19-21

41

8

36

9

NA

NA

6

23

2004 May 21-23

37

11

35

11

NA

NA

6

28

2004 Mar 26-28

34

12

38

11

NA

NA

5

28

2004 Mar 5-7

40

10

36

9

NA

NA

5

24

                 

* Less than 0.5%

 

^ Beginning with the Sept. 24-26 poll, Ralph Nader supporters were asked this question.

NOTE: "Swing voters" include those who are uncertain about their vote choice or have no opinion as to whom they would vote for.

 

Oct. 14-16, 22-24, 29-31 polls:
Nader voters in AZ, CA, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, MA, MO, NC, OH, OK, OR, PA, TX, VA had their Nader votes substituted for choice if Nader not on ballot from Q4/4a.


Oct. 1-3, 9-10 polls:
Nader voters in AZ, CA, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, MA, MO, NC, OH, OK, OR, TX, VA had their Nader votes substituted for choice if Nader not on ballot from Q4/4a.

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