In the polls

Published July 20, 2004 11:02PM (EDT)

The University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey is out with a new poll on Americans' attitudes about John Edwards and Dick Cheney. Nothing too surprising here: Cheney gets high marks for experience; 41 percent of respondents said they thought Cheney had more of the right kind of experience to be president than Edwards. Only 29 percent said that Edwards had more experience than Cheney. But a lot more people like the Democratic challenger than the incumbent. Cheney got a 36 percent favorable rating and a 39 percent unfavorable rating. His opponent got a 38 percent favorability rating and a 24 percent unfavorable, a positive balance to Cheney's negative.

New state polls indicate the race is still relatively even in some of this year's hottest battlegrounds. A Minnesota Public Radio poll shows Kerry in a statistical tie with Bush 45 to 44 percent. Nader scraped together 2 percent. In Florida, Bush-Cheney edged out Kerry-Edwards by a statistically insignificant 48 percent to 46 percent in a Strategic Vision poll. A Raleigh News and Observer poll shows Bush still leading in the Tar Heel State 49 to 44 percent. Finally, a Sienna Research poll shows Kerry with a healthy lead in New York with 51 percent of the vote to Bush's 29. But a word of warning on all smaller state polls: Local news organizations and polling firms often lack the resources to employ sophisticated sample screens and conduct extensive and effective polling. Take their results with a grain of salt.

Nationally, a new Marist Poll shows the race about as close as Minnesota -- 45 percent of registered voters polled said they would vote for Kerry, 44 for Bush and 2 for Nader.

The National Wildlife Federation released a poll of hunters and fishers that showed some discomfort for the president's environmental policy among this traditionally conservative group of voters. The Los Angeles Times reports: "Of the 752 voters with hunting and angling licenses surveyed, 58 percent disagreed with the administration's proposed changes to the Clean Water Act that could have affected wetlands, and 69 percent disagreed with policies for reducing mercury emissions from coal-fired plants.

"More than two-thirds of the respondents voted for George W. Bush in the last election. The poll's margin of error is 3.6 percent.

"'I wouldn't say they're popping champagne at Kerry-Edwards' headquarters,' says the University of Virginia's Paul Freedman, who studies voter behavior and polling. But, he says, it suggests Democrats could make inroads with conservative voters.

"The poll did not query respondents about Sen. John F. Kerry, the presumptive Democratic nominee. He and running mate Sen. John Edwards have been courting the 'sportsman' community; pictures on Kerry's website show him in hunting garb holding a gun.

"The poll had an unusual sampling of people -- two-thirds are licensed to fish, one-third to hunt, Freedman says. Also, participants were not asked which presumptive candidate they planned to vote for in November."

And a Gallup poll taken after the transfer of sovereignty in Iraq shows American perceptions about the American effort in the country haven't changed. Fifty percent of respondents said that it was not worth going to war to unseat Saddam Hussein, and 47 percent of respondents said it was worth it. Before the power transfer, those numbers were 51 to 46, respectively. Fifty-four percent also said that going into Iraq was a mistake, a number unchanged since the pre-transfer Gallup poll.

By Stephen W. Stromberg

Stephen W. Stromberg is a former editorial fellow at Salon.

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