Do we have polls: Pre-convention roundup

Published July 23, 2004 3:18PM (EDT)

It's the Friday before the first party nominating convention of 2004, which means that almost all the big networks are out with fresh horserace polls. These are, for the most part, the gold standard when it comes to polling, and they all say about the same thing: The race is tied. In a two-way race, neither candidate holds more than a 2-point lead over the other, a statistical tie in every case. The CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of likely voters has Kerry with 49 percent and Bush with 47 percent. In the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll of registered voters, Kerry has 45 percent and Bush 47 percent. Nader also gets 2 percent in the NBC/WSJ poll. In the Los Angeles Times poll of registered voters, Kerry gets 48 percent to Bush's 46 percent. And the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll of registered voters shows both candidates with 44 percent.

But almost all of the big-name polls out today also show a great deal of opportunity for the Democratic nominee to pick up tepid Bush supporters. The Wall Street Journal's analysis of the NBC/WSJ poll points out that no presidential challenger has approached his nominating convention even or ahead of the incumbent since Reagan. Bush's approval rating, according to the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll stands at 49 percent -- low for an incumbent seeking reelection. 54 percent of respondents in the Los Angeles Times poll said the country is moving in the wrong direction. 58 percent of registered voters in the NBC/WSJ survey think that the economy is headed for trouble. The intensity of support for Kerry is up according to NBC/WSJ, with 72 percent of registered voters leaning towards Kerry saying they will definitely vote for him, which is about the same level of support the president is getting from his base.

Why hasn't Kerry already capitalized on Bush's low numbers? The Los Angeles Times suggests it's because moderate Bush supporters unhappy with the president do not yet know enough about the Massachusetts senator to give him their votes. Ron Brownstein writes, "Among the 59 percent who say they know enough about Kerry to evaluate him, the Massachusetts senator leads Bush by 10 percentage points; among the 34 percent who say they don't know Kerry well, Bush leads by 12 percentage points." Expect a post-convention bounce for Kerry.

The pollsters at the Los Angeles Times also tried to gauge the effects of Fahrenheit 9/11 on voters. Nine percent of the 1,529 registered voters surveyed had seen the movie, and 78 percent of them were Democrats. A whopping 92 percent said that they were planning on voting for Kerry, but 79 percent said that the film had no effect on their decision. The results were based on a very small subsample of respondents, though, and the Times did not specify the margin of error for the subgroup.

There are also a few state polls out today from some smaller polling outfits. A poll conducted for the Kansas City Star shows the race in Missouri statistically tied. Kerry gets 46 percent and Bush 44 percent. Two polls out of Florida also show the candidates tied in that swing state. In a Safie Review survey both candidates get the support of 46 percent of respondents. A poll commissioned by the Orlando Sentinel gives Bush 48 percent and Kerry 46 percent. Finally, a Strategic Vision poll in Ohio shows that Bush holds a lead over Kerry in the Buckeye State, with 48 percent to Kerry's 43 percent. Be aware that, as with most state polls, these results are likely not as reliable as those of the larger polling organizations at the major networks and newspapers.

By Stephen W. Stromberg

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

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