In the polls

By Jeff Horwitz
Published October 20, 2004 5:11PM (EDT)

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC survey has some encouraging news for Kerry: he's tied with Bush at 48 percent among likely voters nationwide, and has earned more voters' trust as a potential commander in chief.

The same poll, however, has better news for the president. Bush leads 48-46 among registered voters, and enjoys more committed supporters: 91 percent of Bush/Cheney supporters said they would "definitely" vote for the Republican ticket, while only 84 percent of those who favored the Democrats were sure of their vote.

The Journal/NBC survey also suggests that the presidents job approval ratings are better than the miserable 45 percent reported yesterday by the New York Times: Bush has "pushed his approval rating up to 49% from 47% last month, nearly reaching the 50% threshold at which incumbents usually survive."

Finally, the poll says, the emphasis of the race is shifting away from Kerrys strengths, healthcare and the economy, and toward Bushs: values and terrorism. In Zogbys September poll, voters were evenly split as to which set of issues was more important. Now Zogby says, values and terrorism are the top priority by a 50-39 margin.

In state polls, Zogbys bi-monthly poll of 16 battlegrounds gave Bush his best result since June. But while the president was up in 7 states, Kerry had the advantage in 9. And though 6 of Kerrys leads were outside the margin of error, none of Bushs was. Perhaps most significantly, Kerrys lead in Pennsylvania was a respectable 5.7 points, while Bush led by only 3 in Ohio, and a meager 1.2 in Florida.

Of course, Zogby wasnt the only pollster to weigh in on Ohio today. He was joined by the University of Cincinnati (Kerry 48, Bush 46), Rasmussen (Kerry 47, Bush 47), ABC News (Kerry 50, Bush 47), Fox News (Kerry 45, Bush 47), and Survey USA (Kerry 49, Bush 47). All those polls must have been a lot of work, and the states still a tossup.

Finally, a survey by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies finds that Bush is doing exceptionally well among black voters -- for him. Which means still very poorly. Bush has doubled his support within the demographic from 9 percent to 18. Previous surveys of black voters have turned out far better for Kerry: in an Associated Press poll in September, Bush pulled only 7 percent.

Should Bushs 18 percent share pan out, however, it would have massive implications for the election overall. Considering that African Americans account for 12.5 percent of Americas overall population, and that they vote at about the same rate as the national average, a 9-point gain in the black vote from 2000 would put Bush up a full percent point nationwide.

Jeff Horwitz

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