Gallup's poll of likely voters puts Bush ahead 49-47, but assuming that a majority of undecided voters break for Kerry as expected, Gallup actually calls the race a tie at 49-49. Gallup gives Kerry the advantage among registered voters 48-46 in a three-way race (and only by 1 percent in a two-way race, which seems to indicate that Nader isn't a substantial factor). It's worth noting that in 2000, Gallup's polling of registered voters was more accurate than its polling of likely voters. Also, Gallup notes that among likely voters in 12 battleground states, Kerry holds a 5-point lead.
Democratic polling firm Democracy Corps (PDF) finds that Kerry leads among likely voters, 48-47, nationally, and by the same 5-point margin that Gallup reports in the swing states.
Pew calls it 49-46 in Bush's favor among likely voters, but gives Kerry a lead among registered voters, 46-45. A CBS/New York Times survey also sees Bush with a 49-46 lead among likely voters, and an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll calls the race closest, with Bush holding only a 48-47 lead in the same category.
In tracking polls, Zogby is hedging his bets. After finding that Bush leads Kerry 48-47, he notes that 48 percent is a poor number for an incumbent. And, Zogby predicts, there will be an overwhelming youth turnout. "The real news here is that 18-29 year olds favor Kerry 64% to 35%, with 1% for Nader -- and 0% undecided," Zogby writes. "When I see a low undecided number it means that group is going to vote. I am factoring this group to be 12% of the total vote -- but it could be higher."
The Iraq factor:
In spite of a steady supply of bad news from Iraq in recent weeks and more dark clouds gathering on the horizon there, President Bush still has strong support in the polls when it comes to running the war.
Last week, The LA Times found that Americans believe Bush is "more likely to develop a plan for success in Iraq" than John Kerry, by a margin of 47-40. Over the course of October, Gallup's weekly polls have shown that likely voters believe Bush would handle Iraq better than Kerry, by 7.5 points on average.
Even after the missing explosives debacle at Al Qaqaa dominated the headlines, a Newsweek poll published on Saturday put Bush ahead by 10 points on the issue of war leadership, while the most recent Economist survey had him up by 5. The latest survey from Democracy Corps (PDF) also concedes that voters prefer Bush to Kerry, 50-44, when it comes to handling Iraq going forward.
But that doesn't mean that Americans think the president has handled Iraq well to date: A recent CBS poll shows that 64 percent of voters believe Bush did a poor job planning the invasion. Likewise, Americans think that the occupation is going badly, by a margin of 55-43. With nearly every poll confirming that the war is one of the election's key issues, only time will tell how that disconnect will play out at the voting booth.