Kerry's gains in favorability, his most significant advance, include some key groups. He gained 23 points in favorability among moveable voters (to 51 percent, up from 28 percent); and 16 points among independents, the quintessential swing voters.
Kerry gained 13 points in favorability among men, and strengthened his position among unmarried women; a core Democratic group, they now have a more than 2-1 favorable opinion of him. Still, his problems with married women persist: Their opinions are virtually unchanged after the debate and remain more negative than positive.
Veterans, another voter group attracting keen interest this year, were modestly affected by Kerry's performance in the debate, but also still give him a net unfavorable rating. White Catholics, a traditional swing voter group, divide evenly on Kerry's basic popularity; they were net negative last week.
Vote preferences are similar to what they've been: Roughly a dead heat among women, and a 12-point Bush lead among men. (Women are one group where Kerry is looking to improve; Al Gore won them by 11 points in 2000.) And Bush is drawing 12 percent of Democrats to his side, while Kerry attracts 7 percent of Republicans. Independents — again, the truest of swing voters — divide 47 percent to 47 percent, with 2 percent for Nader.
What's ultimately essential is who votes, and current polling suggest higher-than-usual turnout. Interest is high, and registration drives across the country may be having an effect. Compared to an ABC News/Washington Post poll at this time in 2000, Americans are six points more likely to say they're registered to vote; and registered voters are six points more likely to say they're certain to vote, and 18 points more likely to be following the election very closely.
While registration, interest and voting intention bear watching, horse-race results in this poll are essentially the same with and without new or occasional voters in the sample.
This poll was conducted by telephone Oct. 1-3 among a random national sample of 1,807 adults, including 1,470 registered voters and 1,169 likely voters. The results have a three-point error margin for the likely voter sample. ABC News and The Washington Post are sharing data collection for this tracking poll, then independently applying their own models to arrive at likely voter estimates. Sampling, data collection and tabulation were done by TNS of Horsham, Pa.
See previous analyses in our Poll Vault.