Bush also beats Kerry on four of eight candidate qualities -- some by large margins -- including leadership, clarity and making the country safer. And Bush's job approval rating among likely voters, at 51 percent, is just over the crucial halfway mark.
All these suggest a hard-fought race in Ohio during the next two weeks.
In another difference from the race nationally, Kerry and Bush run about evenly in voter enthusiasm in Ohio: Fifty-eight percent of Bush's supporters say they're "very enthusiastic" about his candidacy; 54 percent of Kerry's voters say the same about their guy. Nationally, by contrast, Bush has the advantage on strong enthusiasm, with 59 percent compared to Kerry's 45 percent.
|Among Bush Supporters||58%||59|
|Among Kerry Supporters||54||45|
Enthusiasm can influence turnout, critical in a close race. So can individual contact, and the campaigns have been impressively active in Ohio: Thirty-two percent of likely voters say they've been contacted by the Bush campaign, 30 percent by the Kerry campaign. Each side is having about equal success: Sixty-one percent of those contacted by the Bush campaign say they'll vote for him, and two-thirds of those contacted by Kerry's campaign favor Kerry. About a third each say they'll be going for the other guy.
Kerry's biggest leads on individual issues are a 12-point advantage in "helping the middle class" and a 10-point lead on creating jobs -- both clearly of interest to Ohio voters. Bush has a 15-point lead in trust to handle terrorism, and a 10-point advantage in trust to handle the war in Iraq -- the Nos. 2 and 3 items on the list of top issues. It's Kerry +7 on the next most-cited issue, health care.
On another issue of interest, given the proposed constitutional amendment, Ohioans trust Bush over Kerry to handle the issue of same-sex marriage, by a comparatively close 47 percent to 40 percent.
Trust to Handle the Issues
|Helping Middle Class||53%||41|
As noted, Kerry leads Bush by 48 points among Ohio likely voters who say the economy is their No. 1 issue, by 40 points among those who say it's health care and by 18 points among Iraq issue voters. Terrorism is Bush's comeback: Among likely voters who say it's the top issue, he leads Kerry by 76 points, 87 percent to 11 percent.
Underlying attitudes about the war, terrorism and the president also define the Ohio battleground. By more than 2-1 (62 percent to 30 percent) likely voters think the country is safer now than before 9/11, a benefit for Bush. But they're split straight down the middle on whether the Iraq war was worth fighting, 49 percent to 49 percent.
Bush holds significant leads over Kerry on several key attributes, a potential source of strength among wavering or moveable voters. Bush leads by 33 points as the candidate likely voters think has strong religious faith; by 15 points on strong leadership; by 14 points on taking a clear stand on the issues; and by 11 points on making the country safer and more secure.