Poll: Close Bush-Kerry Race Gets Closer

The difficulty of unseating incumbents may be one reason more people expect Bush to win: Incumbent presidents have run for re-election eight times previously since World War II, and five of them have won. Those who lost, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, all did so in years when consumer confidence was more negative than it is now. Past trends, though, are not reliable election predictors.

Expectations that Bush will win are down from their peak, 63 percent the week after his convention, and quite similar to their level a week ago, 56 percent.


Between 57 percent and 60 percent of Bush's supporters have been "very enthusiastic" about his candidacy since early October, and 45 percent to 50 percent of Kerry's supporters have felt that way about their guy. Kerry's enthusiasm bumped up by eight points after the first debate but did not progress further; Bush's lost eight points after the first debate but then stabilized.

Enthusiasm for Bush is highest in some of his core groups -- 71 percent among conservatives, for instance, and 69 percent among Republicans. Kerry, by contrast, has lower enthusiasm in his comparable base groups -- 54 percent among liberals and 56 percent among Democrats.

There are also differences among groups in expectations of who'll win. Liberals by 58 percent-31 percent think it'll be Kerry, but conservatives by 77 percent-13 percent think Bush will win, as do moderates by 49 percent-38 percent. Just 7 percent of Republicans think Kerry will win, while 27 percent of Democrats think Bush will. Independents, by a substantial 57 percent-31 percent margin, think it'll be Bush.


This poll was conducted Oct. 20-23 among a random national sample of 2,408 adults, including 2,085 registered voters and 1,638 likely voters. The results have a 2.5-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 by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

Click here for PDF version with full questionnaire and results.

See previous analyses in our Poll Vault.

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