Republican anger directed at Sen. John Kerry has risen in the past three weeks, but it still falls short of the ire Democrats directed at President Bush. That anger counters the greater enthusiasm Republicans feel for Bush -- and it's one reason the race is close.
Bush overall has a nine-point advantage over Kerry in strong enthusiasm (down from its highest levels), while Kerry has a 20-point edge in the anger factor. The race may hinge on which of these sentiments turns out to be more powerful in driving people to the polls.
Turnout, of course, is key in a close race, and this one is: Same as the last two days, 49 percent of likely voters support Kerry and 48 percent favor Bush in the latest ABC News tracking poll, with 1 percent for Ralph Nader.
|Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS.|
Today's result is from Saturday-Tuesday interviews, of which Monday and Tuesday nights were better for Bush, and Saturday and Sunday were two of Kerry's three best days since this tracking poll began Oct 1. A three-day average, excluding Saturday, shifts the numbers ever so slightly to 49 percent to 48 percent Bush-Kerry, still essentially a dead heat between them.
Among likely voters who support Kerry, 46 percent are angry about Bush's policies, about the same as earlier this month. Among Bush supporters, fewer, 26 percent, are angry about the policies Kerry's proposed -- but that's up from 17 percent previously.
Anger at Bush peaks among his ideological opposites, liberals, at 57 percent, and it's 47 percent among his political opposites, Democrats. Fewer conservatives or Republicans are angry at Kerry, 31 percent and 30 percent respectively. Again, though, that's up from 22 percent and 18 percent of conservatives and Republicans earlier this month.
Enthusiasm is the flipside of anger, and there's been some movement here as well. Strong enthusiasm among Bush and Kerry supporters alike has decreased slightly in the last few days, perhaps as a result of the increased intensity of the candidates' rhetoric.
Today, 55 percent of likely voters who support Bush are "very enthusiastic" about his candidacy, the fewest since late July, and down 10 points from its peak, 65 percent, on Sept. 26, shortly before the first presidential debate.
Among Kerry supporters, 46 percent say they're very enthusiastic, down four points from three days ago, and also 13 points below its peak after his nominating convention.
While Bush has the advantage in enthusiasm, it's narrowed. His supporters were 22 points more apt to be "very enthusiastic" than Kerry's on Sept. 8, and 23 points more on Sept. 26. It got closer after Kerry's strong showing in the first debate.
News this week of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist's thyroid cancer raised the issue of Supreme Court nominations as a possible factor in the campaign. This poll finds that likely voters trust Bush over Kerry to handle Supreme Court appointments, by 49 percent to 42 percent; it was 49 percent to 36 percent early last month, again right after Bush's convention.
More Republicans and conservatives side with their man than Democrats and liberals with theirs. Eighty-nine percent of Republican likely voters and 81 percent of conservatives trust Bush more to handle Supreme Court appointments; that compares with three-quarters of Democrats and liberals for Kerry. (Bush also comes out ahead because there simply are more conservatives than liberals among likely voters, 35 percent to 20 percent.)
Few voters volunteer the issue of court appointments as the single most important factor in their vote. Nonetheless, in a close race, any and every issue can matter. Rehnquist's illness gives both candidates an opportunity to invigorate their bases about the high court's importance in hot-button issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.
The Nader Factor
Finally, there's the Nader factor. He's attracted just 1 percent support across ABC News tracking polls. Aggregating all registered voters who support him indicates that his support comes far more from political independents than from Democrats or Republicans (although a bit more of the former), and that his supporters are younger -- a third of them age 18 to 29. Plus, they are less likely to be following the race very closely and less apt to be political conservatives. Nader supporters also are much less apt to cite terrorism as their top issue, and much more apt to cite the economy.
This profile suggests Nader may take more support from Kerry than from Bush, since Kerry, too, does better with young and single voters and with those concerned with the economy. At the same time, with just 1 percent support, it's entirely possible that Nader is not drawing significantly from either Kerry or Bush, and instead mainly attracting supporters who otherwise wouldn't vote.
This poll was conducted Oct. 23-26 among a random national sample of 2,412 adults, including 2,107 registered voters and 1,709 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 were done by TNS of Horsham, Pa.
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See previous analyses in our Poll Vault.