A single point in voter preferences separates President Bush and Sen. John Kerry, putting the keys to the 2004 election in the hands of last-minute moveable voters, get-out-the-vote drives on the ground and the vagaries of the electoral college.
Bush has 49 percent support from likely voters, Kerry 48 percent, with 2 percent undecided and 1 percent for Ralph Nader. Results are steady whether based on a three-, four- or five-day average of interviews; indeed they're within a point of the average, 49 percent to 47 percent, across a full month of daily tracking polls by ABC News.
Within this virtual dead heat are signs of hope and despair for both sides. Kerry's ahead, 51 percent to 44 percent, among independents, one of the two swing groups that have gone with the winner in the past six elections; and it's 49 percent to 47 percent among the other, white Catholics.
|Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS.|
But Kerry's also relying heavily on young and first-time voters, two groups whose attention is less focused and whose turnout is less certain; if they don't show up, he's in trouble. Bush does better among repeat voters, and he's six points stronger in his base, winning 91 percent of Republicans compared with Kerry's 85 percent of Democrats.
Moveable voters, the 7 percent who're undecided or say they may yet change their minds, break 43 percent to 33 percent in Kerry's direction. The number of moveables has dropped by half, from 14 percent, since the start of tracking. People who are still moveable at this late stage are very much a wildcard -- again, if they turn out.
Union pull may also matter. Voters from union households make up a smaller-than-usual share of the electorate in this poll; in a high-turnout contest overall, the union share may drop as a percentage of the total. But a higher-than-anticipated union turnout helped Al Gore in 2000, and could help Kerry tomorrow; he's winning union-household voters by 61 percent to 35 percent, very similar to Gore's margin four years ago.
Attention to the race is vast: Ninety percent of registered voters are following it, and 59 percent are following it "very closely." That's 15 points higher than just before the 2000 election -- an additional 25 million people closely tuned in.
Americans also are five points more likely this year to say they're registered to vote -- small in percentage terms, but representing perhaps 10 million new registrants. A key question, again, is how many new registrants close the deal and actually vote.
Attention to the race raises some questions for Kerry. Moveable, first-time and young voters are all comparatively lower-interest groups -- and less engagement may dampen their turnout. Moveables are 21 points less likely to be following the race very closely than those who've definitely made up their minds; young voters, 14 points less likely than their elders; and first-time voters, 13 points less likely than repeat voters.
Following the Race 'Very Closely'