Poll: Advantage Bush as Election Nears

More broadly, among all registered voters, Bush now has a clear lead in trust to handle five of the 10 specific issues tested in this poll, and is slightly ahead in two others. Kerry has a slight lead in one, and they're about even in two others.

On some of these issues the trend toward Bush has been linear in the last two ABC/Post polls. For example, trust to handle Iraq has gone from Kerry +2 to Bush +8 to Bush +16; trust to handle taxes has gone from Kerry +6 to Bush +2 to Bush +10.

Other ratings have held steady in this poll after improving for Bush just before his convention. For instance, he leads Kerry by 13 points, 53-40 percent, as best qualified to be commander-in-chief, very similar to last week's reading. After the Democratic convention, Kerry led by eight points on this question.

Economy

The economy is still a potential threat to Bush; its ratings, while not bad enough to be lemons, are not good enough to be lemonade. Forty-two percent say most people in the country have gotten worse off financially since Bush took office, and they support Kerry by 79-12 percent. But Bush wins 73 and 86 percent support, respectively, from those who say most people are doing as well as before, and those who say they're doing better.

Moreover, the 42 percent who say most people are worse off is down from a recent high of 52 percent at this time last year. And it was higher still, 61 percent, in August 1992, with Bush's father headed for defeat. In another measure, the ABC News/Money magazine Consumer Comfort Index is now -7 on its scale of +100 to -100; that's about the same as its 18-year average, -9, and well up from its level at this time in 1992, -43.

Attributes

As important as issues are evaluations of personal characteristics, and Bush leads in seven of eight personal attributes tested in this poll. Again some have moved toward him in linear fashion; having a "vision for the future," for example, has progressed from Kerry +13 to Kerry +3 to Bush +9.

The huge Bush advantages on taking a "clear stand on the issues" and having an "appealing personality," both newly asked in this poll, are among the more striking results, as are Bush's continued leads on strong leadership and "making the country safer and more secure," a central focus of his convention.

Groups

Some of the changes on issues and attributes have been disproportionately large in some specific groups. Bush has gained ground particularly among men, among veterans, among independents and in some cases among white Catholic voters. The latter two are the quintessential swing voters in American politics.

The change among veterans may stem not from Kerry's war record — the "swift boat" controversy — but instead from his anti-war record. Veterans by a 22-point margin say they're less likely to support Kerry because of it.

War Record

Indeed while the "swift boat" controversy over Kerry's war medals clearly put him off stride, his military record continues to be a net positive — 23 percent say they're more likely to support him because of it, compared with 13 percent less likely. It's closer — more of a wash — among veterans.

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