Bush's record of service in the National Guard, by contrast, is more of a negative: Just seven percent are more likely to support him because of it, 18 percent less likely. It remains to be seen if the resurgence of this issue hurts Bush, but as a rule it's harder to damage a sitting president with a strong personal image and current record than to define a lesser-known newcomer on the national political scene.
There's also the issue of Kerry's anti-war efforts after leaving the military in 1969. Twenty percent say they're more likely to support him because of his public opposition to the Vietnam war, but 28 percent are less likely. And more generally a 49-37 percent plurality disapproves of Kerry's opposition to the war.
All these views are infused with partisanship; for example, hardly any Republicans say they're less likely to support Bush because of his service (two percent). But it is more of a negative than a positive for him in the center — net 11 points negative, for example, among independents. However, as noted, a bigger hot button for a significant group is Kerry's war opposition: Among veterans, 39 percent say they're less likely to support him because of it, compared with 17 percent more likely.
War and Terrorism
On the war in Iraq, 51 percent in this poll say it was worth fighting, over half (albeit barely) for the first time since April. Fifty-seven percent think the war has contributed to long-term U.S. security. And while 54 percent think the United States has gotten bogged down in Iraq, that's down from 65 percent in May.
As noted above, Bush has majority support on another point — 58 percent think the war in Iraq is part of the war on terrorism.
Fifty-five percent think the United States is winning the war on terrorism, and 52 percent express at least some confidence in the government's ability to prevent further attacks. But 73 percent are worried about another attack, and a third are worried that they personally could be a victim of terrorism.
Perhaps most fundamentally, though, just days before the third anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, 64 percent of registered voters say the country is safer than it was before that attack. And Bush leads Kerry by more than 40 points in this group, 69 to 26 percent.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Sept. 6-8 among a random national sample of 1,202 adults, including 952 registered voters. The results have a three-point error margin for registered voters, 3.5 points for likely voters, who account for 57 percent of all respondents. Sampling, data collection and tabulation were done by TNS of Horsham, Pa.
See previous analyses in our Poll Vault.