Poll: As Convention Opens, Bush Has Edge

Overall, Kerry's service is still a net positive: More people say they're more likely to support him for president because of his military service in the Navy, 24 percent, than less likely, 14 percent (most, 61 percent, say it won't affect their vote). That's better than it is for Bush: Just 7 percent are more likely to support him because of his military service in the Texas National Guard, 22 percent less likely.

There may be more potential downside for Kerry in a separate issue, his prominent opposition to the Vietnam War after leaving the military. Twenty-one percent say they're more likely to vote for him because of this activity, but 26 percent are less likely to support him. Specifically among veterans, moreover, it's 20 percent "more likely," but 38 percent less so.

Groups

As noted, most of the shifts on issues and attributes in this survey have come among women, older voters and those in states where the campaigns are doing most of their advertising and appearances. It's also apparent among younger voters, though that sample is too small for firm conclusions.

In the past month, for example, Kerry's favorability rating — down eight points overall — lost 14 points in the so-called battleground states compared with five in the rest of the country; and lost 11 points among women compared with six points among men. In trust to handle the economy, preference for Bush gained seven points overall, but 13 points among seniors and 19 points in the contested states.

Finally there's the fundamental issue of party preference. It shifted to the Democrats after their convention: Thirty-nine percent of registered voters in the Aug. 1 ABC/Post poll identified themselves as Democrats, 29 percent as Republicans and 26 percent as independents (among likely voters it was a 40 percent-32 percent-24 percent).

That's more Democratic, and less Republican, than usual; and indeed in this poll it has settled back to 32 percent-33 percent-29 percent percent among registereds, and 34 percent-36 percent-27 percent among likely voters, who account for 56 percent of the general population in this suvrey.

Moving party loyalty is one of the aims of political conventions, and now it's Bush's turn to try. The question, as with Kerry, is not only whether he can create movement, but if so, how long he can keep it.

Methodology

This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Aug. 26-29 among a random national sample of 1,207 adults, including 945 registered voters. The results have a three-point error margin for registered voters, 3.5 points for likely voters. Sampling, data collection and tabulation were done by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

See previous analyses in our Poll Vault.

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