The actual choice in November may be somewhere between this poll's all-or-nothing tests of Nader; it's far from clear at this point where he'll get on the ballot.
Bush's overall approval rating is similar, 49 percent in battleground states, 53 percent elsewhere. There's no difference when people are asked if Bush unites or divides the country (about an even split), or which candidate they trust more to handle the nation's main problems.
As noted, more people in the battleground states cite the economy as the most important issue in their vote, and fewer cite terrorism (Bush's best issue). Bush's approval ratings for handling the economy and creating jobs are slightly lower in the battleground states, but they're fairly low everywhere. On the economy, 41 percent approve in the battleground states, 46 percent elsewhere; on jobs, 38 percent approve in the battleground states, 44 percent in the rest of the country.
But on other economic measures, the two groups are nearly indistinguishable. Wherever they live, nearly one in five says the economy is in poor shape, and the same number says most Americans are in better financial shape than they were when Bush took office in 2001. Just over one in three thinks the economy is improving.
On questions about the war and terrorism, again, views in battleground states differ very little from elsewhere. In both groups of states, just over half trust Bush more than Kerry to handle the situation in Iraq; half say the war was worth fighting; about two-thirds say the level of U.S. casualties is unacceptable; about six in 10 think the United States is bogged down; and 53 percent say the administration does not have a clear plan.
On terrorism, one difference is that people in battleground states are eight points more likely to say the Bush administration is doing all it can to deal with the threat of terrorism (62 percent vs. 54 percent).
In terms of personal attributes, Bush does well in both groups of states as a strong leader, someone who's honest and who sticks with his positions. He does less well in terms of empathy — only about four in 10, wherever they live, say he understands their problems.
Kerry does marginally better on empathy in the battleground states, again likely because of the higher number of Democrats. Fifty-five percent in those states say he understands their problems, compared with 48 percent in the rest of the country.
Bush's early ads accusing Kerry of flip-flopping on issues look to have had an impact. About eight in 10 Americans say Bush sticks with his positions, while only half as many say that about Kerry. Yet again, though, these views are essentially identical among people who live in the battleground states and those living elsewhere.
This ABCNEWS/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone April 15-18, 2004, among a random national sample of 1,201 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation were done by TNS of Horsham, Pa.
See previous analyses, full questionnaire and details of the poll's methodology in our Poll Vault.