Poll: Bush Has Expectations Working on His Side

While the race for the presidency is close, George W. Bush has expectations working for him: Most likely voters think that in the end he'll win a second term.

Even though the race has been a dead heat for much of the past week, 56 percent in the latest ABC News tracking poll think Bush will win, compared with 33 percent who think Kerry will. That's a bit closer than in early September, before the debates revived Kerry's campaign, but expectations remain on Bush's side.

Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS.

After a dead heat last Wednesday through Friday, the race today stands at 50 percent support for Bush, 46 percent for Kerry and 2 percent for Ralph Nader among likely voters in interviews Wednesday through Saturday. The last two days were better for Bush, who's taken to the road since Wednesday's debate with sharpened criticism of Kerry's domestic policies.

Women account for some of the slight movement in the race. Men still support Bush by double digits (13 points in this poll), while women are now supporting Kerry by a narrower 51 percent-46 percent. Bush also is back to poaching slightly more Democrats (13 percent support him) than Kerry wins Republicans (7 percent). Still, independents, key swing voters, divide closely, 48 percent for Kerry, 45 percent for Bush.

One of Bush's lines of attack has been to portray Kerry as a liberal -- an effective criticism if it sticks, given the ideological makeup of likely voters. About two in 10 call themselves liberals; substantially more, 34 percent in this poll, are conservatives. That gives Bush a bigger base, while Kerry has to appeal beyond his base to more of the middle -- a sometimes tricky political straddle.


With more than 7,500 interviews of registered voters during the last 16 days, the ABC News tracking poll has accumulated enough of Nader's supporters to begin to analyze this small subgroup. Independents predominate: Fifty-nine percent of them are independents, 21 percent Democrats and 10 percent Republicans.

Fewer than might be expected, three in 10 Nader supporters, are liberals; 24 percent are conservatives and 40 percent moderates. They're younger overall -- half of Nader supporters are under age 40, compared with 40 percent of all registered voters.

As befits a younger group, Nader supporters also are less well off: Thirty-nine percent of Nader voters have incomes over $50,000, compared with 51 percent of all registered voters. This poll will produce further analysis of Nader supporters, narrowed to likely voters, as the tracking sample grows.


Expectations of the outcome are partisan, but not exclusively so. Eighty-eight percent of Bush's supporters expect him to win; fewer of Kerry's, 67 percent, predict victory for their candidate.

Only in three core Kerry groups -- Democrats, liberals and blacks -- do majorities expect him to win. Another core Democratic group, non-religious Americans, divide evenly; and still another, single women, expect it to be Bush -- even though they themselves favor Kerry by more than a 20-point margin.

In the two big swing voter groups, 55 percent of independents expect Bush to win, as do 54 percent of white Catholics. A Bush victory is expected by six in 10 moveable voters, young voters and first-time voters alike, as well as by large majorities of Bush's core groups -- 75 percent of conservatives and evangelical white Protestants alike.


This poll was conducted by telephone Oct. 13-16, 2004, among a random national sample of 2,401 adults, including 2,115 registered voters and 1,582 likely voters. The results have a 2.5-point error margin for the likely voter sample. ABC News and "The Washington Post" are sharing data collection for this tracking poll, then independently applying their own models to arrive at likely voter estimates. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

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See previous analyses in our Poll Vault.