Poll: A Look at the Anger Factor

Among the sentiments fueling the 2004 election, put anger on John Kerry's side: On the subject of George W. Bush, his supporters are riled.

Nearly half of likely voters who support Kerry are "angry" about Bush administration policies. Anger peaks in some of Kerry's strongest support groups — liberals, Democrats and the non-religious. And it far outstrips the anger Bush supporters feel about Kerry.

While 50 percent of liberals are angry about Bush policies, for example, just 19 percent of conservatives are angry about the policies Kerry has proposed. While 39 percent of Democrats are angry with Bush, fewer than half as many Republicans, 17 percent, are angry with Kerry. And while 46 percent of Kerry supporters are angry about Bush policies, just 19 percent of Bush voters are angry back.

Anger, though, is not the only motivating factor in politics, and the race between the two men is still close: Fifty percent of likely voters support Bush in the latest ABC News tracking poll, 46 percent Kerry and 1 percent Ralph Nader. That's about where it's been the last few days.

Interviews for the horse-race results in this poll were conducted during the last four days, Thursday through Saturday. Interviews on voter anger were conducted earlier in the week, Tuesday through Thursday.


There are a few likely reasons for the anger sentiments found in this survey. One is that, in an incumbent election, supporters of the challenger are by definition anti-incumbent. Another is that Bush has policies for people to be angry about (or pleased with); Kerry, by contrast, has only proposed policies.

The last is that Bush has targeted his campaign more at motivating the Republican base, while Kerry has aimed his more at appealing to the center. Both are sensible strategies given the size of the groups at play: Conservatives, a core Republican group, account for just over a third of likely voters, while liberals, a core Democratic group, account for fewer, about two in 10.

The disproportionate anger with Bush means that, across all likely voters, 22 percent are angry with his policies, while just about half as many, 10 percent, are angry about the policies Kerry has proposed. (Democratic anger at Bush, as an aside, is gender neutral: About four in 10 Democratic men and women alike are angry about his policies.)

On the flip side, the candidates are about even in enthusiasm about their policies: Seventeen percent of all likely voters are enthusiastic about Bush's, 16 percent about Kerry's. Independents are five points more apt to be enthusiastic about Kerry's policies, but that's not a significant difference given the sample size; and moderates are 12 points more apt to be enthusiastic about Kerry, but moderates are a Democratic-leaning group.

The question about the disproportionate anger directed at Bush is the extent to which it fuels voter turnout — and turnout, in a close election, is the critical factor.

Voter Groups

In vote preferences, more of a gender gap has opened up in recent days. Bush now leads Kerry by 14 points among men, while Kerry has a narrower five-point edge among women, a more Democratic-leaning group. In the two key swing voter groups, independents divide by 48 percent-44 percent between Bush and Kerry; while Bush has opened a nine-point lead among white Catholics, 53 percent-44 percent.

Kerry's personal ratings improved after more viewers said he won the first presidential debate Sept. 30, and subsequently he moved into a closer race with Bush. Viewers of the second presidential debate, Friday night, divided evenly on who won.


The vote preference questions in this poll were conducted by telephone Oct. 6-9, 2004, among a random national sample of 2,407 adults, including 2,030 registered voters and 1,589 likely voters. The results have a 2.5-point error margin among likely voters. 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.

Click here for PDF version with full questionnaire and results.

See previous analyses in our Poll Vault.