Strong Interest in Debates; Kerry Support Rebounds, Race Again Even

Source Organization: Pew Research Center

09/16/2004 - Voter opinion in the presidential race has seesawed dramatically in the first two weeks of September. Following a successful nominating convention, George W. Bush broke open a deadlocked contest and jumped out to a big lead over John Kerry. However, polling this past week finds that Bush's edge over his Democratic rival has eroded. Reflecting this new volatility in the race, the size of the swing vote has increased slightly since the summer, rather than contracting as it typically does as the election approaches.

The latest national survey of 1,972 registered voters by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted in two waves over a seven-day period, finds that the president's large margin of support in the initial period (Sept. 8-10) dissipated in the polling conducted Sept. 11-14. Among all registered voters Bush initially led Kerry by 52%-40%. However, the second wave of interviewing shows the race even among registered voters, at 46%-46%. When the sample is narrowed to likely voters, Bush holds a statistically insignificant lead of 47%-46% in the second wave, down from a huge 54%-38% advantage he held in the first wave of interviews.

The shifting voter sentiment observed in this poll reflects a number of cross currents in public opinion. Hard-hitting attacks against the Democratic challenger throughout August and during the Republican convention took a heavy toll on Kerry's personal image. Kerry's positive support waned, fewer voters expressed confidence in him to deal with major issues, and perceptions of him as a 'flip-flopper' rose noticeably.

Read the full report Strong Interest in Debates; Kerry Support Rebounds, Race Again Even on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.

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