07/22/2004 - Sen. John Kerry enters the Democratic convention next week bolstered by a number of favorable trends in public opinion, although he remains locked in a statistical tie for voter support with President George W. Bush. His party is dominant on key domestic issues and at least competitive with the Republicans on every issue except terrorism. Most important, the Democrats have a strong advantage over the GOP as the party that cares more about the needs of ordinary people. Further, rank-and-file Democrats are increasingly unified and optimistic about their chances in November.
At the same time, President Bush's overall job rating still hovers below the 50% mark, and his ratings on individual issues – with the exception of terrorism – remain lackluster at best. In addition, despite the U.S. transfer of power in Iraq, public perceptions of the situation there have not improved. Just 42% approve of Bush's handling of Iraq, and six-in-ten (59%) continue to believe he does not have a clear plan to bring the situation to a successful conclusion. And Iraq leads the list of the most important problems facing the nation.
For all that, however, there are no signs that Kerry is breaking out in the presidential horse race. Currently, Kerry and running mate Sen. John Edwards draw 46% among registered voters, Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney 44%, with 3% going to Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo. The race continues to fluctuate within a fairly narrow range; last month Bush led Kerry by a slight margin (46%-42%).
Read the full report Democratic Party Image Improvement: Democrats More Confident, Kerry Faring Better in Battleground States on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.