09/28/2004 - George W. Bush has reopened a significant lead over challenger John Kerry over the past week, even as voters express less confidence in the president on Iraq and he continues to trail Kerry on the economy. Two successive nationwide surveys of nearly 1,000 registered voters each show Bush's margin over Kerry growing steadily since mid-September (Sept. 11-14), when the two men were tied at 6%-46%. Bush's slight 45%-42% advantage in the Sept. 17-21 survey has grown to 48%-40% in the current poll (Sept. 22-26).
The poll finds that Bush's gains in support are being driven more by perceptions of Kerry's weakness especially on leadership and other personal traits than by improved opinions of Bush. Fewer voters favor Bush over Kerry on handling Iraq than did so earlier this month (46% now, 52% Sept. 11-13). But Kerry's rating in the head-to-head evaluation on Iraq is no higher (38% now, 40% then). The Democratic challenger continues to inspire more confidence than Bush with regard to improving the economy, which 60% of Americans believe is in only fair or poor shape. But even here, the percentage favoring Kerry has not increased since the Sept. 11-13 survey (46% now, 47% then).
Despite Bush's lukewarm evaluations on the issues, he maintains a significant advantage on most personal traits. Kerry has slipped slightly on some key personal assessments, including honesty and empathy. Overall, 32% of voters say the phrase "honest and truthful" better describes Kerry than Bush, down from 36% a few weeks ago (Sept. 11-13). Bush's rating in that period is unchanged at 41%.
A similar pattern is evident in comparative evaluations of the candidates' empathy: 42% say the phrase "cares about people like me" better describes Kerry, compared with 46% earlier this month. Bush's rating on this measure also has not changed (38%).
Kerry's image weakness is most evident on questions of leadership and his willingness to take on unpopular positions. Just 28% say the phrase "strong leader" better fits Kerry, virtually unchanged from earlier this month, while 54% say it applies to Bush. And 23% believe Kerry takes on unpopular stances, compared with 63% who say that about Bush. In both cases, Bush's ratings are down slightly from earlier this month, but Kerry has gained no ground.
Read the full report Bush Margin Widens Again Despite Vulnerabilities on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.