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Newsweek poll: Kerry leads Bush by 7 points
Updated: 2004-04-12 09:04

After weeks of increasingly violent news from Iraq, presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts now leads the president in a two-way trial heat by seven points (50 percent to 43 percent), according to the latest Newsweek poll.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry (L) (D-MA) leaves after Easter Mass at the Paulist Center in Boston, Massachusetts April 11, 2004. [Reuters]
Even after adding independent candidate Ralph Nader to the hypothetical race, Kerry enjoys a four-point lead (46 percent to 42 percent), with Nader drawing 4 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, just 36 percent of those polled say they are satisfied with "the way things are going in this country." More than half (59 percent) say they are dissatisfied. And while President George W. Bush¡¯s job approval rating remains steady at 49 percent, where it has been since the end of January, the president's favorability ratings are lower than they¡¯ve ever been. Forty-eight percent of those polled view Bush favorably, down four points over last month. Kerry¡¯s ratings remain unchanged at 51 percent favorable.

At least half of those polled disapprove of Bush¡¯s handling of the economy (55 percent versus 41 percent approving) and Iraq (51 percent versus 44 percent). And while 59 percent approve of his handling of terrorism and homeland security, that number is down from 70 percent earlier this year.

Highly awaited testimony this week by national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice before an independent commission investigating the September 11, 2001, attacks has had limited impact on public opinion. Fifty-six percent of Americans said they paid at least some attention to her testimony. But a majority of those polled said the testimony either did not make a difference in their opinion of Bush¡¯s handling of terrorism (43 percent) or couldn¡¯t say (18 percent) what effect it had.

Twenty-one percent say Rice¡¯s testimony made them more likely to feel the Bush administration did everything it could to alleviate the threat; 15 percent are less likely to feel that way. A clear majority (60 percent) believes the administration underestimated the threat of terror attacks on U.S. soil, but more hold the Clinton administration responsible (24 percent) than feel Bush¡¯s team was to blame (18 percent).

U.S. President George W. Bush waves as he walks with his father, former President George Bush from the Marine One helicopter as they arrive at Fort Hood army base in Texas, April 11, 2004. Bush, along with his parents and other members of his family attended an Easter Sunday Church service at a chapel within army base in central Texas. [Reuters]
Response to Rice¡¯s testimony broke down along party lines: About two-thirds (64 percent) of Republicans felt that Rice was forthcoming in her answers and exactly half felt the commissioners were too partisan in their questioning. Nearly half (45 percent) of registered Democrats believe the questioning was fair and half (52 percent) also felt her testimony had little effect on their opinion of the Bush administration. Half (52 percent) of all Americans are more likely to lay the blame with the FBI and CIA for intelligence failures leading up to 9/11 and only a quarter (25 percent) of those polled think lack of focus by the administration played a more important role than those failures.

Gruesome images of murdered American civilians in Iraq may be making the public increasingly queasy about military involvement there. Nearly half (46 percent, up from 39 percent in January) of Americans say they are either ¡°not too¡± or ¡°not at all¡± confident that the United States will ever be able to bring democracy to Iraq, and 40 percent are very concerned that Iraq will become ¡°another Vietnam.¡±

Americans are also increasingly concerned that by invading Iraq, the Bush administration has increased the risk that large numbers of people will be killed or injured in a future terrorist attack on the United States. Forty-two percent of those polled now share that concern, whereas just 28 percent of those polled at the end of the last year were similarly worried. Exactly half of those polled feel that the June 30th deadline for handing power over to Iraq should not be extended. Still, 57 percent remain confident that the Bush administration did the right thing in going to Iraq and 63 percent would support sending more troops if necessary.

For the Newsweek poll, Princeton Survey Research Associates interviewed 1,005 adults aged 18 and older April 8 and 9 by telephone. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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Newsweek poll: Kerry leads Bush by 7 points


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