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Inside Politics

Poll: Voters split between Bush, Kerry

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CNN's Bill Schneider on the lastest CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll
• Interactive: Poll results
• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
America Votes 2004
George W. Bush
John F. Kerry
Ralph Nader

(CNN) -- Less than a week before the Democratic National Convention, voters remained evenly split between President Bush and presumptive Democratic challenger John Kerry.

The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll, released Thursday, also showed voters were unusually interested and enthusiastic about the presidential race -- and 83 percent said they have already made up their minds about who will get their vote.

Kerry, the junior senator from Massachusetts, hopes the Democratic convention, which begins Monday in Boston, will provide a bounce to his poll numbers. Conventions usually do.

But Bush is likely to receive a similar bounce after his convention, which begins in late August in New York.

The presidential race appeared to be a dead heat among likely voters in this week's poll, conducted Monday through Wednesday.

Almost half of likely voters, 49 percent, favored Kerry and 47 percent supported Bush. The difference was well within the margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

With independent Ralph Nader thrown into the mix, 47 percent favored Kerry, 46 percent Bush and 4 percent Nader.

Of the 1,005 adult Americans interviewed in the poll, 709 identified themselves as likely voters.

Roughly equal numbers of all those polled said the two men have the right personality and leadership qualities to be president.

Kerry and Bush were essentially tied on the questions of who is more honest and trustworthy; who shares their values; who could better manage the government; and who is more optimistic.

Asked if Kerry agreed with them on issues that mattered to them most, 49 percent of all poll respondents said "yes" and 42 percent said "no."

Asked the same question of Bush, 47 percent said "yes" and 50 percent said "no."

Overall, 55 percent of those polled had a favorable view of Kerry, while 52 percent viewed Bush favorably.

The president's job approval rating stood at 49 percent, about where it has hovered all summer.

There were some issues where the public views the two men differently.

More than half of all those interviewed, 54 percent, said Bush would be a stronger and more decisive leader. Just 37 percent said Kerry would be stronger and more decisive.

The findings echoed the Republicans' months-long marketing campaign to portray Kerry as indecisive and a poor leader.

And Republican efforts to paint Kerry as a liberal also appear to have worked, with 46 percent of all respondents saying they think he is liberal and 32 percent saying they view him as moderate.

But more poll respondents, 48 percent, said they believe Kerry cares more about people like them. Forty percent said they believe Bush cares about them.

Respondents also said they think Kerry would be better respected among world leaders than Bush is now, according to the poll.

When asked if Kerry would have the respect of world leaders, 63 percent said "yes." When asked whether they think Bush has such respect now, 43 percent said "yes."

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