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Inside Politics

Poll: No 'bounce' for Kerry so far

Bush and Democratic nominee still running neck and neck


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(CNN) -- The race between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry is as close as it has ever been, even after the Democratic National Convention last week, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Sunday.

The poll -- conducted Friday and Saturday, after Kerry's acceptance of the Democratic nomination Thursday night -- found the senator from Massachusetts running slightly ahead of Bush among registered voters but slightly behind among likely voters.

In each case, the difference between the two men was less than the margin of error, making the results a statistical tie.

Although the poll brought some good news for Kerry, it suggested that the convention helped mobilize voters on the opposite side as well.

Of the 1,011 adult Americans interviewed, 916 identified themselves as registered voters and 763 said they were likely voters.

The registered voters surveyed favored Kerry over Bush 50-47, a slight change from 49-45 found in a similar poll conducted two weeks ago.

The likely voters polled favored Bush 50-47, whereas two weeks earlier they had favored Kerry 49-47.

The margin of error in each case was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Further polls in the coming days will help determine what effect the convention may have had on the race.

The figures from this poll supported Democrats' statements leading up to the convention that Kerry would likely not see a "bounce," the term for a temporary increase in a candidate's support after a significant event. Democrats said the Kerry campaign was already riding a bounce going into the convention.

Kerry's campaign argued that challengers historically run behind incumbents by about 15 points heading into a convention. Instead, Kerry entered the convention already polling neck and neck with Bush.

Also, Kerry chose his running mate, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, earlier than any previous presidential hopeful, and received the bounce that usually accompanies that decision well in advance of the convention.

Bush campaign chairman Marc Racicot said the poll was "interesting to note, but it is just a snapshot."

"It's heartening, quite frankly, for this moment," he said on CNN's "Late Edition." "But by tomorrow, of course, we'll realize that anything can change from day to day and that we have to continue to work hard virtually every day."

The poll suggested the convention boosted Kerry's standing on several key measures -- but often not at Bush's expense.

Kerry's favorability rating edged up slightly, to 58 percent among registered voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. It was at 56 percent two weeks ago. But Bush's rating rose as well, to 52 percent from 51 percent, with the same margin of error.

Kerry appeared to gain slightly on the question of who is more honest and trustworthy, with 48 percent of all those interviewed choosing Kerry and 43 percent choosing Bush. Two weeks ago, they were tied at 42 percent each.

But 55 percent of all respondents said Bush does not flip-flop on issues, while only 33 percent said Kerry does not. And 51 percent said they consider Bush the stronger and more decisive leader. Only 42 percent said that of Kerry.

Kerry is far out in front of Bush on the question of who would unite the country. Fifty-two percent of all those interviewed said Kerry would, while only 39 percent said Bush would.

Fifty-one percent of all respondents said Kerry has an optimistic vision, while only 40 percent said Bush does. And 53 percent said Kerry cares about people like them, while only 38 percent said that about Bush.

Although some Republicans ridiculed Kerry for focusing so much on his military service during the convention, 42 percent of all respondents said that service makes it more likely they will vote for him. But 41 percent said it made no difference.

A majority of all those interviewed said they believe Kerry would handle the economy better. On that issue they favored Kerry over Bush 54-43.

On the Iraq issue, little significant change was apparent. Kerry edged out Bush on Iraq, 49-47, in the current poll. But two weeks ago Bush was ahead on the Iraq issue 49-44, and the results of both questions fell within the margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Kerry may have gained some ground on terrorism, but Bush remains the front-runner on that issue.

Two weeks ago, poll respondents said they preferred Bush to lead the war against terror 56-38. In the latest poll, they still favored the president 54-42.

The current poll suggested Democrat-leaning voters were more enthusiastic about the race, and therefore more likely to vote.

But enthusiasm among Democrats already was high, and the poll suggested the four-day Democratic convention energized Republicans as well.

Seventy-four percent of Democrats said they were more enthusiastic about voting than usual, up from 68 percent two weeks earlier.

Sixty-one percent of Republicans said they were now enthusiastic about the race, up from 51 percent.

And independent candidate Ralph Nader proves a continuing concern for Kerry.

When Nader was offered as an option, 3 percent of registered voters left Kerry's column to support the consumer advocate -- bringing Kerry down to a tie with Bush, 47-47. Two percent of likely voters chose Nader, increasing Bush's lead over Kerry to 50-46. Those results are all within the margin of error.

When all poll respondents were asked who they think will win the race, the result was a 47-47 tie between Bush and Kerry.


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