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Polls Show Close Presidential Race

The latest results from George Washington University’s Battleground 2004 Poll show Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., with a narrow lead over President George W. Bush. The survey of 1,000 likely voters showed 49 percent favor Kerry, while 47 percent prefer the president. The results, however, are within the poll’s 3 percent margin of error.

The GWU poll found 84 percent of the voters surveyed had definitely made up their minds about who to vote for. Of those “decided” voters, 43 percent said they would cast ballots for Kerry and 41 percent said they’re voting for President Bush.

The GWU poll also tested voters’ candidate preferences when it comes to handling specific issues. Those surveyed preferred the president by wide margins on the issues of Iraq (53 percent to 41 percent), taxes (53 percent to 37 percent) and terrorism (54 percent to 37 percent), while Kerry scored big with voters in the areas of prescription drugs (55 percent to 31 percent), education (49 percent to 43 percent), Social Security (51 percent to 37 percent) and jobs (51 percent to 40 percent).

Republican pollster Ed Goeas told GWU the race may come down to which party has the best organization and most energized voters.

“With 10 weeks remaining in the 2004 presidential election, the campaign remains an extremely tight and polarized race,” Goeas said. “The current political environment could make voter intensity and voter turnout the final determinants of which candidate will win on Election Day.”

Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said the results of the Battleground Poll spell trouble for the president.

“This is a serious situation for the Bush campaign,” Lake said. “He is currently trailing Kerry and at no point in any of our 2004 Battleground Polls has Bush broken 50 percent on the aided ballot.”

While the GWU poll may have given Democrats reason to cheer, another poll from the LA Times shows the president with a slight lead and indicates that recent attacks on Kerry may be eroding some of his support.

The Times survey of some 1,600 adults showed the president scoring 49 percent to Kerry’s 46 percent among the group’s 1352 registered voters.

The Times warned that these poll results are also within its 3 percent margin of error but the president’s lead “fit with other findings in the Times poll showing the electorate edging toward Bush over the past month on a broad range of measures, from support for his handling of Iraq to confidence in his leadership and honesty.”

The poll also showed the president receiving more crossover support. While 15 percent of Democrats surveyed said they would vote for President Bush, 3 percent of Republicans said they would vote for Kerry. The candidates drew an even number of independent voters.

The Times reported that recent attack ads by a Vietnam Veterans group, which say that Kerry lied about his actions in combat, seem to be having an effect on voters.

“Kerry suffered small but consistent erosion compared with July on questions relating to his Vietnam experience, his honesty and his fitness to serve as commander in chief,” the Times said.

The Times poll did not contain all good news for the president, however. The paper said a general mood of uneasiness afflicting the electorate and the generally volatile political climate could threaten the president’s slim lead.

“In the survey, a slight majority of voters said they believed the country was on the wrong track,” the Times reported. “A majority also said the country was not better off because of his policies and needed to set a new course. And 45 percent said they believed his policies had hurt rather than helped the economy.”

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