Garden State Tilts D:
Kerry Gains on National Security
After the first Presidential debate, Democratic nominee John Kerry leads President George Bush in the Garden State among likely voters by a margin of 49%-41%, according to the most recent Fairleigh Dickinson University poll. Eight percent say they are still undecided, and 2% report they will vote for a third party candidate. Four out of five likely voters say they watched the first presidential debate.
Even Republicans concede that George Bush did not win the recent debate. Forty-five percent of Republicans say Kerry did better in the debate; only 29% insist that Bush did better. A majority (53%) of independents agree that Kerry bested the President, while only 14% say Bush did better.
“The debate reintroduced Kerry in New Jersey, and he looked decidedly better to voters than the caricature of him painted by the Bush campaign over the past two months,” said Bruce Larson, professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University and survey analyst for PublicMind. “The debate gave undecideds and leaners a clear contrast of personalities and, in some cases, of policy. More voters now appear to see Kerry as a viable alternative to Bush.”
“Even among voters who say national security and the war on terror is the most important issue, Kerry was seen as better than Bush in the debate,” noted Larson. More voters chose national security and the war on terror over any other topic as the most important issue, ranking it by a two-to-one margin even over the economy: 44-21%. Among those who say national security is the most important issue, 56% say the challenger did better in the debate, while only 24% say that Bush did better.
Both candidates garnered 83% of their party’s support, but Kerry pulled ahead among independents, who now favor him by 46-25%. “Independents are volatile, and we call them ‘swing voters’ for good reason,” Larson said. Kerry’s numbers improved among both women and men, leading among women by 50-38% and among men by 49-45%.
A majority (56%) still think Bush will win the national election in November, but that is down from 66% who said so a week ago. “The debate may have diminished Republicans’ confidence somewhat,” added Larson, “just as it seems to have buoyed the hopes of Democrats.” Now, only 78% of Republicans are predicting a victory for Bush compared to 88% predicting victory before the debate. And where 49% of Democrats were predicting a Bush victory before the debate, now only 41% of Democrats think Bush will prevail nationally.
The PublicMind poll of 500 likely voters was conducted from Oct. 1 to Oct. 6 and has a margin of error of +/- 4.5 percentage points.
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