Iraq Hurts Bush: Nader Hurts Kerry

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There is growing concern among New Jersey voters about the war in Iraq, even if the president's support remains steady. According to the most recent Fairleigh Dickinson University poll, the percentage of those who say the "United States did the right thing in going to war with Iraq" has decreased to 47% from 55% in January and from a high of 67% a year ago. Similarly, the percentage of those who think the U.S. military effort in Iraq is going "very well" or "fairly well" has declined since January by 14 points. Now, 55% say the effort is going very or fairly well as compared to 69% just three months ago.

The percentage of voters who think the country is on the "wrong track" has increased to 48% from 38% three months ago. To complete the reversal, only 38% of New Jersey voters say the country is "moving in the right direction," down from 47% in January. The president's job rating has also suffered as the percentage of voters rating the president's performance as "only fair" or "poor" has increased to 56% from 47%. These changes can be seen among Democrats, Independents and Republicans alike.

"Peace and prosperity are the two broad issues on which incumbent presidents are typically judged," said Bruce Larson, professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University and survey analyst for PublicMind. "It's far too early to see exactly how events in Iraq will affect the president in November's election, but it's clear the public is more deeply concerned after some difficult weeks in Iraq."

The president's support among voters is not suffering badly yet. As in many national polls, Bush and Kerry are running closely, with Bush getting 40% of the vote and Kerry 41%. When "leaners" are included, Kerry leads Bush within the poll's margin of error by 48-47%. But when Ralph Nader is also included in the question, the 5% he draws is enough to put Kerry behind Bush by 44%-48%. National polls show that Nader is drawing between 2% and 6% of the vote nationwide.

"It's still early in the election season," cautioned Larson. "With 7 months to go before the election, and not having chosen his running mate yet, Kerry is still undefined as a clear alternative to Bush. The economy, the war in Iraq, the 9/11 Commission Report due out in July, and the campaign itself all have the potential to shape the election-day outcome in New Jersey."

The PublicMind poll of 802 registered voters was conducted from April 3 through April 10 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

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Copyright © 2004, Fairleigh Dickinson University. All rights reserved. FDU PublicMind Poll [Latest update 040413]