Bush Rebounds on Terrorism
By Richard Morin and Claudia Deane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, July 13, 2004; 12:49 PM
Also in this column:
• John Edwards and Women
• Poll Vault: Two-thirds Support Topless Bathing
Despite growing fears that the United States is losing the war on terrorism, President Bush has reclaimed the advantage over his Democratic challenger John F. Kerry as the presidential candidate best able to deal with the international terrorist threat, according to the latest Washington Post poll.
The survey found that 55 percent of all Americans currently approve of the way Bush is handling the campaign against terrorism, up 5 points in the past three weeks. Slightly more than half -- 51 percent -- also said they trust Bush more than Kerry to deal with terrorism, while 42 percent prefer the Democrat. Three weeks ago, the two were tied on this crucial voting issue, which ranks with the economy and the situation in Iraq as top concerns this presidential election.
But other results were less favorable for the president and underscored the growing unease with the war in Iraq and the current state of the U.S.-led international war on terrorism.
For the first time in Post polls this year, fewer than half of the country -- 46 percent -- say the United States is winning the war on terrorism, down eight points since April. Thirty-eight percent say the United States is losing the terrorism fight, a new high in Post surveys and up 11 points since March.
At the same time, the proportion of the public who say the war with Iraq was not worth fighting has grown to 53 percent, a record high, while 45 percent say it was worth it. Still, a 53-percent majority say the conflict with Iraq has contributed to the long-term security of the United States.
A total of 850 randomly selected adults were interviewed July 8-11 for this survey. Margin of sampling error for the overall results is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Overall, more Americans disapprove of the job Bush is doing as president (50 percent) than approve (48 percent) of his performance, unchanged from last month.
The survey also found that Kerry's decision to select North Carolina Sen. John Edwards as his running mate did little to change the overall character of the presidential race. While the Edwards selection was greeted warmly by many voters, particularly Democrats, Kerry and Bush remain in a tight battle for the presidency with each candidate claiming 46 percent of the hypothetical vote of registered voters. In June, the Massachusetts senator led Bush 48 percent to 44 percent.
Nearly half of voters -- 47 percent -- said Edwards's selection made them feel more favorable toward Kerry while 22 percent said they were less favorably inclined and 26 percent said there was no difference. That's a slightly less positive reaction than the one that greeted the announcement by Bush four years ago that Dick Cheney would be his running mate or the initial reaction to Vice President Al Gore's selection of Connecticut Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman.
On several key measures, Kerry has improved his standing with voters in recent weeks while Bush's image has eroded.
Eight in 10 Kerry supporters -- 79 percent -- say they'll "definitely" vote for him in November, up from 72 percent barely three weeks ago and a sign that many Democrats appeared to have been reassured by Edwards. Seventy-six percent of Bush's supporters are firmly behind their candidate, roughly the same as last month.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company