Bush improved his standing in all regions except the West. The president has erased a 25-point deficit to pull nearly even to Kerry in the East. And in the South, where the race was deadlocked in early August, Bush leads by 19 points.
Bush also has consolidated his standing with conservatives in the past month, claiming 78 percent of their vote, up nine points since early August. The incumbent's gains have come roughly equally from battleground and non-swing states, the poll found.
_____Bush and War_____
Poll Analysis: Mounting deaths in Iraq have not resulted in major backlash in public opinion.
Friday, 2 p.m. ET: Senior polling analyst Christopher Muste and polling editor Richard Morin on the latest poll.
The survey also found that opposition to the war in Iraq has moderated somewhat. Less than half -- 45 percent -- say the war was not worth fighting, the lowest that figure has been since March. The proportion saying the United States is bogged in Iraq stands at 54 percent, down 11 percentage points since May.
Slightly more than half -- 52 percent -- said they are confident that the federal government can prevent terrorist attacks, up from one year ago and the best showing since March 2002.
The month-long lull in the Kerry campaign plus problems in its handling of questions on Iraq and his service record have dismayed some Democrats. Two in three voters said Bush has run a good or excellent campaign, but barely half -- 52 percent -- of all voters make the same judgment about Kerry's campaign.
"I feel uncomfortable because he doesn't seem to be trying very hard, like he's given up already," said Kathleen Grant, 66, of West Des Moines, Iowa, a Kerry supporter. "I feel he should be really strongly plugging the issues and making strong statements. They say he's been flip-flopping. I have been seeing him on vacation, playing football and other things, but time is running down. I don't think he's being very forceful."
Democrats had hoped that their convention in Boston would introduce Kerry to voters and give them ample reasons to support him. But the survey suggests that those efforts did not succeed. A majority of those voting for Kerry -- 55 percent -- still say they are voting against Bush, not for Kerry. Barely four in 10 said their vote was more for Kerry than against Bush -- a percentage that has changed little since March.
"I'm more anti-Bush," said David Kolker, 37, of Creve Coeur, a suburb of St. Louis. "I really don't think Kerry has a chance -- he has not really taken a stance as far as defending himself against Bush."
In contrast, more than eight in 10 Bush voters say they are casting their vote for Bush and not mainly because of concerns over Kerry. And nine in 10 say they strongly support the president.
"I'm pro-Bush all the way," said Vicki DeScalfani, 57, of Boise, Idaho. But she does have reservations about Iraq. ". . . I think the war on Iraq was wrong. . . . I want to ask Bush what his thinking was."
A total of 1,202 randomly selected adults, including 952 self-described registered voters and 788 likely voters were interviewed by telephone Sept. 6-8. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points for the results based on the sample of likely voters and slightly smaller for results based on the entire sample.
Senior polling analyst Christopher Muste contributed to this report.