President George W. Bush maintains a clear lead over Democrat John F. Kerry and continues to be perceived by most voters as the candidate best able to deal with Iraq and the war on terrorism, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Bush currently receives 51 percent among likely voters while Kerry gets 45 percent and independent Ralph Nader receives 1 percent. Among all registered voters, Bush holds a seven-point advantage.
By healthy margins, Bush continues to be seen as the stronger leader and better able than Kerry to keep the United States secure from terrorist attacks. On virtually every other issue and measure of character, Bush holds the advantage over his rival among registered voters -- findings that underscore the importance of the upcoming presidential debates to the Kerry campaign.
Kerry continues to be viewed unfavorably by a plurality of voters. Fewer than four in 10 voters -- 37 percent -- say they have a positive impression of him, while 42 percent have an unfavorable impression of him. That finding suggests more people intend to vote for him than personally like him and highlights the fact that Kerry continues to be buoyed by a strong anti-Bush vote despite broad reservations about him.
In a survey that offered generally good news to Bush and the Republicans, there were some troubling notes. A majority of voters -- 55 percent -- say they worry that Bush is too reckless in making policy decisions. And once again, fewer than half of all voters say the war in Iraq was worth the cost, a clear signal that events in Iraq, perhaps even more than events on the campaign trail, ultimately may decide this election.
Bush's job approval rating stands at 52 percent among all voters, unchanged from earlier this month. Fewer than half of all voters approve of the way he is handling the situation in Iraq or the way he is dealing with the nation's sluggish economy. Despite those lukewarm performance ratings, more voters say they trust Bush more than Kerry to deal with these two high-profile issues.
A total of 1,204 randomly selected adults nationwide, including 969 self-identified registered voters and 810 likely voters were interviewed September 23-26. Margin of sampling error was about plus or minus 3 percentage points for both likely and registered voters.
The survey suggests that Bush leads among men and has a narrow advantage among women. Among all registered voters, just over half of all men -- 53 percent -- currently support the president while 41 percent back Kerry. But among women, Bush holds a 49 percent to 46 percent advantage. In 2000, Al Gore beat Bush by 11 percentage points among women but lost by 11 points among men.
The survey also found that married women with children -- the so-called "security moms" -- are worried about the same issues that concern other voters this election year. In fact, these women were no more likely than other voters to name the war on terrorism or Iraq as their top voting issue.
According to the poll, about one in four married women with children -- 24 percent -- rated the war on terrorism as their major concern. That's virtually the same as the proportion of married men and only slightly higher than the 21 percent of all voters who made terrorism their top voting concern. One in five -- 20 percent -- of all married women with children named Iraq as their major concern; overall, 19 percent said Iraq was their top voting concern.