Bush Up 7 Points in Latest Gallup Poll

The story:

Bush Gets Small Convention Bounce, Leads Kerry by Seven (Jeffrey M. Jones, Gallup)

The CNN/USA Today/Gallup post-Republican convention poll — the first national poll conducted entirely after the completion of that convention — shows George W. Bush getting a small increase in voter support. Bush’s share of the vote among likely voters increased two percentage points, from 50% to 52%, while Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry’s share dropped by an equal amount, in the two-way race. Bush now leads Kerry by 52% to 45% among likely voters, compared with a 50% to 47% lead for Bush prior to the convention. Bush maintains that same 52% to 45% margin when independent candidate Ralph Nader, who receives 1% support among likely voters, is included in the ballot question.

Notably, this is the first time Bush has had a lead over Kerry beyond the poll’s margin of error since Kerry’s surprise victory in the Iowa caucuses propelled him to his party’s nomination.

Pretty succinct and straightforward. While not the 11 point lead that the Time and Newsweek “registered voter” or registered/likely blend polls show, 7 points among likely voters is huge.

The spin:

Bush leads Kerry by 7 points (Susan Page, USA TODAY)

President Bush widened his lead over John Kerry after a combative Republican National Convention reinforced questions about the Democratic candidate’s leadership, especially on terrorism. (Related link: Poll results)

As the campaign enters its last eight weeks, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday shows Bush at 52%, Kerry at 45% and independent candidate Ralph Nader at 1% among likely voters. Before the convention, Bush led Kerry by 2 percentage points. Among registered voters, Bush was at 48%, Kerry at 46% and Nader at 4% in the first nationwide post-convention poll. Bush’s lead remains within the survey’s error margin at Labor Day, the traditional start of the campaign’s homestretch.

By historical standards, the race is too close to call. But the New York convention altered the political landscape and attitudes toward the candidates in ways helpful to Republicans. Views of whether Bush has the personality and leadership qualities to be president improved by 6 points; those of Kerry declined by 14 points.

And the importance of terrorism — the issue on which Bush has his biggest advantage — surged. Voters now say terrorism is as important as the economy in determining their vote. Bush is preferred by 27 points over Kerry in handling terrorism, up from a 10-point edge last month.

Certainly, the race is “too close to call.” The election is nearly two months away. But this lead is much bigger than the experts had predicted. And harping on the much less useful “registered voter” numbers when one has a sample of “likely voters” is disengenous.

Poll: Bush apparently gets modest bounce (CNN)

Last week’s GOP convention in New York City appears to have given President Bush a modest bounce and a small lead among likely voters, according to a poll released Monday. The CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of 1,018 adult Americans, including 778 likely voters and 926 registered voters, was conducted by telephone September 3-5. Bush’s convention bounce appeared to be 2 percentage points. The percentage of likely voters who said he was their choice for president rose from 50 right before the convention to 52 immediately afterward. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic nominee, was the choice of 45 percent of the likely voters interviewed in the most recent poll. He had 47 percent in the poll taken August 23-25. Among registered voters in the most recent poll, Bush and Kerry were about even — 49 percent to 48 percent respectively — with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Incumbents have gotten an average bounce of slightly more than 6 points in previous elections, so Bush’s apparent bounce seems small by historical standards. Kerry got no bounce coming out of the Democratic convention, making Bush’s movement appear robust. Still, the 2 percentage point bounce could be illusory, since the poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Considering that Kerry got a negative one point “bounce” from his convention and that this race has been essentially tied for months, it’s just bizarre to read this result–taken in conjunction with similar numbers in all the other polls–as anything but significant.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.