Newsweek Poll: Kerry 47, Bush 45

The Newsweek poll, which has rather consistently overpolled Democrats as compared to the other major polls, shows Kerry having erased his deficit in the first post-debate poll.

The Race is On (Newsweek)

With a solid majority of voters concluding that John Kerry outperformed George W. Bush in the first presidential debate on Thursday, the president̢۪s lead in the race for the White House has vanished, according to the latest NEWSWEEK poll. In the first national telephone poll using a fresh sample, NEWSWEEK found the race now statistically tied among all registered voters, 47 percent of whom say they would vote for Kerry and 45 percent for George W. Bush in a three-way race.

Removing Independent candidate Ralph Nader, who draws 2 percent of the vote, widens the Kerry-Edwards lead to three points with 49 percent of the vote versus the incumbent̢۪s 46 percent. Four weeks ago the Republican ticket, coming out of a successful convention in New York, enjoyed an 11-point lead over Kerry-Edwards with Bush pulling 52 percent of the vote and the challenger just 41 percent.

Among the three-quarters (74 percent) of registered voters who say they watched at least some of Thursday’s debate, 61 percent see Kerry as the clear winner, 19 percent pick Bush as the victor and 16 percent call it a draw. After weeks of being portrayed as a verbose “flip-flopper†by Republicans, Kerry did better than a majority (56 percent) had expected. Only about 11 percent would say the same for the president’s performance while more than one-third (38 percent) said the incumbent actually did worse that they had expected. Thirty-nine percent of Republicans felt their man out-debated the challenger but a full third (33 percent) say they felt Kerry won.

Meanwhile, the latest LA Times poll shows that most believe Kery won the debate but little change in voter preference.

Viewers Give Round 1 to Kerry (Ronald Brownstein and Kathleen Hennessey)

Sen. John F. Kerry improved his image with voters who watched his debate with President Bush last week, but didn’t significantly shift their choice in the presidential race, a Times poll of debate viewers has found. Although the debate did not diminish impressions of Bush on most questions, it did restore some of the luster Kerry had lost amid relentless Republican pounding since his party’s convention in July, the poll found. The key question will be whether those gains will help Kerry peel away voters from Bush in the days ahead.

Of those who watched Thursday’s debate, more than three times as many called Kerry the winner as picked Bush, the poll found. The Democratic nominee also made modest gains with viewers on questions relating to national security and leadership. And the portion of debate viewers with favorable perceptions of Kerry increased from 52% before to 57% after. Kerry’s most dramatic advance in the survey came in convincing more voters that he had a thorough agenda for the next four years. Asked which candidate had the more detailed plan for the policies he would pursue if elected, viewers gave Bush a 9-percentage-point edge before the encounter; afterward, they preferred Kerry by 4 points.


Among those who watched, Bush’s approval rating after the debate was unchanged from before, with 49% approving and 50% disapproving. Bush’s favorability rating among debate viewers improved slightly (though within the survey’s margin of error). Before the debate, 51% of the watchers viewed Bush favorably and 49% viewed him unfavorably; afterward, the numbers were 52% and 47%. Kerry made bigger gains among viewers. On the most basic measure, the share of viewers with a favorable impression of him rose from 52% before the debate to 57% after; the share with an unfavorable impression dropped from 46% to 41%.

Interesting. Presuming the Newsweek poll is an outlier–a reasonable assumption given its history and what we’ve seen in other polls so far–this would seem to support the conventional wisdom that there are very few undecided voters. And, as is usually the case, most people watching the debate already have their minds made up.

Update (2048): Or maybe not.

Poll puts Bush, Kerry about even (CNN)

President Bush and his Democratic challenger, Sen. John Kerry, are about even among likely and registered voters in the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, released Sunday. The poll showed Kerry and Bush tied at 49 percent each among likely voters interviewed. Among registered voters Bush had 49 percent and Kerry 47 percent. Independent candidate Ralph Nader was favored by 1 percent in each group. The margin of error in each case was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

By contrast, Bush was ahead of Kerry among likely voters 52 percent to 44 percent in the Gallup poll conducted September 24-26. Among registered voters in that poll, the spread was 53 percent for Bush and 42 percent for Kerry. Nader had 3 percent among each group.


“It’s obvious that the debate helped Kerry. What’s less obvious is how,” CNN polling director Keating Holland said.


On the issue of the economy, the poll showed all voters favoring Kerry 51 percent to Bush’s 44 percent, almost exactly the opposite of what the September 24-26 poll indicated — Bush with 51 percent and Kerry with 45 percent. Holland said that was good news for Kerry going into the second and third debates, in which domestic issues will be highlighted. But Holland said the expectations game has shifted — a plurality says that Kerry will do the better job in the second debate (before the first debate, most Americans thought Bush would win).


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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.


  1. Bill K says:

    What’s strange James is that you point out that Newsweek overpolls Democrats with no proof yet ignore the blatant evidence of Gallups recent overpolling of Republicans.

  2. McGehee says:

    The Rasmussen polls show Bush’s lead holding steady, from what I hear. And the after-the-debate portion of the sample felt that it was more important to finish the job in Iraq, however long that takes, than to get our troops home ASAP.

    Doesn’t look to me like a “Kerry won the debate” scenario after all.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Bill: We’re not talking about Gallup here. There are some obvious problems with their “likely voter” screen, although their recent numbers have been in accord with other polls.

    Kevin: The internals seem all over the placeon many of these questions. And Rasmussen appears to be an outlier on the overall numbers.

  4. Newsweek previously had a poll which had the President 11% ahead. Comparing that poll with this one, you will see that the D/R/I percentage for each candidate is within 1% between the two. However, the percentage of respondants was R-biased in the previous poll and D-biased in this one. By simply changing the respondants, you can do a 10-point shift.

  5. dw says:

    If Newsweek has a Dem slant, and Kerry did a lot better in those polls, then it seems to confirm a conjecture I had about the debates: It won’t move the independent numbers that much, but it will galvanize a wavering Dem base. All a sudden, you’re not hearing the “it’s already over” talk out of the left, and I think that this poll could be capturing that mood swing. And swing means momentum, and momentum moves the middle….

    James, you go to the Newseum site today and looked at the feature articles all over the covers (as discussed last week)?

  6. James Joyner says:

    dw: The Newseum thing is virtually useless since it’s not searchable. Looking at papers from Peoria really doesn’t tell me anything, since local papers are usually rather tabloidish. Major national papers usually aren’t.

    NYT has nothing but “real” news stories above the fold on page 1, though. I couldn’t find LA Times. Boston Globe had “real” stories, although local ones. WaPo had another installment of the gay teens thing (I get the hard copy so saw it.)