NYT Poll: Bush 50, Kerry 42

Bush Opens Lead Despite Unease Voiced in Survey [RSS] (ADAM NAGOURNEY and JANET ELDER, NYT)

Senator John Kerry faces substantial obstacles in his bid to unseat President Bush, with voters saying he has not laid out a case for why he wants to be president and expressing strong concern about his ability to manage an international crisis, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll. Less than seven weeks before Election Day, Americans continue to think that the nation is heading in the wrong direction and are distressed about how Mr. Bush has handled the economy. Yet the president, apparently lifted as much by what Mr. Kerry has done wrong as by what Mr. Bush has done right in the campaign, has an eight-point lead among registered voters, the poll found.

In one particularly troublesome sign for Mr. Kerry, a majority of voters said he was spending too much time attacking Mr. Bush and talking about the past, rather than explaining what he would do as president. In contrast, half of the registered voters said Mr. Bush had offered a clear vision of what he wanted to do in a second term. That finding, combined with an rising unfavorable view of Mr. Kerry, underlines the complicated challenge the senator confronts as he tries to attack Mr. Bush without alienating voters put off by negative campaigning.

Mr. Kerry’s problems have apparently been deepened by the relentless attacks on his Vietnam War record by a group of Vietnam veterans supported by backers of Mr. Bush. Three-quarters of respondents said they were aware of the advertisements produced by the group, many of which involved accusations unsupported by official records; of those, 33 percent called the accusations “mostly true.” More than 60 percent of respondents said Mr. Kerry was either “hiding something” or “mostly lying” in discussing his service in Vietnam. At the same time, 71 percent said that Mr. Bush was “hiding something” or “mostly lying” about his Vietnam era service in the National Guard, which has been the subject of questions about how he got a coveted out-of-combat assignment, and whether he fulfilled the required service. Sixty percent of respondents said they did not have confidence in Mr. Kerry to deal wisely with an international crisis; that is a jump from 52 percent in June. By contrast, 48 percent said they were uneasy with Mr. Bush’s ability to manage a foreign crisis.

For all of that, there are signs that the election remains competitive, and that the upcoming debates could prove pivotal to Mr. Kerry’s hopes. Respondents said they were unhappy with Mr. Bush’s handling of the economy and of Iraq, and said his policies had increased the cost of prescription drugs and decreased the number of jobs. About 80 percent of respondents said that Mr. Bush was either “hiding something” or “mostly lying” in talking about the war in Iraq. A plurality of voters disapproved of how he had managed the war. But the disapproval was not as sharp as it was before the handover of power to an Iraqi government in June, even though Mr. Kerry has turned up his attacks on Mr. Bush’s handling of the war and the American death toll recently passed 1,000.

The reporting of this is, to say the least, bizarre. It’s a poll NYT commissioned themselves. It shows a substantial lead for President Bush. This finding squares with most other major polls, so there’s no reason to suspect it’s an outlier. Yet the headline emphasizes the negative, essentially saying “We can’t believe Bush is leading.” Furthermore, the actual result of the poll–an eight point Bush lead–is buried in paragraph fourteen!

Of course, this is a New York Times-CBS News poll. Too bad Pravda is ailing financially, or we could have had a trifecta.

Update: Oddly, the CBS report of this has it Bush 50, Kerry 41.

Poll: Bush Opens Lead Over Kerry (CBS News)

The contest between President George W. Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry looks much as it did in a CBS News Poll conducted last week, after the Republican convention. Bush̢۪s post-convention bounce remains intact, if even slightly larger in this poll; Bush now leads Kerry 50 percent to 41 percent among registered voters, giving the President a 9-point margin.

CBS is emphasizing the “likely” voter sample whereas NYT is emphasizing the “registered” voter sample, thus the slight difference.

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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. Fred Boness says:

    The Pravda report is easy: In this close two man race, Kerry is second and Bush a disappointing next to last.

    That’s a very old joke.

  2. McGehee says:

    Old, but still funny. Otherwise it wouldn’t still be around.

  3. Ric Locke says:

    We aren’t giving enough credit to the Newsweek guy who commented some time ago about the MSM being on Kerry’s side. He predicted that it made a “ten or fifteen point” difference.

    Now that Rathergate is occupying their tiny minds and other info can slip around the screens, perhaps we’re seeing that in action. A fifteen point boost from the media would mean that an “even” result reflects an underlying actuality of Bush 55, Kerry 40, Nader and others 5. Pretty close to the present numbers.

    Ric Locke