Time Poll: Bush 52, Kerry 41

Campaign 2004: Bush Opens Double-Digit Lead (TIME)

New York: For the first time since the Presidential race became a two person contest last spring, there is a clear leader, the latest TIME poll shows. If the 2004 election for President were held today, 52% of likely voters surveyed would vote for President George W. Bush, 41% would vote for Democratic nominee John Kerry, and 3% would vote for Ralph Nader, according to a new TIME poll conducted from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2. Poll results are available on TIME.com and will appear in the upcoming issue of TIME magazine, on newsstands Monday, Sept. 6.

Most important issues: When asked what they consider are the most important issues, 25% of registered voters cited the economy as the top issue, followed by 24% who cited the war on terrorism as the top issue. The situation in Iraq was rated the top issue by 17% of registered voters, moral values issues such as gay marriage and abortion were the top issue for 16% of respondents, and health care was the most important issue for 11% of respondents.

Bush vs. Kerry:
The economy: 47% trust President Bush more to handle the economy, while 45% trust Kerry.

Health care: 48% trust Senator Kerry to handle health care issues, while 42% trust Bush.

Iraq: 53% trust Bush to handle the situation in Iraq, while 41% trust Kerry.

Terrorism: 57% trust Bush to handle the war on terrorism, while 36% trust Kerry.

Understanding the needs of people: 47% said they trust Kerry to understand the needs of people like themselves, while 44% trusted Bush to understand their needs.

Providing strong leadership: 56% said they trust Bush to provide strong leadership in difficult times, while 37% said they trust Kerry to provide leadership in difficult times.

Tax policy: 49% trust Bush to handle tax policy, while 40% trust Kerry.

Commanding the Armed Forces: 54% said they trust Bush to be commander-in-chief of the armed forces, while 39% said they trust Kerry.

Bush on the Issues:
Iraq: Half (50%) of those surveyed approve of the way President Bush is handling the situation in Iraq, while 46% disapprove. In last week̢۪s TIME poll, 48% approved of the way Bush was handling the situation in Iraq and 48% disapproved.

Terrorism: Almost two thirds (59%) said they approve of how President Bush is handling the war on terrorism, while 38% disapprove. Last week̢۪s TIME poll found 55% approved of Bush̢۪s handling of the war on terrorism, while 40% disapproved.

The Economy: Survey respondents were split on the President̢۪s handling of the economy. Almost half (48%) said the approved of Bush̢۪s handling of the economy, while 48% said the disapproved.

Other results include:
Was U.S. Right Going to War with Iraq? Over half of those surveyed (52%) think the U.S. was right in going to war with Iraq, while 41% think the U.S. was wrong to go to war.

Have the United States’ actions in Iraq made the world safer? Almost half (45%) think the United States’ actions in Iraq have made the world safer, while 45% think the world is more dangerous. In a similar TIME poll taken Aug. 3 — 5, over half (52%) said the world was more dangerous, and 38% said the world was safer.

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Methodology: The TIME Poll was conducted August 31 — September 2 by telephone among a random sample of 1,316 adults, including 1,128 reported registered voters and 926 likely voters. The margin of error for registered voters is +/- 3% points, and +/- 4% points for likely voters. Schulman, Ronca, & Bucuvalas (SRBI) Public Affairs conducted the poll, and more complete results are attached.

Link via InstaPundit. Hat tip: Command Post.

Wow. This is just one poll and it could be an outlier. But, if this is anywhere close to being indicative of the impact of the convention, it is truly stunning. The previous TIME poll had Bush 46, Kerry 44, and Nader 5.

I highlighted some of the more staggering results in boldface above. Given the constant negative drumbeat on the economy by both the Kerry campaign and the press and the fact that the Bush campaign really hasn’t done much to combat it, it’s stunning that Bush is leading on that one. And the lead that Bush long enjoyed on security issues that collapsed after the Democratic convention has blown back wide open. It looks like the hammering on Kerry’s voting record paid off.

Of course, the state-by-state numbers are what’s ultimately important. Usually, though, the tracking between the national numbers and those of the “swing states” is pretty consistent. We’ll soon see.

Two things strike me about the poll’s methodology. First, presuming even questioning each night, much of the sampling took place on Monday and Tuesday, before the convention had its full impact. Remember, the big Monday night performances by John McCain and Rudi Giuliani weren’t broadcast by the networks. Second, while it’s a large sample, there are too many “registered” voters and too few “likely” ones for my taste. The sample is described as “random.” One presumes it is also stratified but it’s not so stated.

UPDATE (9/4) – It’s not an outlier: Newsweek: Bush 54, Kerry 43

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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 and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.