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Inside Politics

Poll puts Bush, Kerry about even

Results indicate gain for senator over last such survey

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CNN's Frank Buckley on a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.

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America Votes 2004

(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.

The latest poll talked with 1,012 adult Americans by telephone Friday through Sunday, after the presidential debate Thursday.

Among those interviewed, 934 said they were registered voters and 772 indicated they were likely to vote.

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

Other polls conducted after the debate also showed Kerry in a virtual tie with Bush. (Polls: Kerry won debate)

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).

"So the pressure is on Kerry to meet expectations. And let's not forget the good news for the White House in this poll: Bush is still seen as a stronger leader who would better deal with Iraq and terrorism," Holland said.

Bush's numbers on the Iraq and terrorism, however, have fallen since the previous poll.

He leads Kerry 51 percent to 44 percent on the question of who would do a better job in Iraq.

That was down from 55 percent for Bush in the previous poll and up from 41 percent for Kerry.

On who would do a better job against terrorism, Bush had 56 percent to Kerry's 39 percent.

The figures in the previous poll were 61 percent for Bush to 34 percent for Kerry.

The results on each question had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Voters were split between the two candidates on poll questions about personal qualities, and they picked Bush as a stronger leader by a large margin.

On the question of who is better at expressing himself, Kerry outpolled Bush 54 percent to 41 percent.

On who cares more about people, Kerry had 49 percent and Bush 44 percent. On the question of who is more intelligent, Kerry led Bush 48 percent to 38 percent.

On who is more honest and trustworthy, however, Bush trumped Kerry by 46 percent to 41 percent, and when asked who among the two candidates shares their values, voters chose Bush 49 percent to 45 percent for Kerry.

And when it comes to who they think is the stronger leader, those polled favored Bush by 56 percent to 37 percent for Kerry.

Again, the results on each question had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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