The new Time poll, conducted October 14-15, has the race tied 46-46 in a 2-way RV matchup. That’s pretty bad for an incumbent seeking re-election, but the rest of the poll has even worse news.
Start with the debates. The poll confirms that voters see Kerry as the winner of the final debate (37-28), though not by the crushing margin of the first debate (59-23). But when asked to consider all three presidential debates, voters do indeed see Kerry as the victor by a crushing margin, 57-27.
Moreover, voters give Kerry very high marks on specific aspects of the last debate, despite the fact that they were less likely to see him as the overall winner. This presumably reflects the extent to which (positive) impressions of Kerry are settling in voters’ minds.
For example, by 49-40 voters thought Kerry, rather than Bush, had the best understanding of the issues. That’s actually better than after the first debate, when voters saw the candidates tied on this attribute.
And then there’s this one: on who “took positions on issues that are closer to your own”, voters gave Kerry a wide 54-39 margin after the last debate, compared to 48-42 after the first debate.
And how about this one: after the first debate, voters gave Bush a slight one point edge on who seemed more presidential; after the last debate, voters gave Kerry the edge, 49-44.
On which candidate can be trusted more on different issues and in different areas, the poll finds little change from their post-first debate poll. Kerry’s gains after that debate have apparently stabilized.
Here are some of these gains, as summarized in the SRBI release on the poll:
Handling of the economy: Kerry has opened a 6 point lead over Bush, 49% – 43%. Just before the first debate, the candidates were even, 44% for each.
Health care: Kerry has widened his lead to 13 points, 51%-38%. Before the debates, Kerry had an 8 point edge.
Understanding people’s needs: Kerry is up by 7 points, 49% – 42%. Before the debates, he was up by just 4 points.
Commander-in-Chief: Bush is ahead by 10 points, 51%-41%, but this has narrowed from a 16 point advantage before the debates.
Providing leadership in difficult times: Bush leads by 8 points, 52%-40%. Before the debates, he dominated by as much as 21 points.
War on terrorism: Bush tops Kerry 51%-40%, after leading Kerry by as much as 18 points before the debates.
The poll also asked about some of the specific issues Kerry and Bush differed on in the last debate.
Assault weapons. By 73-22, voters favor the ban on assault weapons; by 49-8 they feel gun control laws should be more strict, not less strict; and by 41-40 they say Kerry is closer to their position on gun control than Bush.
Embryonic stem cell research: By 69-22 voter favor using discarded embryos to conduct stem cell research; by 49-34 they say Kerry is closer to their position on this issue than Bush.
Abortion. Voters say by 45-40 that Kerry is closer to their position than Bush on this issue.
Gay rights. Voters say by 44-41 that Kerry is closer to their position than Bush on this issue; by 54-41 they oppose amending the US constitution to ban same-sex couples from marrying.
Supreme Court appointments. By 43-38, voters say the issue of Supreme Court appointments makes them more likely to vote for Kerry rather than Bush.