Democratic candidate John Kerry leads President Bush 51 percent to 44 percent among American voters in a two-way race for president, according to a Los Angeles Times poll published Thursday.
Kerry’s margin of 7 percentage points shrinks only slightly to 6 percentage points, 48-42, in a three-way race with independent candidate Ralph Nader getting 4 percentage points, poll results show.
The Times said that "widespread unease over the country's direction and doubts about President Bush's policies on Iraq" by voters are behind Kerry's good showing and the poll suggests "that attitudes may be coalescing for a contest that pivots on the classic electoral question at times of discontent: Will voters see more risk in stability or change?"
Bush campaign officials blasted the poll as "a mess."
"Bush is leading independents by three, ahead among Republicans by a larger margin than Kerry is ahead among Dems, and we are down by seven. Outrageous," senior adviser Matthew Dowd told NBC News in an e-mail.
"And it gets worse," Dowd continued. "They have Dems leading generic congressional ballot by 19. This means this poll is too Democratic by 10 to 12 points. Apparently the Los Angeles Times has uncovered a Democratic revolution in this country that has happened in the last 10 days."
Indeed, more than a third of those surveyed said they don’t know enough about Kerry to decide whether he will make a better president than Bush. Asked who is more likely to flip-flop on issues, they chose Kerry by 2-1.
Bush 'too ideological'
But by 56 percent to 16 percent, voters felt that Bush was “too ideological and stubborn.” They gave Kerry better marks for ideas for strengthening the economy, building respect for the U.S. around the world, and handling the problems of cost and access to health care.
Other recent polls have returned varied results on the presidential contest. A May survey by the Pew Research Center gave Kerry a 50-45 lead over Bush in a two-way race with a 2.5-point margin of error. Kerry's lead narrowed to 46-43 when Nader was included. In the most recent poll done for NBC, also in May, Bush edged Kerry by 46 percent to 42 percent.
The nature of presidential elections, which are conducted on a state-by-state basis for electoral votes, means that results of national surveys aren't necessarily indicative of an actual lead in the race.
In fact, Times polling in three battleground states found that Bush was leading Kerry in Missouri and even with the Democrat in Ohio and Wisconsin.
The Times telephone poll surveyed 1,230 registered voters nationwide from Saturday to Tuesday. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.