The Vice Squad
may win in a popularity contest against Dick Cheney, but the two campaigns are tied as Bush’s approval ratings climb back up
By Brian Braiker
Updated: 1:44 p.m. ET July 10, 2004July 10 - Although the John Kerry
campaign enjoyed a rush of positive media coverage after announcing that John Edwards would be the Democratic candidate’s running mate, it is still locked in a dead heat with the Republican ticket, according to the first NEWSWEEK poll conducted since Edwards was tapped. Nearly 70 percent of all voters believe the selection of Edwards won’t make much difference in the outcome of the election, according to the poll. The survey also found that more voters think President George W. Bush will be re-elected than think Kerry will take the White House.
Still, the poll suggests that most voters view Edwards as charismatic and caring, while far fewer people find Vice President Dick Cheney “personally likeable.” The poll results suggest that the president, whose approval ratings are back up after hitting an all-time low in May, may have an easier time getting re-elected if someone else were to fill the veep slot.
The Massachusetts senator announced his selection of the populist former trial lawyer to a crowd of supporters in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. "I trust that met with your approval," Kerry deadpanned to the cheering throng. But, days later, the Kerry-Edwards ticket leads the Bush-Cheney ticket by a statistically insignificant margin—47 percent to 44 percent—among registered voters nationwide. Independent candidate Ralph Nader draws just 3 percent of the country’s support while 6 percent remain undecided. But when Nader is removed from the race, the poll finds that the Kerry-Edwards expanding to a statistically significant six points—51 percent to 45 percent. This suggests that Nader could affect the outcome of election if he is on the ballot in all 50 states.
Does the addition of Edwards to the ticket make you more likely to vote for Kerry? Take our poll.
The selection of the charming and popular Edwards to his ticket has garnered generally positive marks for Kerry, with 21 percent of all voters saying his addition to the Democratic ticket makes them more likely to vote for the Democrats. Still, the bounce for the Kerry campaign was small: the spread was one point in May (42 percent voting for the incumbent versus 43 percent for Kerry) to three points in the days following the announcement. Eight percent of all voters say the selection of Edwards makes them less likely to vote for the Democratic ticket, leaving nearly seven in 10 (69 percent) of all voters believing Edwards won’t make much of a difference in the election. Nearly half (47 percent) of all voters think Bush will be returned to the Oval Office in November, compared to 38 percent who think Kerry will win.
Still, Edwards does beat Dick Cheney in a popularity contest, perhaps most importantly among independent voters. In a hypothetical race for vice president between Edwards and Cheney, 52 percent pick Edwards over Cheney, who gets just 41 percent of the vote. Cheney's last job as the head of Halliburton, the energy company that has won key defense contracts in Iraq, his continued assertion that Al Qaeda had links to Iraq and his insistence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction may have been factors in prompting four in 10 voters (42 percent) to reject a description of the vice president as “honest and ethical.” Half of all voters feel the vice president is someone who does not care about people like them (40 percent say he does), while 58 percent feel Edwards does care (22 percent do not). More than three-quarters (77 percent) of voters say they find Edwards “personally likeable,” a stark contrast to Cheney’s 49 percent and greater than even Kerry’s 60 percent.
Likeability aside, 63 percent of all voters feel Cheney has “strong leadership qualities,” while just 53 percent would say the same about Edwards, who is also slightly less trusted to deal with an international crisis (48 percent, compared to Cheney’s 56 percent). But if Bush were to drop Cheney from the ticket—unlikely in an administration that places so high a premium on loyalty), the poll finds that the president may have a much easier time with at least one hypothetical running mate. When asked how they would vote if the centrist secretary of state, Colin Powell, replaced Cheney as the incumbent’s No. 2, a clear majority (53 percent) say they would support the Republican ticket; Kerry-Edwards would get just 44 percent of the vote in that race. If the iconoclastic Republican Sen. John McCain were to replace Cheney on the ticket, the Republicans would have a statistically insignificant two-point lead (49 percent to 47 percent) over Kerry-Edwards.
With the drumbeat of bad news from Iraq seeming to die down and the administration’s handover of sovereignty to the Iraqi people last month, the president’s job approval numbers are up slightly to 48 percent over the historic low it hit in May (42 percent). Nearly half (46 percent) still disapprove. That low-point in the president’s approval rating may have been a statistical blip during a week of unceasing bad and bloody news from the warfront in Iraq; with the bounce back up to the high 40s, the president’s approval rating is where it has been more of less consistently since January. The percentage of voters who express a favorable view of the president has also moved back to the halfway mark (51 percent) after dipping to 46 percent in May.
For the NEWSWEEK poll, Princeton Survey Research Associates interviewed 1,169 adults aged 18 and older July 8 and 9 by telephone. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Newsweek poll article