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    SEPTEMBER 30, 2004
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New poll: Bush, Kerry in dead heat in Pa.

The presidential race for Pennsylvania is a dead heat, according to the first Temple/Inquirer Poll, sponsored by Temple’s new Institute for Public Affairs and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Temple/Inquirer Poll found that 49 percent of the state’s likely voters favored Sen. John Kerry and 47 percent favored President Bush, with 4 percent undecided. The poll’s margin of error is 3 percentage points, which means the difference between the candidates’ percentages is too small to distinguish them statistically. (Because the most recent court ruling at the time polling began prohibited Ralph Nader from being included on the ballot, the poll’s question about the presidential election did not include Nader as a candidate.)

These figures are based on interviews conducted Sept.16–23 with 1,133 likely voters statewide.

Pennsylvanians consider foreign affairs and homeland security — the topics on the agenda for tonight’s debate and the source of heated jousting between the candidates last week — the most important subjects in their vote for president this November. Thirty-eight percent cited the United States’ campaign against terrorism or the war in Iraq as the single most important issue in their vote, compared with 31 percent who named the economy and jobs and 15 percent who named health care.

Likely voters in Pennsylvania are sharply divided in their reactions to the war in Iraq, which may explain why the race for the state is so close. Nearly half of likely voters — 48 percent — said the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq last year, and 84 percent of those people said they would vote for Bush. Among the 47 percent of those surveyed who said the country did not do the right thing in Iraq, 86 percent said they’d vote for Kerry.

More than 40 percent of likely voters in Pennsylvania believed Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq was directly involved in planning, financing or carrying out the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and 69 percent of them favored Bush. Forty-seven percent did not believe Saddam’s regime was directly involved in 9/11, and 68 percent of them favored Kerry.

“The attitudes and beliefs of Pennsylvania voters with regard to Iraq are among the most important markers in the presidential campaign,” said Michael G. Hagen, director of the IPA and associate professor of political science. “Democrats and Republicans take very different views of the war and Iraq’s involvement in the terrorist attacks, and the votes Pennsylvanians intend to cast in the presidential election closely reflect their opinions about Iraq.”

Some commentators and strategists have assumed that playing up the threat of terrorism would be an effective tactic for Bush. The Temple/Inquirer Poll suggests that’s not so, at least in Pennsylvania.

In fact, Pennsylvanians who expressed the most anxiety about terrorism favored Kerry by a wide margin. One in five likely voters polled said they were very worried that there will soon be another terrorist attack in the United States, and half said they were somewhat worried (30 percent said they were not too worried or not worried at all). Among those who were very worried about a terrorist attack, just 40 percent planned to vote for Bush, while 56 percent planned to vote for Kerry.

“Our results suggest that if the level of concern about terrorism increased among Pennsylvania voters, the beneficiary would be Sen. Kerry, not President Bush,” Hagen said.

The IPA will conduct another poll in the week leading up to the presidential election, with the results appearing in the Inquirer on Sunday, Oct. 31, two days before Election Day.

- By Hillel J. Hoffmann

The Pa. vote: Temple/Inquirer Poll findings

JOBS AND TAXES: Likely voters viewed the loss of jobs to foreign competition and the federal budget deficit as more serious problems than the amount of money they pay in taxes. Eighty-four percent called job losses a serious or extremely serious problem and 81 percent called the deficit a serious or extremely serious problem, compared with 66 percent for taxes.

PERSONALITY PROFILE: Pennsylvania voters give Bush the edge over Kerry when asked about the personal qualities of the candidates. More people who are likely to vote see Bush as the stronger leader (by 53 percent to 34 percent), and more see Kerry as more inconsistent (50 to 35). By a much slimmer margin, 45 percent to 41 percent, more voters see Bush as the more trustworthy of the two. However, when asked to name the candidate better described by the word “reckless,” more named Bush, by 49 percent to 30 percent.

THE ’BURBS: Although the Philadelphia suburbs have been widely cited as critical swing-voter-rich areas in the state, likely voters in the city’s four suburban Pennsylvania counties — Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery — are no more likely to be undecided or uncertain about their presidential vote than likely voters elsewhere in the state. Among likely voters in those counties, Kerry leads Bush by 51 percent to 43 percent.

LOOKING THROUGH PARTISAN GLASSES: Likely voters who identify with the two major parties also disagree about the state of the national economy. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans rated economic conditions in the country today as excellent or good, while 87 percent of Democrats said economic conditions are poor or only fair. “Voters don’t reach conclusions about public events and conditions solely on the basis of dispassionate analysis of the facts,” said Michael G. Hagen, director of the Institute for Public Policy. “Most voters view the political world through the prism of their own pre-existing political orientations.”

A GENDER GAP ON FEAR OF TERRORISM? Women are more concerned than men in Pennsylvania about the threat of another terrorist attack in the United States, but the difference is perhaps not as great as some might expect. Seventy-three percent of women likely to vote in November said they are somewhat worried or very worried that there will soon be another attack on U.S. soil, but so do 63 percent of men.

THE SENATE RACE: Likely voters in favored incumbent Republican Arlen Specter over his Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Joseph M. Hoeffel, by 50 percent to 35 percent (15 percent were undecided). Specter’s image statewide is quite positive: 40 percent expressed a favorable opinion of him, while 25 percent expressed an unfavorable opinion, 29 percent a neutral opinion, and 6 percent said they did not know enough about Specter to rate him. Hoeffel is much less widely known in the state: 51 percent said they didn’t know enough about him to rate him.

Read more about Temple's new Institute for Public Affairs, director Michael G. Hagen and the Temple/Inquirer Poll.