The new Pew poll is out with the following findings:
George W. Bush has reopened a significant lead over challenger John Kerry over the past week, even as voters express less confidence in the president on Iraq and he continues to trail Kerry on the economy. Two successive nationwide surveys of nearly 1,000 registered voters each show Bush's margin over Kerry growing steadily since mid-September (Sept. 11-14), when the two men were tied at 46%-46%. Bush's slight 45%-42% advantage in the Sept. 17-21 survey has grown to 48%-40% in the current poll (Sept. 22-26).
The poll finds that Bush's gains in support are being driven more by perceptions of Kerry's weakness - especially on leadership and other personal traits - than by improved opinions of Bush. Fewer voters favor Bush over Kerry on handling Iraq than did so earlier this month (46% now, 52% Sept. 11-13). But Kerry's rating in the head-to-head evaluation on Iraq is no higher (38% now, 40% then).
The Democratic challenger continues to inspire more confidence than Bush with regard to improving the economy, which 60% of Americans believe is in only fair or poor shape. But even here, the percentage favoring Kerry has not increased since the Sept. 11-13 survey (46% now, 47% then).
Despite Bush's lukewarm evaluations on the issues, he maintains a significant advantage on most personal traits. Kerry has slipped slightly on some key personal assessments, including honesty and empathy. Overall, 32% of voters say the phrase "honest and truthful" better describes Kerry than Bush, down from 36% a few weeks ago (Sept. 11-13). Bush's rating in that period is unchanged at 41%.
It's interesting that personal evaluations of Kerry have slipped in the past few weeks. I wonder if Kerry paid an indirect price for the Rathergate/memo forgeries.