Missouri's great presidential divide

Friday, July 23, 2004

The Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Voters in the battleground state of Missouri are torn between Republican President Bush and Democrat John Kerry, according to a poll published Thursday that shows the candidates about even.

The Massachusetts senator is ahead in the poll, 46 percent to 44 percent, but that is within the margin of error of 4 percentage points. Independent Ralph Nader was supported by just 1 percent, with 9 percent undecided.

Bush carried Missouri four years ago, winnings its 11 electoral votes with 50 percent of the vote to 47 percent for Democrat Al Gore. Both campaigns have concentrated heavily on Missouri this year, with Bush coming to the state again this week, a day after a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney.

With one exception, Missourians have supported the overall winner of every presidential election since 1900. No other state has that record of accuracy.

The poll, conducted for The Kansas City Star and KMBC-TV by Market Research Institute, is based on a survey of 600 Missourians contacted between July 13 and Tuesday who said they were likely to vote in the Aug. 3 primary. Of those surveyed, 36 percent identified themselves as Democrats, 32 percent as Republicans, and 28 percent said they were independents.

"You're looking at almost a dead heat," said Stephen Caliendo, a political scientist from Kansas City's Avila University. "I think Missouri is probably very similar at this point in time to other swing states, in that it is so closely divided."

The poll also found that 41 percent of respondents have an unfavorable opinion of Cheney, while 39 percent view the vice president favorably and 20 percent have no opinion. Kerry's running mate, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, was seen favorably by 51 percent, unfavorably by 20 percent, while 29 percent did not know.

Kerry did better than Bush among the respondents on the issues of protecting the middle class, improving health care, keeping America prosperous, improving education, holding down federal spending, strengthening Social Security and creating jobs.

Bush was favored for sharing the values of the respondents, holding the line on taxes, keeping the country safe from terrorists and handling the situation in Iraq.

On several issues, including sharing values and holding down spending, the candidates were separated by only a point or two.

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