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Public Views Stakes High in Presidential Race

Registered voters say the stakes in Tuesday’s presidential election are higher than in previous years, and most are afraid what will happen if their candidate loses, according to a poll released Friday.

The CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll, conducted Oct. 22-24, found that 90 percent of voters agreed that the “stakes in this presidential election are higher than in previous years.” That includes 70 percent who “strongly” agreed. A mere 9 percent disagreed with the statement.

The sentiment is much higher than in the 1996 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, when two-thirds said the stakes were higher in that election than in previous years.

In the new poll, 76 percent of registered voters said they are afraid of what will happen if their candidate does not win the presidency.

Both campaigns have been criticized for using “scare tactics” in the election—the Republicans for claiming a terrorist attack is more likely if Kerry is elected and the Democrats for saying Bush will reinstate a military draft in a second term.

About half of registered voters said they are satisfied with how both the Bush and Kerry campaigns have been run, while nearly half (48 percent) said the tone of this year’s campaign has been “mostly negative.”

Twice as many voters believed media coverage has been biased in favor of Kerry (35 percent) than in favor of Bush (16 percent), but a plurality (45 percent) said the media coverage has not been biased in favor of any candidate.

The survey results were based on telephone interviews with 1,538 national adults, aged 18 and older. The sample margin of error was plus or minus 3 percent.

Another poll released Wednesday found that less than a week before the election many swing voters had yet to commit to a candidate, but there has been some movement toward Kerry in the last month.

The Pew Research Center poll of 519 swing voters who hadn’t made up their mind in September found that 52 percent had since moved off the fence. About 48 percent still were not certain about how they would vote.

Forty percent of swing voters said they would either vote for Kerry or were leaning that way, up from 28 percent leaning in Kerry’s direction a month earlier. Support for Bush among swing voters grew more modestly, from 34 percent in September to 38 percent in October.