In the poll released Sunday, and which will appear in the June 2 issue of Time, 62 percent of respondents answered "No, not convinced," when asked, "In your view, have any of the Democratic candidates convinced you that they can handle terrorism or not?" A total of 18 percent answered "Yes" and 20 percent were listed as "not sure."
Among self-described Democratic poll respondents, 49 percent said they were not convinced of the party's pool of candidates ability to handle terrorism. Some 29 percent of Democrats said they were.
By contrast, 72 percent of respondents said President Bush was doing a "good" job of handling terrorism and 23 percent rated his performance on that issue as "bad."
Last week's increase of the terror-threat level to orange -- the second-highest level -- came just before the poll was conducted and seemingly brought little concern from the U.S. public. Three-quarters of respondents said they are not personally worried about terrorism when in public places. The figure -- 75 percent -- is the second-highest listed for this particular question in about 10 years.
Poll respondents gave Bush solid marks in addressing the threat and 63 percent say they approve of Bush's overall job performance. The 63-percent mark is the highest for the president in six months. Thirty-three percent of those asked said they disapproved of Bush's performance as president. Only once in the last six months has that figure been lower.
However, Bush's handling of the economy, as measured by the poll, fell 8 points to 46 percent from a poll conducted in late March. The president did much better in foreign affairs, winning approval from 59 percent of respondents in foreign policy; 69 percent of his handling of the situation in Iraq; and the 72 percent for handling terrorism overall.
Bush recently began the process or running for re-election and 56 percent of poll respondents said they were at least "somewhat likely" to vote for him in 2004. A total of 38 percent were listed as "very likely" to support Bush next year and 33 percent said they were "very unlikely" to vote for the president.
The core issue in the 2004 election will again likely be the economy and, while most indicators show a sluggish-at-best improvement, respondents have a relatively rosy view of U.S. economic conditions. Six percent said the economy was "very good" and 48 percent rated it as "fairly good." A total of 34 percent rated the economy "poor" 10 percent said it was "very poor."
In addition, the respondents were fairly bullish on the U.S. economy's future with 39 percent saying they believed the economic conditions of the country would improve in the next 12 months. That represented an increase of 12 percent from a January poll. A total of 19 percent said the economy would likely worsen in that period, a drop of 9 percent in that category in the January survey.
A total of 1,012 Americans aged 18 years or older were contacted by telephone last Wednesday or Thursday by Harris Interactive for the poll. There is a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.