WASHINGTON (AP) – Democratic Sen. John Kerry has improved his image with voters on whether he would show good judgment in a crisis, but many Americans still think it’s risky to replace President Bush in times of terrorism.

Bush and Kerry were tied at 47 percent each among likely voters in the poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Independent Ralph Nader got the backing of 1 percent.

The poll found that seven in every 10 believe replacing Bush with Kerry while the United States is threatened by terrorism is a risk, including more than four in every 10 who say it’s a major risk. One-third of swing voters believe switching leadership would be a “major risk.”

Voters by a 2-to-1 margin believe Bush will win the election. Voter approval for Bush has slipped in the Pew poll in several areas in the last month, notably handling terrorism, with about half, 49 percent, now approving – compared to 62 percent who approved of Bush on this issue in September. Bush still leads Kerry on who would do the better job on terrorism.

Bush led Kerry, 48 percent to 41 percent, on which candidate would use better judgment in a crisis – an area where Bush led by 21 points soon after the Republican convention. Bush’s backing in the head-to-head race is in the 40s as well as his job approval – which was at 44 percent in the Pew poll.

“What this means is that Bush is vulnerable and it represents the potential for Kerry to win the race, if people get more comfortable with him,” said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. Kerry has less than two weeks left to persuade voters that electing him isn’t too risky.

The poll of 1,307 registered voters and 1,070 likely voters was conducted Oct. 15-19 and the margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3 percentage points for registered voters and 3.5 percentage points for likely voters.

On the Net:

Pew Research Center Web site – http://www.people-press.org

AP-ES-10-20-04 1610EDT

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