WASHINGTON -- After three months and millions of dollars in negative ads, Americans describing Democrat John Kerry in one word for poll takers no longer choose the word honest, but that word remains the one most often cited for President Bush, even as incompetent has gained ground.
A national survey released yesterday by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press shows a wide range of word choices by those who were asked ''what one word best describes your impression" of Bush or Kerry.
In the earlier survey, 18 percent chose honest to describe Kerry, but no one used that word in the May survey. The words good, hopeful, and OK accounted for nearly 21 percent of responses for Kerry in the new poll.
For Bush, honest was the choice of 11 percent in the earlier poll and 9 percent in the latest survey. The president, described by 4 percent as incompetent in February, was tagged with that word by 8 percent in May. He was judged honest, good, or leader by 26 percent in the new poll.
On the negative side, according to the new poll, Kerry was referred to as liar, dishonest, or idiot by 12 percent. Nearly 10 percent used either idiot, stupid, or liar to describe Bush.
The differences in word choices show that many people have a less favorable view of both candidates, said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center.
''They're using fewer positive words to describe Kerry," Kohut said. ''The criticisms of Bush are less often about being dishonest. . . . Now more people are mentioning incompetence."
Other results in the Pew survey show that a slight majority of respondents, 51 percent, say that the US military effort in Iraq is not going well, the first time that more than half have taken a negative view in that poll. Still, 53 percent believe troops should stay in Iraq until a stable government is established, but 40 percent said the United States should bring troops home as soon as possible.
''Frustration is mounting with the way things are going in Iraq," Kohut said. ''But a majority is hanging in there with keeping the troops in Iraq."
The Pew poll found Bush's overall job approval at 44 percent.
The Pew poll of 1,800 adults was taken May 3-9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. The margin for registered voters is slightly higher.