NEW YORK--George Bush led Michael Dukakis in two presidential polls by a significant but single-digit margin Wednesday, a considerably smaller advantage than the Republican enjoyed in a survey earlier this week.
Bush had a nine-point advantage in a Harris poll and a seven-point lead in an ABC News-Washington Post survey, far less in both than his 17-point margin in an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll released Monday.
The NBC-Journal poll was done Friday through Sunday, and NBC pollster Laurily Epstein said it could have missed some movement back to Dukakis on Monday after a big swing to Bush following Thursday's presidential debate.
The Harris poll, done Friday through Monday, did find movement towards the Bush camp, albeit less overall than in the NBC-Journal poll. Harris put the race at 53-44 percent, much better for Bush than his 50-48 lead in a Harris poll for Oct. 6-10.
But the ABC-Post poll, done Oct. 12 through Tuesday, found virtually no movement. It put the race at 52-45, little different from its 51-45 result for Oct. 5-11. John Brennan, an ABC pollster, noted that debates historically produce little or no sizable change in voter sympathies.
Epstein, commenting on the Harris poll before the ABC-Post poll was released, noted that the Harris and NBC-Journal polls found nearly the same level for support for the Republicans--53 and 55 percent, respectively.
"The difference is really on the Democratic side, not the Republican side," she said. "It may be that we caught the highest spinoff from the debate," which polls and other news accounts said Bush had won.
As in other recent polls, Bush did less well with women than with men in the Harris survey. He led among men by 57-40, while the race among women was about even: 48 percent for Bush, 49 percent for Dukakis.
Forty-nine percent agreed that Dukakis "seems too liberal in his views to get my vote," a number that has remained more or less stable in the poll since August. Sixty-nine percent said Dukakis lacked enough foreign policy experience, down from 75 percent in August but still high.
Dukakis also was faulted in the Harris poll for his response to Bush's offensive. Fifty-six percent agreed with the statement, "He seems not to know how to defend himself against the serious charges Bush has made about him on crime and on being a liberal out of the mainstream of American life."
The Harris poll, of 1,356 likely voters, had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points, as did the NBC-Journal poll released Monday. The new ABC-Post poll, of 1,195 likely voters, had a margin of error of about three percentage points.
A survey of 444 registered California voters by pollster Mervin Field gave Bush 50 percent over 41 percent for Dukakis, with the remainder undecided.
The Field Poll, conducted Oct. 14-16, represented a turnaround of voter preferences from a few days before the final presidential debate in Los Angeles on Oct. 13, when Dukakis held a one-point lead over Bush, 46 percent to 45 percent. The margin of error was 5 percent.
California is a crucial battleground in the election campaign because of its 47 electoral votes, the most of any state.
Bush told reporters in Detroit that the Field Poll results were encouraging, "but I'm continuing to do what I did yesterday--fight like we're 10 points back." He said the Field results were better than those of his campaign's latest California poll, "so, fight on."
In Massachusetts, a survey published by The Boston Herald showed Dukakis leading Bush 49 percent to 39 percent in that state, with 12 percent undecided. The survey of 400 likely Massachusetts voters had a 5 percent margin of error.