Bush Widens Lead

CBS News/New York Times poll graphic CBS/AP

With just two days to go in the campaign, Texas Gov. George W. Bush has a five-point lead over Vice President Al Gore in their race for president. But while supporters of both Bush and Gore are increasingly committed to their choice, 14 percent of likely voters still say they aren't sure what they will do on Election Day. These voters now are mostly women.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE

 BushGoreNaderBuchanan

47%

42%

5%

1%

CBSNEWS Polls

Some voters - 4 percent - admit they won't really know what they will do until Election Day itself. In a close election, especially one in which many states are closely contested, these voters may make the difference and could react to last-minute events.

So far, one late campaign issue - Bush's acknowledgement of a 1976 arrest in Maine for driving under the influence of alcohol - appears to have had little impact on voters. In fact, those interviewed on Friday and Saturday were even more likely to support Bush than those interviewed on the two previous days, before the revelation. However, this may have more to do with the days of interviewing as with reaction to the event. That will not be clear for at least another day.

A majority of voters say they are finally paying attention to the campaign. While that's more than had focused on the 1996 and 1988 elections near the close of the campaign, it's far fewer than the nearly two-thirds who were paying close attention in 1992.

Both candidates are perceived as flawed. Neither candidate is seen as saying what he really believes, and most voters don't think either will keep most of their promises. And many still worry about Bush's preparedness for the job and his ability to handle international crisis. Nevertheless, by 47 percent to 34 percent, voters perceived that he will win.

But the poll highlighted some new weaknesses for the vice president with several of the groups he has done very well with in previous polls. Women and senior citizens gave him only small, two-point leads in this poll. Meanwhile, Bush surged to a 14-point lead among men. But the vice president continues to lead in the Northeast and now in the Midwest, partly blunting Bush's 17-point margin in the South.

For some voters, the remaining two days of the campaign can have no impact on what they will do - five percent of likely voters say they have already voted. Older voters and those living in Western states (including Oregon, where the election is being conducted by mail) are the most likely to have already cast a ballot.

In previous polls, about half the supporters of Green Party candidate Ralph Nader chose Gore in a two-candidate race. In this poll, Nader is a factor in the Northeast and the West, and among younger voters. Seven percent of those under 30 choose Nader, his biggest share of any age group.


HOW IMPORTANT IS THE ELECTION?

Despite their concerns about the candidates, most voters believe the outcome of the election does matter - and most are conent, if not necessarily enthusiastic, about their choice.

Twenty-nine percent of registered voters say it doesn't really matter who is president, as things go on pretty much the same. Two-thirds disagree. That reverses a trend towards increasing cynicism about the importance of the outcome that began in the 1980's. However, voters now are still more cynical than they were before 1992.

Most voters are also satisfied with the candidates - by nearly two to one, they say they don't want other choices. That makes this electorate more satisfied than voters were at the end of either of the last two election campaigns.

But there continue to be differences in enthusiasm of support. Perhaps in part because they are more likely to expect victory on Tuesday, Bush voters are more enthusiastic about their choice than Gore voters are. Less than half of Gore voters are enthusiastic, compared with more than half of Bush's. Fifteen percent of those voting for Gore are voting for him because he is the party nominee.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT CHOICE?

 EnthusiasticHave reservationsHe's the party nominee
Bush Voters

56%

37%

5%


 EnthusiasticHave reservationsHe's the party nominee
Gore Voters

43%

40%

15%

CBSNEWS Polls


THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT

Bush's call to reduce government may be helping him with the electorate, which continues to express a preference for smaller government that provides fewer services. At the same time, however, voters prefer Gore, and presumably his solutions, on some key issues.

Fifty-five percent of voters prefer a smaller government that offers fewer services, while 32 percent would prefer a larger government offering more services. In 1980, when Ronald Reagn defeated President Jimmy Carter, voters felt the same way about the role of government as they do now.

On the issues of the economy and Social Security, however, voters side with Gore: 67 percent of voters think Gore would be likely to keep the economy strong if he were elected. In contrast, only 58 percent think Bush would be likely to continue America's economic prosperity. On Social Security, Gore also has an advantage: 71 percent of voters think he is likely to shore up the system if elected; 56 percent think Bush would be likely to do the same.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
IF ELECTED, IS HE LIKELY TO...?

 GoreBush
Preserve Social Security

71%

56%


 GoreBush
Keep economy strong

67%

58%


 GoreBush
Improve education

66%

64%

CBSNEWS Polls

The issue of education tells a somewhat different story. In this campaign, Bush has made up for what has traditionally been a Republican weakness on education. Currently, 64 percent of voters think Bush would be likely to improve education if elected. Only slightly more - 66 percent - think Gore would do the same. Throughout the fall, Gore has held only a slight lead on this issue.

Voters continue to see an overwhelming difference between the candidates on the issue of abortion: 71 percent of voters think Gore would be likely to appoint pro-choice justices to the Supreme Court, but only 19 percent think Bush would be likely to do the same.


BEING PRESIDENT

Gore continues to be seen as better prepared for th presidency than Bush, as has been the case throughout the fall. Fifty percent of voters feel that Bush has prepared himself well enough to deal with the issues a president has to face, but 65 percent believe Gore has. Bush has been unable to close this gap over the course of the campaign.

Bush's deficit in presidential preparedness can also be seen in the way voters think he would handle an international crisis. Forty-six percent of voters are confident in Bush's ability to deal with an international crisis, but just as many, 47 percent, are uneasy. Gore has continually done better than Bush on this measure; 54 percent have confidence in Gore's ability to deal with international events, and 41 percent are uneasy. These evaluations have changed little in the past two weeks.

Gore continues to lead Bush on one quality that tends to favor Democrats - caring about voters' needs and problems, but the Democrat's lead is very narrow. Fifty-eight percent say Gore cares about their needs, and 53 percent say Bush does. However, Gore's rating on this measure has decreased in the past few weeks, when 66 percent felt he cared about their needs.

The overall ratings of Gore and Bush reflect the closeness of this race. Now, 48 percent have a favorable impression of Bush, and 45 percent have a positive view of Gore. These evaluations have changed little in the course of the past two weeks.


MAKING AND KEEPING PROMISES

Neither candidate is widely seen by voters as speaking his mind, but Gore is viewed as more prone to pandering than Bush. By 60 percent to 34 percent, voters think Gore says what people want to hear rather than what he believes. Gore has not been able to change this view in the past two weeks of the campaign. Nearly as many voters think Bush says what he believes as what people want to hear, 45 percent to 48 percent.

Gore is also thought to be a little less likely to keep his campaign promises than Bush would be: 41 percent think Gore will keep all or most of his promises, and 45 percent say Bush will. About four in ten voters think each candidate will keep some of his promises, and 14 percent think each will keep hardly any of them.

Voters seem willing to give presidents some leeway in keeping their promises; only 22 percent of voters think presidents usually keep them. Sixty-six percent say Congress, special interest groups and the media are responsible for presidents' inability to keep campaign pledges. Just five percent say it is the president's fault for not doing so.


CLINTON AS AN ISSUE

Voters do not see President Bill Clinton as an issue in this campaign. Two-thirds of voters say that they do not consider their vote next Tuesday to be about the Clinton and his presidency.

This could be both good news and bad news for the vice president. On the one hand, personal opinions of Mr. Clinton remain divided: 44 percent of voters view him favorably but 45 percent view him ufavorably. And among those who view him unfavorably, more than eight in ten are voting for Bush.

But at the same time, voters like the job Mr. Clinton has been doing as president: 59 percent of voters approve of the job he is doing. And when asked about the direction in which the country is headed, 54 percent say they like the current direction, and they hope it continues. Only 40 percent are looking for a change.


THE VOTE FOR U.S. HOUSE

Voters are very closely divided on the question of their vote for U.S. House of Representatives, where the Democrats need only seven seats to take control. Democrats hold a one-point lead - however, one in five are unsure how they will vote.


This poll was conducted November 1-4, 2000, among a nationwide random sample of 1,650 adults interviewed by telephone. The sample includes 1,356 registered voters, and a proportionately weighted probable electorate of 862 likely voters (1,158 unweighted). The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the samples of both registered and likely voters. The error for subgroups may be larger.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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