CBS Poll: Bush Pads Lead

bush gore campaign 2000 white house race AP

Texas Gov. George W. Bush leads Vice President Al Gore as the choice of registered voters nationally, according to the new CBS News/New York Times Poll. Forty-seven percent say they would vote for Bush if the presidential election were being held today, while 39 percent would vote for Gore.

One month ago, voters were more closely divided – 43 percent favored Bush, 41 percent Gore. Bush's improvement in this poll comes mainly from a shift among male voters. Last month, they favored him by six points. Now that margin has more than doubled. Women voters remain closely divided.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
Presidential Preference

 BushGore
Now

47%

39%


 BushGore
April

43%

41%

CBSNEWS Polls

Gore does not have the kind of support among women that boosted President Clinton to victory in both 1992 and 1996. In fact, among women who voted for Clinton in 1996, only three-quarters currently support Gore, while 14 percent are supporting Bush and another 10 percent have yet to choose.

Bush has a seven-point edge with independent voters. He also leads 48 percent to 42 percent among those voters now paying a lot of attention to the campaign

ISSUES VS. PERSONAL QUALITIES

As the primary campaign fades from voters' memories, there has been an improvement in overall assessments of Bush - currently, favorable impressions of him match pre-primary levels. Opinions of Gore, on the other hand, have changed little since the primaries, but have improved somewhat from last year.

Voters give Bush more positive ratings than they had a month ago, but still divide evenly over Gore. The improvement in Bush's positive assessments from men is especially important in the change. There has been relatively little movement in the last month in Gore's ratings by either men or women.

The endorsement of Bush by Arizona Sen. John McCain, his chief primary opponent, may have helped. McCain is still extremely popular: 43 percent of voters have favorable view of him, while just 12 percent are unfavorable.

There are relatively small differences in the public's current evaluations of Bush and Gore's other personal characteristics. More say Gore cares about their needs and problems than say the same about Bush, but a majority of voters (and nearly half of women voters) still think Bush cares. Bush has an edge on leadership, but a majority say Gore has strong qualities of leadership. There is no difference in the percentage of voters who say either Bush or Gore has more honesty than most people in public life. In both cases, fewer than half think this.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
Candidate Qualities

 BushGore
Cares About Your Needs And Problems

52%

61%


 BushGore
Has Strong Qualities Of Leadership

63%

53%


 BushGore
Is More Honest Than Most

39%

39%

CBSNEWS Polls

Despite the fact that both candidates represent the moderate wings of their respective parties, voters tend to see each of them as representing the extremes. A 43 percent plurality call Bush a conservative, while a similar 43 percent label Gore a liberal.

ISSUE DIFFERENCES

Seventy-six percent of voters perceive real differences between the two candidates. Sixty percent of those who say there are differences between Bush and Gore say the candidates differ on issues, while just 27 percent say personal characteristics are the larger differences. Bush holds no advantage over Gore on his perceived honesty and integrity, while Gore's edge on caring about people (61 percent to 52 percent) is less than the 65 percent to 49 percent advantage Bill Clinton held four years ago over Republican nominee Bob Dole on the same question.

But even though voters say they see a difference on issues, neither candidate holds the kind of edge they might have expected on the issues that matter most to the voters. Although Gore leads Bush as the candidate best able to handle traditional Democratic issues like Social Security and education, his lead is in single digits. Similarly, Bush holds only a five-point edge in handling taxes, normally a Republican issue.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
Which Candidate Is Better?

 BushGore
Social Security

39%

47%


 BushGore
Education

40%

46%


 BushGore
Taxes

42%

37%


 BushGore
Gun Control

37%

35%

CBSNEWS Polls

When it comes to gun control, the two candidates are just about even. However, a greater number of voters can't say which candidate they prefer on gun contrl. That's especially true among women, where one in three can't say which candidate they prefer.

Similarly, on the issue of abortion, neither candidate has an advantage. Gore wins among the most pro-choice voters, but Bush does best among those who want abortion limited or outlawed. Currently, 37 percent of voters say they'd like abortion to remain available as it is now. Another 39 percent want abortion legal, but under stricter limitations, while 22 percent would like to see abortion outlawed.

While there has been talk of Bush improving his image among pro-choice voters by choosing a pro-choice running mate - the move could be a mistake. Overall, only 11 percent of voters would be more likely to vote for Bush if he chose a pro-choice V.P., while 26 percent would be less likely, and 59 percent say it would make no difference.

Among the most pro-choice voters, 23 percent would be more likely to vote for Bush with a pro-choice running mate, but among those who want abortion outlawed, 65 percent say they would be less likely to support him.

IS IT STILL TOO EARLY?

There are a number of reasons to be wary of voter preference at this time of an election year. Just 27 percent of registered voters say they are paying a lot of attention to the campaign at this point. While seven in ten of those who have made a choice claim their minds are made up, a significant number of those with a choice admit their choice could change.

And twelve years ago, the last time there was no incumbent running, a May CBS News/New York Times Poll gave the presumptive Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis a 49 percent to 39 percent lead over then-Vice President George Bush. In the fall, Bush defeated Dukakis by eight points.

Some candidate proposals have made little or no impact on voters yet. Just 9 percent say they've heard a lot about Bush's plan for a tax cut. And on another question, 61 percent of Americans are unable to say whether Bush's basic plan, which calls for a $483 billion cut in the next five years, would be good or bad for the economy.

WILL THE ELECTION BE CLOSE?

Several other measures suggest a close race. When asked whether the country is generally on the right track or headed in the wrong direction, the public divides – 48 percent positive and 44 percent negative. Men are especially positive: 55 percent of them say the U.S. is generally headed in the right direction, while just 39 percent are negative.

Voters don't see much difference between the parties, either. By 54 percent to 40 percent, they have a favorable view of the Democrats. By just about the same margin, 53 percent to 40 percent, they have a favorable view of the Republicans.

Congressional Republicans don't seem to benefit from Bush's current lead over Gore. In fact, when asked their preference for the U.S. House, 42 percent of voters say they currently intend to vote Democratic in their district, whle 39 percent say they will vote Republican.

There are very real differences when voters are asked what they expect to happen in the election itself: 52 percent say they expect Bush to win in the fall, while just 29 percent think Gore will prevail.


This poll was conducted May 10-13, 2000, among a nationwide random sample of 947 adults interviewed by telephone. The sample includes 716 registered voters. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the entire sample, and plus or minus four percentage points for registered voters. The error for subgroups is larger.


  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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