For the first time ever, Gore's overall favorable rating is as high as the one voters give Republican nominee George W. Bush - and it is at its most positive level since January 1997, before questions arose about Gore's fundraising activity in the 1996 campaign. And at least for now, voters give Gore the advantage on trust, caring, and handling the economy. And more than six in ten voters say Gore has laid out a clear agenda for the next four years and that he is running a positive campaign.
THE CONVENTION BOUNCE
Gore's gains in support since the Republican Convention match Clinton's bounce in 1992 and come close to the CBS News/New York Times poll record set by George W. Bush's father in his 1988 contest against Michael Dukakis. In the two-way contest with Bush, Gore has gone from 35% right after the Republican Convention to 45% support now. In the four-way contest, Gore has gained 11 points. George W. Bush dropped six points in the same period. In 1988, George Bush had a 13-point bounce after the Republican Convention, and never trailed Dukakis again.
The Convention helped Gore solidify his support among Democrats. 81% of Democrats now say they will vote for Gore, up from just 68% in early August. And it also gave Gore a double-digit lead with women voters. Gore leads Bush 51% to 39% with women, while Bush maintains a similar lead with men, 50% for Bush and 39% for Gore. In addition, Gore's support is now as enthusiastic as Bush's. More than four in ten of each candidate's voters characterize their support as enthusiastic.
EVALUATING THE CANDIDATES
For many voters, the convention may have been the first time they had seen or heard Gore without the presence of President Bill Clinton. Gore set out in his acceptance speech to present himself as his own man, and indications are that he succeeded. In nearly every personal assessment, Gore has made major gains.
Importantly, Gore has erased the difference in voters' general opinions of each candidate. Favorable ratings for Gore are at their highest level since early 1997, and for the first time match those for George W. Bush. In this poll, 45% have a favorable opinion of Gore, while 27% have an unfavorable opinion.
After the Republicn convention, there was relatively little change in assessments of both candidates on a series of characteristics. This convention seems to have had a much greater impact, especially in areas where Gore was perceived as weak. While more voters still view Bush as a strong leader, nearly two-thirds now credit Gore with that quality. Gore holds a clear lead on caring about people, and is marginally ahead on trust and on handling an international crisis.
ON THE ISSUES
Gore's convention reclaimed the Democrats' traditional lead on issues like Social Security and education - leads that had evaporated after the Republicans' convention in Philadelphia. In addition, the Democratic convention underscored the importance of health care and Social Security as national issues. After the Republican convention, health care had fallen to fourth on a list of important issues.
Democrats now hold a clear lead on education, Social Security, the economy, health care and caring about people. In addition, more people hold favorable views of the Democratic Party in general than feel that way about the Republicans. 56% have favorable views about the Democrats, while 47% hold favorable views of the Republicans.
Democrats, like their candidate, also clearly lead on caring about people. 53% say the Democratic Party cares more about the needs and problems of people like themselves, compared with 29% who say the Republican Party does.
Gore has also been successful in distinguishing himself from his opponent. When voters are asked whether there are real differences between the candidates, 81% say there are. And by a margin of three to one, those voters see the biggest difference on the candidate's positions on the issues, not their personalities. Like his party, Gore has taken a clear lead in voters' perceptions of who would do the best at keeping the economy strong, and he has improved his position with his convention. While 63% say Bush will make sure the country's economy remains strong, 76% say Gore will.
One clear convention success for Gore was his ability to convey to voters exactly what he wants to accomplish as president. Prior to the convention, just 36% of voters said Gore had made it clear what he wanted to accomplish as president. Now, 61% say he has, a figure significantly higher than say the same for Bush.
|MADE CLEAR WHAT THEY WANT TO ACCOMPLISH?|
THE VICE-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
Joe Lieberman has made something of a splash for Al Gore. While many voters remain unfamiliar with Lieberman, among those who do know of him, the overwhelming majority like him. 35% of voters have a favorable impression of the Connecicut Senator, and only 6% have an unfavorable impression.
Dick Cheney has similar ratings, but Lieberman retains an advantage over his vice-presidential rival: voters view Lieberman as a moderate, and as a result, he fares better among moderates and independents than does Cheney. 32% of voters label Lieberman a moderate, and only 16% think he is a liberal. In contrast, 41% of voters call Cheney a conservative, while only 17% think he's moderate.
In addition, while vice-presidential picks aren't supposed to matter to the vote, Lieberman may be having some effect. 74% of voters say the V.P. picks don't matter to their vote, but 21% say the selections do. And among those to whom they matter, Gore bests Bush 54% to 36%.
AL GORE'S CONVENTION
The Democratic convention was more successful than the Republican convention in placing the party's candidate in the spotlight, as the Gore-Lieberman ticket has left a more lasting impression in viewers' minds than did Bush-Cheney. 24% of Americans who watched the Democratic convention name either Gore or Lieberman as the most memorable aspect of the convention. After the Republican convention, 16% of Americans volunteered either Bush or Cheney as most memorable. And the prominent role that Gore's family played in his convention was not lost on those who watched either - 6% cite Tipper Gore, Karenna Gore-Schiff, or Gore's family in general as the most notable aspect of the convention. In contrast, only 3% mention Bill Clinton.
Two-thirds of Americans and 70% of voters watched at least some of the Democratic convention. 30% of voters say they have a better image of Gore as a result of the convention. 27% of those who watched the Republican convention say their perception of Bush has improved.
THE CLINTON FACTOR
Two of Gore's main challenges at the convention were to separate himself from the Clinton-era scandals, while somehow claiming credit for Clinton administration policies and economic good times. Gore appears to have accomplished both.
Public opinion of Gore suffered little, if at all, from last Thursday's news leak that a new grand jury had been impaneled to further investigate the Clinton-Lewinsky matter. To Gore's advantage, the public continues to want the matter dropped: 63% of adults disapprove of the appointment of a new grand jury, and 64% say that impeachment was punishment enough. In December 1998, 58% thought impeachment was punishment enough and the matter should be dropped. Only 38% of Americans would like to see Clinton criminally charged with perjury or obstruction of justice after he leaves office, while 56% think he should not be charged.
In addition to the public's continued dissatisfaction with these investigations, a majority of voters - 59% - claim their opinions of the scandals are unrelated to their opinions of Gore, a substantial increase from before the convention. 26% say their opinions are affected some or a lot (the majority being epublicans), and 13% are not much affected. Two weeks ago, only 47% of voters said their opinions of Gore were not influenced by the Clinton scandals.
While separating himself from Clinton, Gore is also managing to claim some credit for the good economy and the general direction of the country. 46% of Americans say their families are financially better off than they were eight years ago, while 44% say their finances are the same, and only 8% have gotten worse. Among voters who say they are better off, 64% are voting for Gore while 26% are supporting Bush.
In addition, voters are pleased with the direction in which the country is headed, and they would prefer continuity to change. 60% of voters say they like the direction the country is headed and hope things continue like this. 33% of voters are dissatisfied and would prefer to see some change in direction. This spells good news for Gore: among the 60% of voters who would like to see things continue as they are now, 59% support Gore while 30% support Bush.
But even were voters to decide they want change, Gore might not need to worry. In October 1988, an NBC News / Wall Street Journal Poll showed that Americans were interested in change rather than continuity; and yet the sitting Vice President - George Bush - won anyway.
As is usually true, the two conventions have served to spark public interest in the upcoming election. 55% of voters now call the presidential campaign interesting, up from just 36% one month ago, before either convention. In addition, 77% of voters are paying attention to the presidential campaign.
Thus far, both candidates seem to be running campaigns that are viewed by voters as positive, although Gore gets higher marks for doing so than Bush does. 67% of voters think Gore is spending more time explaining what he would do as president than attacking Bush, and 28% think his focus is on attacking. 56% of voters think Bush is explaining what he would do, while 28% think he is spending more time attacking Gore.
This poll was conducted August 18-20, 2000, among a nationwide random sample of 1254 adults interviewed by telephone. The sample includes 954 registered voters. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the entire sample, and the sample of registered voters. The error for subgroups is larger.