A Fair Count?

001122 gore and bush / rioting voters
CBS
The protracted election battle continues to take a toll on perceptions of Vice President Al Gore, as Americans begin to lose patience waiting for an outcome not yet in sight. Still, there is concern among many that the votes in Florida haven't been and won't be accurately counted, and there are doubts that either candidate would be able to unite the country as president.

Consequently, there is a division over what should happen now. Fifty-four percent say it's a good idea for the U.S. Supreme Court to be involved in the election. But 39 percent disagree. Americans are almost evenly divided on whether George W. Bush should start to form his administration before the court cases are decided. And while 42 percent say Al Gore should concede now, 48 percent say it's too soon for any concession.

THE LONG ELECTION

Americans are increasingly skeptical that a fair and accurate count of the votes in Florida will occur. But they also are becoming more impatient with the delay; a delay that is lasting longer than many expected it to. Fifty-two percent say they have lost patience with the fact that the election isn't resolved yet, up from 45 percent who felt that way last week. Forty-five percent are willing to wait longer for a resolution.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
LOST PATIENCE WITH THE DELAY?

 YesNo
Now

52%

45%


 YesNo
11/19

45%

50%

CBSNEWS Polls

As was the case last week, Gore supporters have more patience than Bush supporters: 64 percent of those who voted for Gore are willing to wait longer, while 73 percent of Bush voters are losing patience. What also matters is who people think is ahead in the national popular vote. Democrats who incorrectly believe Bush is ahead of Gore nationally are much more likely to have lost patience than those who think Gore leads.

Most Americans don't expect a resolution is imminent. Only 13 percent think the election will be resolved by the end of this week, and 78 percent expect it will take at least a few more weeks to sort out. Just two weeks ago, nearly three-quarters believed the election would be resolved by the end of November.

THE FLORIDA VOTE COUNT

Public opinion about obtaining a fair vote count has become increasingly pessimistic. One week ago, 41 percent thought there would be a fair count of the vote and 43 percent thought there would not. Now, more people are convinced that the eventual count won't be fair.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
WILL THERE BE A FAIR AND ACCURATE FLORIDA VOTE COUNT?

 YesNo
Now

38%

47%


 YesNo
11/19

41%

43%

CBSNEWS Polls

Nearly wice as many Gore voters as Bush voters are dubious about the final vote count.

But there is an even greater partisan division over the fairness and accuracy of the count certified on Sunday by Florida's Secretary of State. Eighty-nine percent of Bush voters say that the certified results were fair and accurate, while 83 percent of Gore voters say they were not. Overall, Americans divide on that count, 47 percent to 47 percent.

An increasing number of Americans think that Florida voters INTENDED to vote for Gore. Now, 40 percent say they think that more voters in Florida intended to vote for Gore, while 35 percent think Florida's electorate intended to vote for Bush. One week ago, opinion was evenly divided, with 41 percent saying they thought more Florida voters meant to vote for Gore, and the same percentage saying more voters intended to vote for Bush.

THE CAMPAIGNS IN THE AFTERMATH

It's clear that the protracted struggle is hurting public opinion of Vice President Al Gore, while it is not having much of an impact on overall perceptions of George W. Bush. Some of that clearly comes from the increasingly negative evaluations of the Gore campaign's handling of the post-election uncertainty.

The public disapproves of the way the Gore team has been handling the election outcome. Currently, 54 percent disapprove of the way the Gore camp is behaving. In the week following the election, only 41 percent disapproved of his campaign's behavior.

Bush and his advisers have the popular advantage at this point – 50 percent approve of the way the Bush team is handling the election outcome. This is slightly more than approved of the Bush campaign's behavior two weeks ago.

Still, there is concern that both campaigns are putting politics above the good of the country. Just 16 percent think both campaigns are motivated by concern for the country. Forty-eight percent describe the Bush campaign as primarily motivated by politics, and 57 percent see the Gore campaign that way.

There is now a clear difference in how voters evaluate the two candidates overall. Gore is now as likely to be viewed unfavorably as favorably - something that has not been the case since the Democratic Convention this past summer. In contrast, Bush is generally viewed favorably by registered voters, although unfavorable opinions are slightly higher now than they were before the election.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
OPINIONS OF THE CANDIDATES

 FavorableNot Favorable
Gore

41%

43%


 FavorableNot Favorable
Bush

48%

37%

CBSNEWS Polls

But even though Americans are losing patience with the process and foresee it stretching out for weeks, there is not a strong popular mandate for either candidate to take action just yet. Just half thinit is appropriate for George W. Bush to select officials for his administration. Forty-seven percent think he should wait until the court cases surrounding the election are resolved.

And, less than half – 42 percent - think Gore should concede the election; 48 percent think it is too soon for either candidate to do so. Not surprisingly, support for Gore to concede falls largely along partisan lines – 83 percent of Bush voters think Gore should concede, while 77 percent of Gore voters think it is too soon.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
SHOULD ANYONE CONCEDE NOW?

 Gore shouldBush shouldToo soon

42%

3%

48%


THE NEXT STEP: TAKING IT TO THE U.S. SUPREME COURT

The next step in the process is Friday's oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court on the Bush campaign's appeal of the Florida State Supreme Court's decision to allow hand recounts in some Florida counties. Fifty-four percent think it is a good idea for the Supreme Court to get involved in the election. 39 percent disagree. Sixty-one percent of Gore voters welcome its involvement, but only 48 percent of Bush voters feel the same.

More than half the public expresses quite a lot of confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court, a confidence level pretty much unchanged over the past twenty years.

The current lack of resolution of the election is seen as a big problem by most Americans, but it is more the controversy than the delay in knowing the outcome that bothers them. Sixty-five percent say that the continuing controversy surrounding the election in Florida is a big problem for the country, while fewer – 48 percent - say not knowing who the next president is a big problem for the country. Concern about the impact of the delay has increased from 35 percent in the first week after the election.

THE TWO PRESIDENCIES

Perhaps as a result of Florida's vote certification on Sunday, voters feel that a Bush win would be more legitimate at this point than a Gore win would be. In addition, while Americans believe that both candidates could lead the country effectively, they are not confident in either one's ability to unite the country if elected.

Sixty-five percent of Americans, including 41 percent of Gore voters, would feel that Bush had legitimately won the election if he were to take office in January. In contrast, if Gore becomes president, just half of Americans say they would feel that he legitimately won the election.

The public sees little difference, however, in the ability of the candidates to lead the country effectively. Sixty percent say Gore could lead effectively if he became president, and only slightly more – 65 percent - say Bush could.

The public fears that current divisions over the election may be tough for either candidate to heal if elected. Forty-two percent think a Gore presidency would bring people together, rather than divide them, but an equal 42 percent think his presidency would be divisive. And despite his continual talk of bipartisanship, only 39 percent think a Bush presidency would bring people together, while 43 percent think it would divide Americans.

Despite growing pessimism about the election's fairness and resolution, Americans still think it makes a difference which of these men gets into office. Americans see big differences between a Bush presidency and a Gore presidency: 74 percent of adults think that there are real differences in what each would seek to accomplish as president.

THE PARTIES AND THE NEW CONGRESS

Public pinion of the two parties has not changed since before the election. And while both parties are viewed favorably, in contrast to opinions over the presidential election controversy, Democrats are more popular than Republicans. Fifty-six percent of Americans view the Democratic Party favorably and 49 percent view the Republican Party favorably.

The public is negative about the prospects of the parties working together. Given the close division of seats in both the House and the Senate, Americans think partisanship is likely to increase, not decrease, in the new Congress.

Forty-seven percent of Americans say that partisanship is likely to increase since neither party will have complete control. Only 33 percent feel that partisanship will decrease because the parties will be forced to work together.

CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS?

Given the increased likelihood that Bush will win the Electoral College vote but lose the popular vote, Republicans are growing increasingly fond of the Electoral College system. Overall, however, the public remains in favor of electing the popular vote winner president.

Just two weeks ago, Republicans were fairly divided over the wisdom of the Electoral College system, but now 53 percent are in favor of keeping the system intact. In contrast, the public in general continues to oppose the system – 57 percent - would rather elect the president by popular vote. Democratic views have not changed.

The public now divides over whether, in the event of a split between the popular and electoral votes, the popular vote winner or the electoral vote winner would be a more legitimate president.

Currently, 43 percent choose the popular vote winner and 40 percent say the electoral winner. Two weeks ago, 45 percent chose the popular vote winner while 39 percent chose the electoral vote winner.

Part of Gore's public perception problem may be that more than a third of adults nationwide do not know he is currently leading in the popular vote. While 64 percent are aware that Gore is ahead, a quarter are under the impression that Bush is leading the vote nationwide, and another 13 percent admit to not knowing.

Republicans and Democrats are equally likely to think that Bush leads in the national popular vote, but the perception of a Bush national vote lead seems to affect Democrats more. Those Democrats who believe Bush leads in the popular vote are twice as likely as those who know Gore leads to think the vice president should concede now.

As a result of these divisions, the public remains divided over whom they would like to see inhabiting the White House next January. Forty-five percent would like to see Gore win, and 47 percent would like to see Bush win.

CHENEY'S HEALTH AND PERCEPTIONS OF THE WOULD-BE VICE PRESIDENTS

Despite the minor heart attack he suffered last week, most Americans believe that Republican vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney's health is not a matter or public concern, and half don't think his medical records need to be made public.

Sixty-four percent say that Cheney's recent heart attack and history of heart problems do not give them cause for concern about his ability to serve effectively as vice president. Only 33 percent say his health makes them concerned. Fifty percent think the Bush campaign was right not to have released Cheney's medical records during the election, while 41 percent think those records should have been made public.

Public views of Cheney are unchanged in the past month or so: 44 percent of voters have a favorable image of him, and 18 percent have a negative view. Opinions of Cheney's Democratic counterpart Joe Lieberman are suffering a bit: 33 percent of voters have a positive image of Lieberman, but negative assessments have risen to 21 percent from 13 percent before the election.


This poll was conducted by telephone November 27-28, 2000, among 1012 adults nationwide. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the entire sample, and four percentage points for registered voters. Sampling error for subgroups may be higher.