CBS Poll: A Bump For Bush

george w. bush at gop convention
By a variety of measures, Republicans should consider their convention a success. Republican nominee George W. Bush received a clear bounce from the selection of a running mate and the convention itself, and now leads Vice President Al Gore 50 percent to 35 percent among registered voters, according to a CBS News poll.
CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls








The Republican candidate improved his overall image (though not necessarily evaluations of specific traits), but more important, the convention increased doubts about Al Gore. Bush's supporters are much more enthusiastic about their candidate than are Gore's, and voters believe Bush but not Gore has explained what he wants to accomplish as president.

For the first time ever, the Republican Party leads the Democrats as the party more likely to improve education (a focus of the Philadelphia convention), and is even with Democrats on handling Social Security. In addition, for the first time this campaign season, more voters describe the campaign as interesting than dull.

But the Republican convention may not have accomplished everything it set out to do. Despite all the convention rhetoric that urged voters to give the country a new start and replace the Clinton administration, many voters simply deny that their vote this year will have anything to do with Bill Clinton. Forty-six percent say the president's policies will not determine their vote, and 69 percent claim their vote is not about Mr. Clinton's presidency in general.


Before he chose former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney as his running mate, George W. Bush led Al Gore 46 percent to 40 percent. In this first CBS News poll after the Republican Convention, Bush has gained four points among likely voters, while Gore has fallen five points.

Bush has clearly solidified his support among Republicans, 88 percent of whom now say they will vote for him in the fall. At the same time, the Democratic vote for Gore has fallen below 70 percent. In addition, some of the Republican gain has come from a drop in support for conservative Pat Buchanan, who expects to receive the Reform Party nomination later this week. In the four-way contest, Bush leads Gore 48 percent to 32 percent , and Buchanan's share has dropped from 3 percent two weeks ago to 1 percent now.


  Bush Gore Nader Buchanan


The convention may have dampened the spirits of some Gore supporters as it energized Bush supporters. Just under a third of Gore's voters say they are enthusiastic about his candidacy - while 46 percent of Bus's voters are enthusiastic about him. And Democrats are almost as likely to say Bush will win the November election as think their party's nominee will. Overall, nearly three times as many voters now expect a Bush victory as expect Gore to win in November.

While Bush has gained among most demographic groups, his "bounce" sets no records. Gallup Polls since 1964 suggest that a five-point rise in support is an average convention bounce. Most gains are between four and eight points. Bush's four-point rise is actually on the low side of that range. According to CBS News / New York Times surveys from 1992, Bill Clinton had a nine point bounce following his convention. In 1996, Dole gained 5 points in a head-to-head match-up with Clinton. But Bush's father, former President George Bush, enjoyed by far the biggest Republican bounce -- his vote share jumped 13 points after the 1988 Republican convention.


While Bush's overall image was boosted by the convention, and Gore's was weakened, in some ways the changes are relatively minor. There was little change in the public's assessment of how well the candidates understand presidential problems, or whether they could be trusted to handle an international crisis, or on caring about people. But the small changes all were to Bush's benefit, and Gore may have been weakened in voter evaluation of his foreign policy ability.

Gore does have a clear advantage when it comes to the voters' judgment on whether the candidates care about the needs and problems of blacks and minorities. But even here, Bush scores well - 55 percent say Bush cares about the needs and problems of blacks and other minorities, perhaps because the Party showcased many minority speakers and performers in Philadelphia. However, blacks are somewhat skeptical about this; 29 percent think Bush cares about the needs of blacks and other minorities, and 60 percent think he does not.

Bush's overall favorable rating is more than double his unfavorable rating, representing his best showing all year. On the other hand, an equal percentage give Gore favorable and unfavorable ratings -- a situation he has faced throughout most of the campaign. Surprisingly, perhaps, more people are unsure of their opinion of the Vice President than at any time since February. Bush is still most likely to be seen as a conservative, while Gore is more likely to be described as liberal.


  Now 7/24
Bush: Favorable 48% 44%

Unfavorable 22% 26%

Gore: Favorable33% 36%

Unfavorable 32% 35%

At the very least, the convention gave voters useful information about the Texas Governor. Fifty-three percent now say that Bush had made it clear what he wants to accomplish in four years as President. Jus36 percent can say that about Al Gore. Of course, Gore has yet to have his party's convention.

But one thing the convention failed to do was convince voters that George W. Bush was a different kind of Republican. In this poll, just 35 percent think that, although that represents an increase from the 27 percent who said so two weeks ago. Republicans were the most likely to call Bush "different," while Democrats were the least likely.

There was little impact on the overall image of Dick Cheney. Before the convention, Cheney had a 28 percent to 10 percent favorable-unfavorable rating. Now, it is 30 percent favorable and 13 percent unfavorable.


While retaining a newly-won positive image, the Republican Party's upbeat convention succeeded in neutralizing and even reversing traditional Democratic edges on issues like Social Security and education - historical firsts in the CBS News poll.

In July, the Republican Party's image had rebounded to majority positive ratings for the first time since the impeachment and Senate trial of President Clinton. At the same time, however, the party lagged behind the Democrats on important social issues.


  Republicans Democrats
Education - Now 42% 34%

July33% 45%

Social Security - Now 37% 35%

July 37% 43%

But now, Republicans have drawn even with Democrats on Social Security, with 37 percent of voters saying they would be more likely to make the right decisions, and 35 percent say Democrats would. And still more impressively, Republicans have overtaken Democrats on the issue of education: 42 percent to 34 percent.

Voters also see the Republican Party as a party that welcomes different points of view, perhaps in response to the party's convention themes of diversity and inclusion. Fifty-four percent of voters believe the Republican Party welcomes people with diverse viewpoints. In addition, 63 percent of those who watched the Republican convention felt that the broadly diverse range of speakers were generally representative of the party leadership and its views.

But while the Republicans may have made some gains during the convention, voters still believe that Democrats are the more inclusive and caring of the two parties. Sixty-six percent of voters think that the Democrats welcome different viewpoints, and by a margin of 45 percent to 21 percent voters pick the Democrats as the party that cares more about the needs and problems of minorities.

In addition, 41 percent of voters feel that the Democratic Party cares about people like themselves, while 34 percent feel the Republicans do - a margin unchanged from before the convention.


There were few direc attacks on either President Clinton or Gore during the convention, and the gentler tone was noticed by voters. Sixty percent said they think Bush is spending more time in his campaign explaining what he would do as president, while 24 percent think he is spending more time attacking Gore. In contrast, Gore's campaign is viewed less positively: 50 percent of voters think Gore is spending his time explaining what he would do as president, but 30 percent think he is attacking Bush.

The message of inclusion that pervaded the convention has struck a chord with voters. 64 percent think Bush is trying to bring different groups of people together. Only 15 percent think he is trying to divide people.


Sixty-two percent of Americans - and 69 percent of voters - said they watched the convention, and most viewed the convention as a positive, if staged, moment for the Republicans. On the positive side, a majority of viewers felt the speakers accurately represented the views of Republican Party leaders. When asked what was most memorable about it, however, 8 percent of viewers volunteered that it was a "spectacle" of public relations hype; 4 percent felt it served to present a unified Republican party, with no public squabbling; and 4 percent mentioned the theme of diversity.

As would be expected, the convention served to focus the attention of voters on the party's candidate. Thirty-six percent of Americans watched Bush's acceptance speech on Thursday evening. Eleven percent of all viewers mentioned him personally as the most memorable aspect of the convention.

This poll was conducted August 4-6, 2000, among a nationwide random sample of 1139 adults interviewed by telephone. The sample includes 868 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.