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McCain, Bush Are Neck And Neck

In the final hours of the New Hampshire campaign, the GOP race between Texas Governor George W. Bush and Arizona Senator John McCain is tightening, according to a CBS News poll. While among Democrats, Vice President Al Gore is maintaining a strong lead over former senator Bill Bradley.

McCain is hanging onto a slim 39-35 percent lead over Bush. On the Democratic side, with fewer independent voters, Bradley continues to trail Gore by 16 points. Bradley's recent attacks on Gore do not seem to be having their intended effect.

Among those definitely voting
McCain 39%

Bush 35

Forbes 10

Keyes 6

Bauer 1

Among those definitely voting
Gore 55%

Bradley 39

In both races, more voters say their minds are made up than did two weeks ago, but around one quarter of each group say their minds could still change.

Currently, 45 percent of registered independent, or unaffiliated, voters say they will vote in the Republican primary. Only 31 percent intend to vote in the Democratic primary, while 24 percent of independents who say they will indeed vote still remain undecided over which primary to choose.


Independents are the key to tomorrow's Republican race. Among potential Republican primary voters who are registered as Republicans, Bush leads McCain 41 percent to 33 percent. But among registered independents, McCain leads Bush 44 percent to 20 percent. Registered independents currently make up 38 percent of potential Republican primary voters, and 29 percent of definite Republican primary voters.

Among potential Republican primary voters

McCain 44% 33%

Bush 20 41

Forbes 15 8

Keyes 6 6

Bauer 1 1

Bush's creeping advance on McCain may be due to his recent popularity gains, specifically among registered Republicans. Fifty-six percent of registered Republicans have a favorable impression of Bush, equal to the 56 percent who view McCain favorably. Just two weeks ago, only 45 percent of registered Republicans viewed Bush favorably.

Bush's father holds some sway in the race: among potential Republican primary voters who view the former president favorably his son holds an electoral edge of 39 percent to 35 percent over McCain. Very few potential Republican primary voters view the former president unfavorably - 11 percent - but among those who do, McCain leads the younger Bush 57 percent to 18 percent.

The two campaign issues of abortion and taxes are also important to the Republican vote, although neither is considered by voters to be a single defining issue. Potential Republican primary voters who favor abortion rights support McCain, and those who oppose legalized abortions support Bush and Forbes, but most of these voters say the abortion issue alone will not determine their vote.

Only 6 percent of potential Republican primary voters say that candidates' stands on abortion are the most important consideration in their vote, while 52 percent say abortion is one of multiple important issues, and 41 percent say it has no influence on their vote. In bad news for McCain, those who prefer outlawing abortion are also the most likely to call it the single most important issue - 22 percent.


  Abortion Taxes

Single most important issue 6% 7%

One among other important issues 52 82

Not important 41 9

While registered Republicans cite taxes as the issue they'd most like the government to address in the coming year, when it comes to this primary election, Republican primary voters see taxes as only one of multiple important issues. Eighty-three percent of potential Republican primary voters say that taxes are one of multiple important issues they consider in deciding how to vote. Only 7 percent say it is the single most important issue, and only 9 percent say it doesn't matter to their vote at all.

Despite his emphasis on the tax issue, Forbes continues to trail both McCain and Bush among voters who prefer a flat tax: Forbes receives only 16 percent of these voters to just under one-third each for the front-runners.


Bradley continues to trail Gore in the Democratic race. In fact, there is some evidence that his recent decision to challenge Gore on a host of issues may be backfiring.

Currently, 31 percent of potential Democratic primary voters think Bradley is spending more time attacking Gore than explaining his own positions. Just two weeks ago only 17 percent thought this. Only 15 percent of Democratic primary voters think Gore is spending more time on the attack than on issues - unchanged from two weeks ago.


  Bradley Gore

Attacking opponent 31% 15%

Explaining issue stands 51 67

While Bradley has been arguing that Gore cannot be trusted to keep his word if elected President, voters see little distinction between the two Democrats on this quality. Sixty-two percent of potential Democratic primary voters interviewed on Sunday think Gore can be trusted to keep his word, and 59 percent feel Bradley can be trusted.

At the same time, Gore's favorables have been on the rise in the past two weeks. Currently, 69 percent of registered Democrats have a favorable impression of Gore compared to 51 percent two weeks ago.

Despite his recent attacks on Gore, Bradley voters still cite his integrity as the top reason they support him. Twenty-one percent of Bradley supporters mention his honesty and integrity, 12 percent say they like his policy positions and 11 percent support Bradley because they don't like Gore.

Honesty/integrity 21%

Issue positions 12

Don't like Gore 11

Vice Presidency 19%

Clinton admin. 16

Issue positions 16

Gore's support stems primarily from his time as vice president. Nineteen percent cite Gore's experience as vice president as the reason they support him, and another 16 percent point to President Bill Clinton or the Clinton administration specifically. Another 16 percent say they like Gore's issue positions.

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,338 adults in New Hampshire, interviewed by telephone January 28-30, 2000. The sample includes 581 potential and 450 definite Republican primary voters, and 485 potential and 347 definite Democratic primary voters. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus four percentage points for the Republican potential primary vote sample, and plus or minus five points for definite voters in each primary and Democratic potential primary voters. For full question wording and poll findings, please contact the CBS Election and Survey Unit at 212-975-5554.

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