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Poll: Clinton Attains Most Goals

One year before the 2000 presidential election, Americans view the seven years of Bill ClintonÂ's presidency in a very positive way, despite various scandals and his impeachment earlier this year, according to the latest CBS News Early Show Poll.

A majority, 52 percent, said that as president, Mr. Clinton has made the United States a better place. Just 14 percent said he has made it worse.

Even conservatives think Mr. Clinton has had some positive impact on the country. Thirty-seven percent said he has made it a better place, and only 26 percent said he has made it worse.

By 61 percent to 33 percent, Americans said Bill Clinton has accomplished most of what he set out to do as president.

Rating if Clinton has accomplished goals

Most of the public was able to name an accomplishment of the Clinton administration, and the economy was the most frequently named, by an overwhelming margin.

Thirty-nine percent cited the economy as the Clinton administrationÂ's greatest accomplishment; foreign policy is second, but named by just 7 percent.

This focus on the economy – a major theme of the 1992 Clinton campaign – may be the reason most Americans think Mr. Clinton has accomplished many of his goals.

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On the other hand, most also named an administration failure, and again there was one dominant answer – that of scandal and impeachment. Thirty-eight percent gave a scandal-related answer when asked about the administrationÂ's greatest failure. Eight percent cited health care, and 5 percent mentioned foreign policy.

The publicÂ's view of this administrationÂ's performance equals, and in some ways even exceeds, evaluations of Ronald ReaganÂ's eight years in office, measured near the end of his presidency.

Mr. ClintonÂ's overall approval rating, which increased during the government shutdown in 1995 and soared even higher during the impeachment crisis, is now at 57 percent, exceeding the 52 percent approval rating given to Reagan in late 1987. (It is bested; however, by the 67 percent approval rating Dwight Eisenhower received in late 1959).

Mr. ClintonÂ's accomplishments are also more salient to people than ReaganÂ's accomplishments were. More people can name a Clinton administration accomplishment than could name a Reagan administration accomplishment in mid-1988.

One continued area of presidential weakness has been Mr. ClintonÂ's relatively low favrability ratings – which have consistently reflected public dismay with the presidentÂ's personal characteristics.

In this poll, overall evaluations of the president were mixed: Forty-six percent were favorable, 43 percent were not favorable.

Does Mr. Clinton's standing matter in the 2000 campaign?

While the public seems to generally approve of Clinton administration policies, that approval may not have an impact on the outcome of the 2000 election.

One in four registered voters said his or her vote next fall will be one to continue Bill ClintonÂ's policies, but nearly as many said it will be a vote to change those policies.

A plurality of voters, however, doesnÂ't think of their vote as being about the Clinton policies.

The Democratic race

Vice President Al GoreÂ's national lead over former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley has increased in the last few weeks, suggesting a possible resurgence for Gore in the wake of well-publicized changes in his campaign.

But at this stage of the campaign, when only 18 percent of the public is paying a lot of attention to the election, the Democratic race is likely to remain fluid.

Just 36 percent of Democratic voters said their minds are made up and are unlikely to change before the primary elections.

Fifty-eight percent of Democratic primary voters said they would like Gore to win the Democratic nomination for president; 26 percent favored Bradley.

Gore vs. Bradley

Fewer than half of Democratic voters supported Gore a month ago.

Bradley seemed to do best in his home region of the Northeast, where state polls suggest he may be leading Gore in the New Hampshire primary and in a close contest in New York.

When voters were asked whom they would support in the November election, Gore was running well behind Republican Governor of Texas George W. Bush.

Gore was favored by only 37 percent of those polled, while Bush was prefered by 52 percent.

Gore vs. Bush

When voters were asked to pick between Bush and Bradley in November election, Bradley was running behind Bush.

Bradley was selected by 31 percent of those polled, while Bush was favored by 53 percent.

Bradley vs. Bush

The Democrats fared best when they were paired together, with Gore as the presidential candidate and Bradley as the vice presidential candidate, against a pairing of Bush with Arizona Senator John McCain.

Democrats also performed better when voters were asked to express a presidential preference in 2000 simply by party identification, with no candidate names attached.

One reason that both Gore and Bradley wee running so far behind Bush, the Republican, is that at this time, many of the Democratic primary voters who favor each of the two candidates claimed they would not vote for the other in the general election. That pattern is not uncommon this early in the campaign and usually changes nearer the actual election.

This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1,065 adults, interviewed by telephone Oct. 28-30, 1999. There were 901 registered voters in the sample. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for the sample of all adults and all registered voters. The sampling error could be plus or minus six percentage points for the sample of Democratic primary voters.
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