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Poll: Doubts On Gore As Leader

A CBS News Early Show poll shows that the vice presidency is both a boon and a bane to Al Gore's candidacy. While Gore's position as second-in-command reassures people that he has the right kind of experience to be a good president, it may also have made the public dubious about his ability to lead.

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Al Gore interview
Gore continues to lead his Democratic rival Bill Bradley by a large margin in the contest for the Democratic nomination (58 percent to 26 percent among Democratic primary voters), while continuing to trail George W. Bush in a general election trial heat.

Nationwide Al Gore's image is more negative than positive: 30 percent of adults view the V.P. unfavorably, while 23 percent have a favorable impression of him. Thirty-eight percent of Democrats have a favorable impression of Gore, while only 15 percent view him unfavorably. Given eight years in office, he remains relatively unknown - 47 percent still cannot or will not rate him. Gore's image has changed little over the past few months, despite the increasing visibility of his campaign.


  All Democrats

Favorable 23% 38%

Not favorable 30 15

Undecided/don't know enough 47 47


Gore's role as the Vice President provides both advantages and disadvantages to his quest for the presidency. An overwhelming 85% feel he understands these problems, while only 11% say he does not.


  Yes No

Understand problems of Pres. 85% 11

Have right experience 66% 25

Have strong leadership qualities 44% 44

Another benefit for Gore is that the public views him as experienced in the ways of the presidency: almost two-thirds of Americans feel he has the right kind of experience to be a good president. These sentiments are widespread, even crossing party lines.

But the vice presidency may be hurting Gore, as his leadership abilities are in doubt. Only 44 percent of adults believe he has strong leadership qualities. The same percentage believe he does not, possibly because he has been playing second for seven years. Nearly one third of Democrats doubt his leadership abilities.

The vice president also has yet to prove himself on foreign policy. A slim majority of Americans feel uneasy about his ability to deal well with an international crisis. Just 37 percent have confidence in his ability.

Despite his efforts to distance himself from the White House, Gore's role as vic president is what most voters think of when they hear his name. Eighteen percent say the first thing that comes to their minds about Gore is the vice presidency. Ten percent express generally negative sentiments, and 9 percent mention President Clinton, a third of which are negative associations. The issue that comes up the most is the environment, mentioned by 8 percent.


The public views Gore as an understanding, and possibly even empathetic, candidate. Fifty-eight percent of adults say that Gore understands the needs and problems of people like themselves. Even 56 percent of Republicans believe Gore understands their problems.


  Yes No

Care about problems of people like you 58% 30

Have more honesty and integrity than most people in public life 45% 42

Gore does less well on the qualities of honesty and integrity. Americans are divided over whether Gore has more honesty and integrity than most people in public life: 45 percent say he does, but 42 percent say he does not. Gore also suffers from another image often held about politicians: 54 percent say Gore more often says what he thinks people want to hear than what he really believes.


Gore continues to trail Republican candidate George W. Bush in a general election match-up. The public sees Gore as the more qualified candidate, but more people see strong leadership qualities in Bush.


Understands Pres. problems 85% 71%

Has right experience 66% 62%

Cares about problems of people like you 58% 52%

Has more honesty and integrity than most people in public life 45% 41%

Has strong leadership qualities 44% 67%

People believe that Gore is more likely to understand the complicated problems associated with the presidency, and they also give him a slight edge on experience. The public also sees Gore as more likely to care about their needs and problems.

On the quality of leadership, however, Bush has a large advantage: 67 percent say Bush has strong leadership qualities, while only 44 percent say Gore has.

This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1,065 adults, interviewed by telephone October 28-30, 1999. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus 3 percentage points for the entire sample.