Unfinished Business

better bush gore tornado
Americans aren't quite sure who should have won the presidential election, but most of them don't see the delay in knowing as a big problem for the country, and they question the actions and motives of both presidential campaigns. And with a cliffhanger in progress, some regrets have set in - more than half of those who didn't vote say they wish they had.


According to a CBS News / New York Times callback survey of 1,720 Americans first interviewed before the election, the possibility of a split decision in the popular vote totals and the Electoral College outcome divides the public on their views of the proper outcome.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
How Should We Choose The President?

 Popular Vote WinnerElectoral Vote WinnerNeither /
Not Sure





If the end result is a split between the popular vote and the Electoral College vote, the public thinks the popular vote winner - which at this point looks to be Gore - has a more legitimate claim to the presidency. In this hypothetical scenario, 45 percent of Americans think the popular vote winner would have the better claim, while 39 percent feel the Electoral College vote winner would.

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  • But it's not clear that the public currently knows who has won the popular vote. When asked if Bush or Gore should be president, there is a split, just as there was in the election itself. 44 percent think George W. Bush should be President, while 40 percent think Al Gore should be. On each question 16 percent aren't sure which cndidate should win.

    Americans clearly want to eliminate the possibility of this sort of split decision in the future, and they have felt this way for some time. 60 percent of Americans think the Constitution should be amended to make the presidency dependent on the popular vote. Only 31 percent of Americans would like to keep the constitutional system of electing presidents through the Electoral College. In 1987, the last time this question was asked - a nearly identical number wanted to eliminate the Electoral College.


    Fewer than half of Americans approve of the way either campaign is handling the uncertain outcome of the election, and both campaigns receive criticism for specific actions. People question the motives of the Democrats and Gore, but at the same time feel Bush is jumping the gun by beginning work on his transition team before the outcome is certain.

    46 percent of adults nationwide approve of the way the Bush campaign is dealing with the uncertain election outcome, and an equal number approve of the Gore campaign's behavior. But roughly four in ten Americans disapprove of the way each campaign is behaving.

    Many Americans also feel that the campaigns are placing politics above the good of the country, and Gore's campaign receives more blame for this than Bush's. 47 percent feel the Gore campaign is doing this, and 41 percent think the Bush campaign is. Only 27 percent feel that neither campaign is placing political interests over the country's best interests. Democrats are more forgiving of Bush's actions post-election than Republicans are of Gore's.

    On specific actions, both campaigns are suspect. Half the public feel that the Democrats are challenging the Florida vote count because they don't like the results, while only 37 percent think they're doing it because they honestly feel the election was unfair in some areas.

    More than half say Bush's public efforts to assume the mantel of president-elect are premature. 56 percent of the public says that Bush should be waiting for the results of the election to be finalized before he begins forming his administration. 40 percent think he should go ahead.


    Americans are sanguine about the current electoral impasse in Florida. They are optimistic that the situation will be resolved sometime in the next month. Nearly three-quarters of Americans think the election outcome will be final within the coming month, including 28 percent who think it will be resolved this week.

    CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls

     This WeekWithin A MonthLonger Than That




    CBSNEWS Polls

    62 percent of adults nationwide say not knowing who the next President will be is not a big problem for the country. But the perception of this becoming a problem increases the longer people think it will go unresolved. Nearly half of those who think the uncertainly will last for more than a month describe that uncertainty as a big problem for the country.

    Not only is Americans' apparent composure due to their optimism that the situation will be resolved soon, but they also feel that a President who lost the popular vote could govern. Seven out of ten think that a President who won only the Electoral College and not the popular vote could lead the country effectively.


    Despite Florida's growing vote count problems, few voters think their vote may have been counted incorrectly. Mre than two-thirds of voters have a lot of confidence that their vote was counted properly, and another 21 percent are somewhat confident.

    However, there are greater doubts among some voters than others. Women are less likely than men to have complete confidence their vote was counted properly. Voters in suburbs have less confidence than voters in big cities, while black voters are more dubious than white voters. And, perhaps because of the specific questions raised by the Florida count, Gore voters are 15 points less likely than Bush voters to have a lot of confidence their vote was counted properly.

    When it comes to what should be done about the specific problems in Palm Beach County, Americans divide in favor of letting the results stand. 46 percent of Americans think the County should hold a re-vote because too many votes were disqualified, while 51 percent think that voters have to be responsible for their own mistakes and that the results should therefore stand.

    CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
    What To Do In Palm Beach?

     Let results standRe-vote



    CBSNEWS Polls


    Although a bare majority would not permit Palm Beach County voters to vote over, there is a certain amount of regret on the part of many who didn't get to the polls on Election Day themselves. 55 percent of those who didn't vote regret not voting.

    Many of those who didn't vote were unregistered, but they were equally regretful as non-voters who were registered to vote before the election. And had they all voted, the election might not be such a cliffhanger. In pre-election polling, they had given Gore a 20 point lead.

    There was very little regret, however, from those who voted for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader on Election Day. Nine in ten Nader voters would stick with him, even knowing what they know now about the closeness of the outcome.

    This poll was conducted by telephone November 10-12, 2000, among 1,720 adults nationwide, who were previously interviewed November 1-6, 2000. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus two percentage points for results based on the entire sample. Sampling error for subgroups may be higher.