Last week's Republican National Convention moved Vice President George Bush into a 48%-44% lead for the November election, ending Democratic nominee Michael S. Dukakis' long domination of the presidential race, a poll by the Gallup Organization has found. However, voters' immediate reactions to Bush's choice of Indiana Sen. Dan Quayle as his running mate were equivocal.
More surprisingly, the poll and several other surveys show a stunning change in one of the most stubborn indicators of political strength, popularity ratings. In the last three weeks, the poll found, Bush managed to increase the number of voters who like him and decrease the number who dislike him, while markedly increasing the number who dislike Dukakis.
These popularity ratings, which are usually slow to change, are considered key political indicators.
"I have never seen anything like this, this kind of swing in favorability ratings, ever since I have seen polls, going back to 1936," California pollster Mervin Field said.
Impact Usually Short-Lived
The Republican convention boosted Bush's competitive standing by 6 percentage points, about the same as the 7-point gain registered by Dukakis after last month's Democratic convention in Atlanta. The GOP convention led also to a 5-point drop in Dukakis' standing. However, Gallup surveys over the last 40 years have shown that the impact of political conventions usually is short-lived, with candidates soon reverting to preconvention support levels.
With the Gallup survey's 3% margin of error, the Republican edge is inconclusive. Before the GOP convention, Bush trailed Dukakis, 42% to 49%. Bush led, 52% to 40%, after the Super Tuesday primaries in March, but his advantage soon disappeared. From mid-May until last week, Dukakis had been the front-runner, at times by substantial margins.
Perhaps the most remarkable change is in the popularity ratings. In an earlier Gallup survey, from Aug. 5 to 7, 42% of voters said they had an unfavorable view of Bush--considered dangerously high by pollsters--and 51% of voters had a favorable view. In the most recent results, Bush has driven his "unfavorable rating" down by 9 points to 33% and has driven his favorable rating up to 60%.
And, according to that poll and several others, Bush's negative rating is now roughly equal with Dukakis', whose unfavorable rating rose slightly to 32%.
Bush Led in Poll for Magazine
A Newsweek poll conducted by Gallup on Thursday and Friday found Bush ahead, 51% to 42%.
Three-fourths (74%) of voters in that poll said they did not have a less favorable opinion of Quayle "because he chose to serve in the National Guard during the Vietnam War," and only 13% disagreed.
About equal proportions said they were more likely (36%) rather than less likely (33%) to vote for Bush because of his choice of Quayle as running mate. In contrast, 48% of voters surveyed after the Democratic convention said they were more apt to vote for Dukakis because of his selection of Lloyd Bentsen as his vice presidential nominee, contrasted with 28% who would be less likely to do so.