Poll Analysis: Bush Leads By Eight Points Overall In National Presidential Match-up

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Times Poll Assoc. Director
     The Republican candidate is swinging Clinton voters his way. Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush leads Vice President Al Gore by sixteen points among men and is running even with Gore among women, according to the latest Times poll. The Texas Governor is running well ahead of Gore 51% to 43% overall at this early point in the race.
     Bush‚s inroads into the women‚s vote˜a group who overwhelmingly voted for President Clinton in 1996˜is an indicator of the broad-based weakness Gore is experiencing not only among crucial swing voters but also among those who should make up his own core constituency. Gore leads by nine points among the portion of the electorate who think the country is on the right track, but that indicator continues to slide. The survey found there now are as many voters who think the country is seriously off on the wrong track as think it is moving in the right direction.
     Mix liberal Green Party candidate Ralph Nader and conservative Patrick Buchanan into the race for President and the outcome is little changed, according to the survey which was conducted May 4thˆ7th. Nader and Buchanan pull 4% and 3% of the vote respectively, with Bush still eight points ahead of Gore˜47% to 39%.

Candidate Support and the Economy
     The survey found what could prove to be a serious weakness in Al Gore‚s support, if things don‚t change over the next six months. The survey found Gore could count on 79% of Democratic voters if a two-way election were held today, along with 65% of self-described liberals and 54% of moderates. These figures are an erosion of party and ideological loyalty from the 1996 presidential election when nearly nine in ten Democrats, 83% of liberals and 58% of moderates voted President Clinton into office for a second term. A fairly hefty 17% of Democrats in this survey said they plan to vote for the Republican candidate.
     George W. Bush, on the other hand, has already lined up nine out of ten Republican party members squarely behind his candidacy while only a handful of those who identify with his party indicated they will support Gore. Bush is the choice of three-quarters of self-defined conservatives and that of a whopping 95% of conservative Republicans, who seem to have overcome any concern they once had over what some claim is the Republican candidate‚s moderate ideology.
     Bush leads among independent voters by a comfortable sixteen point margin at this point, making them the most significant group of defecting Clinton voters. Nearly half of independents consider Gore to be more liberal than they are, but only a third think Bush is more conservative, which might help explain the attraction.
     The Republican candidate also enjoys a nine to fourteen point lead in all age categories except among the oldest Americans (those over 65) who support Gore 50% to 44%. Young voters and those with the lowest income are traditionally a loyal stronghold of Democratic vote (under 30s voted for Clinton 50% to 38% in 1996 and those making under $20K by 62% to 25%), but this survey finds their majority now sitting in the Bush camp.
     The most hopeful sign for Gore is a secure nine point lead among those voters who feel the country is on the right track. Unfortunately for the Vice President‚s candidacy, this general indicator of national satisfaction has been steadily slipping from a high of 54% among registered voters measured by the Times Poll in September of 1998 to its current 46% to 46% split. Beyond these satisfied voters, Gore can muster a lead only among niche categories such as singles˜twelve points among single women and ten among single men ˆ and voters who do not have children.
     Conventional wisdom says voters who are satisfied with the economic situation back the incumbent or the party in power. However, despite overwhelming agreement (86%) among voters that the country‚s economy is in good condition, nearly half (48%) say they would like to see the next president point the country in a new economic direction. Forty-four percent think Clinton‚s economic policies should be continued, but even of this group, one third indicate they would like to see the Republican candidate elected to office.
     Tellingly, Gore leads Bush by only four percentage points among all voters when asked who would do a better job of handling the economy. In addition, even though Gore enjoys a resounding 32 percentage point lead among the most satisfied voters (28% of the electorate who say the country is on the right track and would also like to see the current economic policies continued) the survey found three in ten of this most satisfied group would turn away from the heir apparent to the Clinton economic policies in order to vote for the son of the man Clinton defeated in 1992.

Candidate Characteristics
     When asked what they saw as the biggest difference between the two major party candidates, the highest citation among voters were „trust‰ (21%) „experience‰ (19%), and the candidates‚ political philosophy (18%) Fifteen percent cited differences in their personalities and 11% said the candidates could be distinguished by their stands on domestic issues.
     Nearly one out of three Bush voters cited trustworthiness as the main difference between the two candidates, followed by just over two out of three who mentioned the candidates‚ ideology. Twenty-eight percent of Gore voters, on the other hand, said that experience for the job was the main difference between them.

How the Poll Was Conducted
     The Times Poll contacted 1,211 registered voters nationwide by telephone May 4ˆ7. Telephone numbers were chosen from a list of all exchanges in the nation. Random-digit dialing techniques were used so that listed and non-listed numbers could be contacted. The entire sample was weighted slightly to conform with census figures for sex, race, age, education and region. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. For certain subgroups the error margin may be somewhat higher. Poll results can also be affected by other factors such as question wording and the order in which questions are presented.