New poll shows big Bush lead slipping

By Alan Eisner, Reuters, 08/14/00

LOS ANGELES -- Democrat candidate Al Gore has canceled out Republican George W. Bush's post-convention bounce and almost erased his lead in the U.S. presidential race, according to a new Reuters/Zogby poll published Monday.

The poll of 1,005 likely voters conducted Aug. 11-13 by pollster John Zogby, which appeared on the first day of the Democratic National Convention, found Bush, the governor of Texas, leading the vice president 43 percent to 40 percent.

Green Party candidate Ralph Nader polled 7 percent and Pat Buchanan of the Reform Party 2 percent.

With a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percent, the result was a statistical dead heat. One week ago, in the aftermath of the Republican National Convention, Bush led Gore by 17 points.

Bush's "convention bounce" had entirely disappeared in the latest poll. The big question now was what kind of a boost would Gore reap from the Democratic National Convention and how long would it last.

"A lot of that Bush bounce was obviously very soft support. The key for Gore this week is whether he can break through and take the lead and then keep the lead," said Zogby.

Gore has never led Bush in any poll of likely voters and has rarely polled above 45 percent in any survey but experts have consistently predicted a close race for the Nov. 7 election.

"We'll very probably be looking at a tied race by early September," Zogby said.

Gore's selection of Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who is Jewish, as his vice presidential running mate was broadly welcomed by voters, though 3 percent were "very concerned" and 17 percent "somewhat concerned" that he would have divided loyalties between Israel and the United States.

Three quarters of respondents said they were not concerned about that.

Less than 2 percent thought the fact that Lieberman was an Orthodox Jew should rule him out for the post of vice president. Twenty six percent said Lieberman's selection was "excellent" and 41 percent said it was "good." Another 17 percent called it "fair" and 6 percent thought it was "poor."

Those were somewhat higher marks than Bush got for choosing former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney as his running mate. Still, 78 percent said the choice of Lieberman would not change their vote, 16 percent said it made them more likely to vote for Gore and 3 percent said less likely.

Gore also won points for showing independence: 45 percent of respondents said the Lieberman selection showed him to be independent of President Clinton, against 39 percent who disagreed.

Respondents were given a choice of two statements with which to agree or disagree: 49 percent agreed with a statement that Gore deserved to win the election because of the Clinton administration's success in managing the economy. That figure had been 40 percent a week ago.

Thirty six percent agreed with the counter proposition that Gore deserved to lose the election because Clinton administration scandals had lowered the nation's morals. That figure was down from 46 percent one week ago.

Looking inside the numbers, Gore led Bush on the east and west coasts, but Bush led massively in the South and by 10 points in the Midwest, where many analysts believe the election will be won or lost.

Gore was still pulling less than 70 percent of the votes of self-identified Democrats while Bush was getting 81 percent of the Republican vote. Among independent voters, Bush led narrowly but Nader was getting 13 percent.

Nader hurt Gore by polling 19 percent of those who said they were progressive or very liberal; he took 13 percent of those who described themselves as liberal and 28 percent of those who said they were libertarian.

Nader's support came mainly from younger voters. He took 13 percent of those aged 18-24 and those aged 25-34 -- more than double his support in other age groups.

Bush led Gore by 8 points among men while the two candidates were tied among women. In the past two elections won by Clinton, the Democratic ticket won the female vote by double digits while running about even among men.