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This Is His Father's Election
What Americans Think

By Richard Morin
Washington Post Polling Director
Monday, Sept. 18, 2000

This is beginning to look more and more like Bush's election – Poppy Bush's, not Dubya's.

The resurgence of Vice President Gore in the post-Labor Day presidential preference polls "is bearing some resemblance to Vice President George Bush's comeback 12 years ago," says Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press. "After trailing Michael Dukakis in pre-convention surveys, Bush took a 50 percent to 44 percent lead after Labor Day and went on to defeat the Massachusetts governor in November."

The news for Gore is similarly good in the latest Pew Center poll. The vice president leads Gov. George W. Bush 48 percent to 43 percent among likely voters.

As he analyzed the data in the latest Pew poll, Kohut says he was struck by the parallels to 1988. Like the elder Bush in that campaign, Gore has managed after his convention to "rally his base, while his opponent's backing has faltered somewhat among some key support groups." And similar to Bush in 1988, Kohut's survey found that Gore is benefiting from a desire for continuity. "Satisfaction with the state of the nation has increased since April and June, and it is more positively correlated with support for Gore than it had been earlier in the campaign," he wrote.

Voters also expressed more confidence in Gore than in Bush to handle the economy, another sign that the electorate is becoming more comfortable with the vice president, and "another expression of support for continuity that also occurred in the fall of 1988," he wrote. "And while Clinton fatigue is still evident, and may actually be growing as the president prepares to leave office, it is having a less negative effect on Gore's campaign."

But two other general findings suggest that it isn't 1988 all over again. "Many independent and swing voters are still on the fence," he wrote. "This is unlike September 1988 when Bush Sr. held a 48 percent to 42 percent lead over Dukakis among independents. Second, the percentage of voters who say they might change their minds [about a third] is about as large as it was before the convention."

Russert Censured

The National Council on Public Polls, a polling industry watchdog, has publicly criticized Tim Russert and "Meet the Press" for reporting survey results based on a poll that wasn't yet complete. "In the apparent effort to make news on 'Meet the Press' on Sunday, September 10, the moderator, Tim Russert, reported the results of the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll," the NCPP notes, quoting Russert as saying: "'The poll is three-fourths of the way done, but we thought we'd share the results now.'"

Wish you hadn't, the NCPP says. "This is not an appropriate way to use a poll. A poll is not like a football game where there is a score at the end of the third quarter. . . . The three-quarters that Russert reported is not necessarily a random part of the whole. The one-quarter not reached were the people who are more difficult to reach on the first call. These people are disproportionately younger, include more working people, particularly those who travel or work odd hours, and others who spend less time at home," the NCPP notes.

The half-baked poll showed Gore leading Bush 44 to 43 percent through interviewing conducted Sept. 7 to Sept. 9. The vice president had a 3-point advantage in the completed survey, which was completed the following night, Sept. 10.

"We urge news organizations not to report partial results from a poll," the NCPP concludes. "We know it is tempting to make news when a news deadline approaches, but it is bad practice."

Latinos Bounce Big for Gore

Al Gore has increased his lead over Bush to 31 points among Hispanic voters interviewed for the Hispanic Trends Polling Report, says Florida pollster Sergio Bendixen.

Gore led Bush 59 percent to 28 percent in a survey of 400 registered voters nationally conducted by Bendixen. Ralph Nader claimed 2 percent of the vote. The survey was conducted Sept. 5 through Sept. 7.

In a Hispanic Trends voter poll conducted a month earlier, Gore held a 46 percent to 28 percent advantage over Bush.

The vice president held a slightly larger lead among "New Immigrant" voters – those Hispanics who had become citizens since 1994.

"Gore's lead has increased significantly [overall] because he has recaptured the support of 'New Immigrant' voters &$150; many of whom had joined the 'undecided' column in the aftermath of the Republican National Convention," Bendixen wrote in his analysis of the survey results. "The vice president's acceptance speech in Los Angeles and his emphasis on the health care issue in recent weeks appear to have made a very positive impression with this key segment of the Latino electorate."

Bendixen says that the vice president has maintained his lopsided advantage among Central American and Dominican voters, while Bush continued to win more than eight in 10 Cuban registered voters. The top issues among Latinos: health care and education. Each was named by slightly less than a third of Latinos as their most important voting issue, according to the poll.

Richard Morin is director of polling for The Washington Post. "What Americans Think" appears Mondays in The Washington Post National Weekly Edition. Morin can be reached at morinr@clark.net .

© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

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