A computer programming error by TNS Intersearch, the research firm that conducts telephone interviewing for Washington Post-ABC News polls, produced faulty survey results that were reported in a Dec. 17 article. Specifically, the December data incorrectly suggested that roughly the same proportion of Americans viewed George W. Bush and Vice President Gore as strong leaders. In fact, a substantially larger proportion of the public interviewed for the December poll viewed Bush as a strong leader. The data also incorrectly suggested that the proportion of adults who viewed Gore as a candidate who would bring "needed change to Washington" had risen since a Post-ABC survey in October; in fact, views of the vice president on this measure had not changed substantially and Bush still has an advantage over Gore on this trait. Corrected results are available at www.washingtonpost.com. Results from the latest Post-ABC News survey, reported Tuesday, were unaffected by the programming error. (Published 01/20/2000)

Republican John McCain and Democrat Bill Bradley have built strong support in New Hampshire with images as political outsiders who speak their minds and could shake up the system in Washington, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The New Hampshire poll and a separate national poll suggest that the more voters have seen of the four leading candidates, the more they find appealing in the underdogs.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Gore maintain substantial leads over McCain and Bradley in the national survey, but a separate poll in New Hampshire, the state with the nation's first primary, found McCain and Bradley now running even against the national front-runners.

Voters in New Hampshire, the scene of heavy campaigning this fall, have more positive impressions of Bradley and McCain on key attributes relating to political reform than they do of Gore and Bush. But even in other dimensions, McCain has a better image than Bush among likely GOP primary voters, scoring better than the Texas governor on 10 of 13 traits, including knowledge of world affairs and being able to lead the country during a crisis.

Bradley and McCain hope to score victories in New Hampshire and use the state as a springboard to challenge Bush and Gore in subsequent contests. The new Post-ABC findings foreshadow a fierce six weeks of campaigning in advance of the state's Feb. 1 primary.

Gore and Bradley will hold their second debate of the campaign tonight in New Hampshire. Yesterday, however, Bradley joined McCain at an unprecedented, cross-party meeting to promote campaign finance reform as well as their mutual images as political reformers. Both are running ahead of their rivals among independent voters in New Hampshire, and the event was designed to encourage more independents to participate in the primaries.

Bradley and McCain have some other things in common in New Hampshire. Each, for example, runs far better among men than among women. But there are differences: Bradley appeals to the most liberal elements of his own party, while McCain does not appeal to the most conservative Republicans.

On issues, preserving Social Security and Medicare, improving education and keeping the economy going are the top three concerns of voters nationally, with health care fourth and campaign finance reform cited by just 1 percent of adults. In New Hampshire, health care, education and the future of Social Security and Medicare are the top three issues.

With three in five surveyed nationally and in New Hampshire saying they are better off today than they were four years ago, the polls underscored how character and the backgrounds of candidates may be as important in shaping voters' perceptions next year as stands on issues.

The findings are based on two separate polls conducted Dec. 12-15. The national poll surveyed 1,006 adults, and the results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The New Hampshire poll surveyed 1,371 adults, including 744 likely primary voters. The margin of error for the responses of New Hampshire voters, on which nearly all the results are based, is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Nationally, Bush retains a solid lead over both Gore and Bradley in hypothetical general election matchups. The national poll found McCain running statistically even against both Gore and Bradley. At this stage of a campaign, national poll results are subject to sudden changes, based on the results of early primary contests, while the New Hampshire electorate is not necessarily typical of other states.

Among likely Republican voters in New Hampshire, McCain stands at 40 percent to Bush's 39 percent. Magazine publisher Steve Forbes runs third with 10 percent. Former diplomat Alan Keyes is fourth at 5 percent, with former Reagan administration official Gary Bauer at 1 percent and Utah Sen. Orrin G. Hatch an asterisk.

But McCain and Bush have sharply different bases of support in the Granite State. Bush leads among women (49 percent to 32 percent) while McCain leads among men (46 percent to 32 percent). Bush leads among self-identified Republicans (43 percent to 34 percent) while McCain holds a 2-to-1 lead among independents.

Generally in New Hampshire, independents participate in the presidential primaries in significantly lower numbers than registered Republicans or Democrats. In the Post-ABC survey, a quarter of registered independents suggested that they have yet to choose which party primary to participate in, although it is not clear from the poll how many of them will vote at all.

McCain is the favorite of New Hampshire's Republican-leaning moderates (49 percent to 35 percent), while Bush holds a clear lead among conservatives (43 percent to 30 percent). That is good news for McCain in New Hampshire, where conservatives play a smaller role in the primary than in most other states with early contests. But if that pattern holds, it would give Bush an advantage in subsequent primaries and caucuses.

McCain's intensive effort to organize support of military veterans in New Hampshire appears to be paying off. Nationally, Bush holds an enormous lead over McCain among voters in households with veterans and nonveterans alike. But in New Hampshire, McCain is winning about half the vote in military households, while Bush gets about one-third. Among nonveterans, Bush leads all other GOP candidates.

Although Bush and McCain are running even, McCain's more intensive campaigning in New Hampshire has clearly helped with voters. More than half see McCain as "not a typical politician," while only two in five say the same of Bush. More than four in five say McCain is the kind of politician who says what he thinks even if it isn't politically popular, while only half say the same of Bush. McCain also holds a big advantage among likely Republican voters on who has knowledge of world affairs and on who takes the concerns of New Hampshire voters seriously.

On the Democratic side in New Hampshire, Bradley holds some advantages over Gore on many of these same attributes, but the pattern is not as clear-cut as in the Republican contest. His largest advantages over Gore come on questions of who is the typical politician and who is not.

For example, only a third say Gore is not a typical politician, while slightly more than half of likely Democratic voters say Bradley is not. Bradley holds even greater advantages on who would bring needed change to Washington and on the question of whether he says what he thinks, regardless of its political popularity.

But Gore holds similarly large advantages among likely Democratic voters on having the right kind of experience to be president and of being knowledgeable about world affairs.

As in the Republican race in New Hampshire, there is a gender gap among likely Democratic voters. A bare majority of men support Bradley (53 percent to 38 percent), while a slim majority of women support Gore (51 percent to 44 percent).

But the breakdown among Democrats versus independents and the voting patterns based on ideology do not follow the GOP path. Bradley's lead among independents (56 percent to 42 percent) is solid if not as strong as McCain's over Bush.

Among self-identified Democrats, Gore and Bradley are running even. The two candidates also split the vote of moderates. But Bradley, who has pitched his campaign to the left with a big health care package and other issues, clearly leads among liberals (53 percent to 40 percent).

Bradley's support in New Hampshire rises with the income and education level of the voters. Gore has the support of three in five voters with incomes from $30,000 to $50,000, while Bradley has a similar level of support among voters with incomes above $75,000. Gore has a majority among voters with high school educations or some college attendance, while Bradley has a majority among those with college degrees.

President Clinton's standing in New Hampshire could influence the outcome of the Democratic primary. Voters in New Hampshire see Clinton less favorably than do adults nationally. Even among likely Democratic primary voters, more than three in five have an unfavorable impression of the president, although four in five like his policies.

Among those voters who like Clinton personally and like his policies, Gore holds a strong lead over Bradley. Among the slightly larger group of likely Democratic voters who have an unfavorable impression of the president personally but support his policies, Bradley leads Gore more narrowly.

The national poll paints a contrasting portrait of both races. McCain's surge in New Hampshire has had little effect on the GOP contest, with Bush still the overwhelming favorite among GOP voters. Bush stands at 72 percent in the latest poll, with McCain at 13 percent and the other four Republicans in single digits.

Among Democrats nationally, Gore's lead has slipped only marginally this fall, with 64 percent supporting the vice president and 31 percent favoring Bradley. At the beginning of September, Gore led 69 percent to 24 percent.

In comparisons between Gore and Bush, there is good news and bad news for the vice president. Compared to earlier in the fall, Gore is seen by fewer Americans as honest and trustworthy and now trails Bush in that attribute.

But impressions of Bush and Gore on leadership have narrowed dramatically, mostly because Bush's numbers have declined since late October. Bush once held a 30-percentage point advantage on this question, but today the two are roughly even. Similarly, Bush's advantage over Gore as someone who would bring needed change to Washington has eroded, due largely to more favorable impressions of the vice president among adults nationally.

Washington Post-ABC News Poll

The Presidential Primaries: New Hampshire and the Nation

Nationally, Vice President Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush continue to hold large leads in their respective parties. But in New Hampshire, the early primary state whose voters have gotten the closest look at the other presidential candidates, Bill Bradley and Sen. John McCain have caught up to the two front-runners among likely primary voters.

Democratic primary

Nationwide Democrats

Gore 64%

Bradley 31%

Undecided: 5

New Hampshire voters likely to vote in Democratic primary

Gore 45%

Bradley 48%

Undecided: 7

Republican primary

Nationwide Republicans

Bush 72%

McCain 13%

Other: 13*

Undecided: 5

New Hampshire voters likely to vote in Republican primary

Bush 39%

McCain 40%

Other: 16*

Undecided: 5

*Steve Forbes, Alan Keyes, Orrin G. Hatch, Gary Bauer

Q: Overall, how much do you feel you know about the candidates running for president?

New Hampshire voters

A great deal/A good amount 68%

Just some/Hardly anything 32%

The Nation

A great deal/A good amount 35%

Just some/Hardly anything 64%

Likely New Hampshire primary voters assess the leading candidates:

GOP voters Democratic voters

Agree statement applies to: Bush McCain Gore Bradley

He would bring needed

change to Washington 57% 77% 40% 68%

He says what he really

thinks, even if it's not

politically popular 52 85 45 76

He's not a typical

politician 40 56 34 54

He has the right kind

of experience to be

president 71 72 85 66

He is a strong leader 72 78 63 71

He has the kind

of personality and

temperament

it takes to serve

effectively as president 78 77 75 81

He has the knowledge

of world affairs it takes

to serve effectively as

president 53 79 89 63

He's very intelligent 79 90 91 90

He is honest and

trustworthy 80 91 79 87

Data are from two separate Washington Post-ABC News telephone polls conducted Dec. 12-15, one in New Hampshire and one nationwide. The national survey included 1,006 randomly selected adults; the margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In New Hampshire, 1,371 randomly selected adults, including 744 likely primary voters, were interviewed. The margin of error for results based on all likely voters is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, for Democratic primary voters plus or minus 6 percentage points, and for GOP primary voters plus or minus 5 percentage points. Sampling error is only one of many potential sources of error in this or any other public opinion poll. Interviewing was conducted by TNS Intersearch of Horsham, Pa.