Introduction and Summary
George W. Bush continues to hold a slim edge over Al Gore in the final days of Campaign 2000. A Pew Research Center poll of 1,307 likely voters conducted November 1-4 finds 46% favoring Bush, 43% Gore, with 3% for Ralph Nader and 1% for Pat Buchanan. These results are almost identical to those of a Center survey conducted October 25-29, which gave the Texas governor his first lead in Pew’s polls since the summer.
The current survey continues to find a significant potential for last-minute changes in opinion. As many now are undecided or say they might change their minds as was the case a week ago — 8% are undecided, 7% say they could still vote for Bush, and 8% say that about Gore among registered voters. This is comparable to findings of a Center survey on the final weekend of the 1996 race between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. That contest was not nearly as close, but as many as 11% of voters made up their minds in the final days of the 1996 contest, according to Voter News Service exit polls. Late deciders broke for Dole, giving Clinton a narrower victory than anticipated.
There is no indication that revelations of Bush’s 1976 arrest for driving under the influence have had a material impact on voter attitudes. Although 79% of those interviewed Nov. 3-4 say they followed news stories about this to at least some extent, the vast majority (88%) say this does not raise serious doubts in their minds about voting for Bush. Just 11% say the story has led them to question voting for Bush. However as many, 12%, say the same about Gore, based on charges that the Democrats were behind the release of the story. Further, the poll found no meaningful difference in levels of candidate support before and after these disclosures.
As in previous polls Bush’s supporters are more enthusiastic than those backing Gore. In fact, Bush registers the highest percentage of strong supporters in the final weekend of the campaign as any candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1984. While this may augur better for Republican than Democratic turnout, the survey finds the “ground war” is deadlocked. One-in-four voters say they have been urged to vote by a campaign — 13% reported they were contacted by Bush or the Republicans, and 12% say Gore or the Democrats had been in touch.
Independents Dead Even
The new survey underscores several patterns that have been evident throughout the final month of the campaign, including a large Bush edge among men — especially men under 50 — and divisions among independent voters.
Among likely voters, Bush enjoys a 12-point lead among men (50%-38%), twice the lead Gore holds among women (48%-42%). (See table on page 4.) Bush holds an especially strong 16-point lead among men under 50 (51%-35%), and a narrower seven-point lead among men 50 or older (48%-41%). In contrast, Gore has only a three-point lead among women under 50 (47%-44%) and an eight-point lead among women 50 and older (48%-40%).
Meanwhile, independents remain split, with 42% favoring Gore and 41% supporting Bush. Bush holds a slight edge among the party faithful, with 89% of rank-and-file Republicans supporting the GOP nominee, compared to 83% of Democrats who support Gore.
Congressional Race Unchanged
Democrats continue to lead in the generic congressional ballot, 47%-43%. The trend in the congressional race has remained stable all year. In early October and July, Democrats led by the same four-point margin. In February, Democrats held a 47%-44% advantage.
Overall, satisfaction with congressional incumbents remains high. Nearly six-in-ten voters (59%) say they would like to see their own representative reelected, while 16% would not. In general, national issues and the tight battle for control of Congress have not weighed heavily on voters. In the Pew survey in early October, 42% said state and local issues would make the biggest difference in their congressional vote, against 21% who cited national issues.