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The Florida Recount Controversy From the Public's Perspective: 25 Insights

The Florida Recount Controversy From the Public's Perspective: 25 Insights

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

The Gallup Poll conducted over 7,000 interviews with Americans between November 7th, the day of the election, and December 18th, the weekend after the election controversy in Florida was finally resolved and George W. Bush became the president-elect. During that period, Gallup kept close tabs on the American public's reaction to the situation, including not only measures of what Americans thought should be done in Florida, but also measures of how the public felt the situation was affecting the basic fabric of American democracy and the legitimacy of the presidency.

In general, Americans remained remarkably calm during the entire situation. Americans essentially viewed the Florida situation as an extension of the election itself rather than as the beginnings of a constitutional crisis. Thus, although most Americans' opinions about what should happen in Florida aligned sharply with their own personal political views, most also appeared quite willing to accept the outcome once it was resolved and to get on with the business of the country. Few Americans think that permanent harm has been done to the country and most accept Bush as the legitimate president.

A review of the polling Gallup conducted since the election leads to 25 specific insights into how the American public perceived and reacted to the extraordinary events which unfolded in Florida, and at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. A summary review of the actual questions used in the surveys, the precise results, and the dates of interviewing follow at the back.

Legitimacy of the Presidency

1. Americans were always ready to accept either Bush or Gore as legitimate, depending on who officially won the election.

2. Indeed, after Bush was effectively declared the victor by the U.S. Supreme Court decision that stopped the recount in Florida, the vast majority of Americans – including the majority of Democrats -- said they accepted Bush as the legitimate president.

Supreme Court

3. By a two-to-one margin, Americans said the Supreme Court's decision had not caused them to lose confidence in the Supreme Court.

4. Americans also felt that the Supreme Court was the best institution to make a final decision to resolve the controversy in Florida – much more so than that the Florida Supreme Court, the Florida legislature, or even the U.S. Congress.

5. Americans' rating of their confidence in the Supreme Court after the Court's electoral decision was virtually the same as the rating Americans gave the Supreme Court last summer.

6. Willingness to accept Bush as president as a result of the Supreme Court decision appeared to be distinct from the public’s perception that the Court’s decision was the correct one. Only slight majorities of Americans agreed with the Supreme Court decision and felt that it was fair.

7. While Americans said they believed the Court was more influenced by the legal issues before them than by their own desires to see Bush as president, at the same time a slight majority of Americans also said they believed the Supreme Court Justices were influenced by their own personal feelings in the matter.

Effect of Uncertainty of Presidential Election Results

8. Americans never felt that the post-election controversy reached the level of being a Constitutional crisis, although most did believe the country was facing at least a serious problem.

9. Most Americans never believed at any time during the post-election uncertainty that permanent harm was being inflicted on the country as a result of the challenge to the Florida vote.

10. Toward the end of the period, Americans were becoming impatient, tending to view Gore more negatively than they had earlier, with a majority saying he should concede the election.

11. After Gore conceded the election, his personal popularity regained its previous level, and Gore was perceived as a man of principle rather than a sore loser. And in a hypothetical match-up with Bush for the presidency in 2004, Gore led by a 9-point margin among all national adults.

Florida Recount/Results

12. A majority of Americans supported a hand recount of the ballots in Florida.

13. After the official announcement by the Florida Secretary of State on November 26 certifying Bush as the winner in Florida, about half of all Americans did not necessarily believe that Bush had won.

14. Americans were also about evenly divided over who would have won had the hand recount of ballots been conducted, as Gore requested.

Electoral Reform

15. Americans were aware that Gore had won the popular vote nationally, but a majority of Americans said it was "fair" that Bush became president because he won Florida and hence the national electoral vote.

16. Still, most Americans support a Constitutional amendment that would abolish the electoral college and provide for direct election of the President, as they have for over 50 years.

17. Americans also express widespread support for the federal government to standardize ballots and voting procedures across the country.

Public Perceptions of the News Media

18. Early on in the controversy, Americans were evenly divided over whether they approved or disapproved of the way the media handled the situation in Florida.

19. Americans were also evenly divided as to whether there was too much, or the right amount, of coverage.

20. Most Americans say there was little or no bias in the coverage of the Florida recount, but those who did see bias saw more of it in favor of Gore than Bush. This is consistent with a more general pattern, where the public tends to think of the news media as having a liberal bias. Public perceptions of the accuracy of the news media in general dropped significantly in a survey conducted in the middle of the Florida crisis.

Partisan and Racial Divisions Related to the Florida Situation

21. Americans’ views of the Florida election controversy were highly partisan. Strong majorities of Gore supporters took the vice-president's side on all recount issues, and strong majorities of Bush supporters expressed the opposite point of view.

22. On the issue of whether either candidate would be accepted as the "legitimate" president, Gore supporters said they would accept Bush by about a two-to-one margin, while a slight majority of Bush supporters said they would not accept Gore as legitimate.

23. Over a third of black Americans say they are "angry" and "bitter" about the election -- the most of any subgroup to express those feelings -- while two-thirds say that they feel "cheated" by the election outcome, that black voters were less likely to be counted fairly than white votes and that the vote count in Florida entailed fraud, not just errors.

24. Despite these negative feelings, blacks say they accept Bush as legitimate by a 58% to 40% margin.

25. Still, blacks are pessimistic about a Bush presidency, feeling by a three-to-one margin that he will not work hard to represent their interests.  

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

Legitimacy of the Presidency

Now that George W. Bush has been declared the winner and will be inaugurated next January, will you accept him as the legitimate president, or not?

 

 

Yes, accept

No, not accept

No opinion

       

National Adults

     

2000 Dec 15-17

83

16

1

       

2000 Dec 13 ^ †

80

18

2

2000 Dec 2-4 ^

85

14

1

2000 Nov 26-27 ^

84

15

1

2000 Nov 19 ^

86

13

1

2000 Nov 11-12 ^

79

19

2

       

Gore "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

68

30

2

       

Bush "voters"

99

1

*

2000 Dec 15-17

     
       

^

WORDING: If George W. Bush is declared the winner and is inaugurated next January, would you accept him as the legitimate president, or not?

Based on -- 633 -- respondents in a one night poll with a margin of error of +/- 4 pct. pts.



If Al Gore is declared the winner and is inaugurated next January, would you accept him as the legitimate president, or not?

 

 

Yes, accept

No, not accept

No opinion

       

2000 Dec 2-4

     

National Adults

71

28

1

       

Gore supporters

97

2

1

Bush supporters

46

52

2

       

2000 Nov 26-27

     

National Adults

74

25

1

       

Gore supporters

97

2

1

Bush supporters

46

53

1

       

2000 Nov 19

     

National Adults

80

19

1

Gore supporters

98

2

*

Bush supporters

58

41

1

       

2000 Nov 11-12

     

National Adults

82

16

2

Gore voters

97

1

2

Bush voters

66

31

3



 

 

Supreme Court

Does this decision make you lose confidence in the US Supreme Court, or does it not have an effect on your view of the Court?

 

Yes, lose confidence

No, no effect

No opinion

       

2000 Dec 13

     

National Adults

30

66

4

       

Gore "voters"

54

39

7

Bush "voters"

5

93

2



 

If it comes down to a choice of these four, which of the following would you most trust to make the final decision on the selection of the next president -- [ROTATED: the US Congress, the Florida legislature, the Supreme Court of Florida, (or) the Supreme Court of the United States]?

 

 


US Congress


Florida legislature

Florida Supreme Court

US Supreme Court


Other
(vol.)


No
opinion

             

2000 Dec 10

           

National Adults

17

7

9

61

2

4

             

Gore supporters

18

1

16

59

2

4

Bush supporters

16

13

4

64

1

2

No preference

16

3

12

54

7

8



CONFIDENCE IN INSTITUTIONS TREND

(COMBINES "GREAT DEAL" AND "QUITE A LOT")

 

 

The US Supreme Court

%

   

2000 Dec

49

   

2000 Jun

47

1999 Jun

49

1998 Jun

50

1997 Jul

50



Do you think the US Supreme Court was fair or unfair in deciding this case?

 

Fair

Unfair

Depends (vol.)

No opinion

         

2000 Dec 13

       

National Adults

54

38

1

7

         

Gore "voters"

17

74

2

8

Bush "voters"

94

4

*

2



 

Do you think the Justices of the US Supreme Court who voted to end the recount in Florida did so -- [ROTATED: mostly based on the legal merits of the case (or) mostly based on their own desire to have Bush as the next president]?

 

Legal merits
of the case

Bush as next president

Both/Neither (vol.)

No
opinion

         

2000 Dec 13

       

National Adults

54

35

3

8

         

Gore "voters"

22

65

3

10

Bush "voters"

87

6

2

5



 

 

Overall, do you think the Justices on the US Supreme Court were influenced by their personal political views when deciding this case, or don’t you think so?

 

Yes, influenced

No, not influenced

No opinion

       

National Adults

     

2000 Dec 15-17

50

46

4

       

2000 Dec 10

51

42

7

       

Gore "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

66

29

5

       

Bush "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

31

66

3

       

^

WORDING: Overall, do you think the Justices on the US Supreme Court are being influenced by their personal political views when deciding this case, or don’t you think so?



 

 

Effect of Uncertainty of Presidential Election Results

Which of these statements do you think best describes the situation that has occurred since the election for president -- [ROTATED: it is a constitutional crisis, it is a major problem for the country but is not a crisis, it is a minor problem for the country, (or) it is not a problem for the country at all]?

 

 

Constitutional crisis

Major problem

Minor problem

Not a
problem

No
opinion

           

2000 Nov 26-27

         

National Adults

10

50

29

9

2

           

Gore supporters

11

45

34

10

*

Bush supporters

9

55

26

7

3

No preference

11

52

27

9

1

           

2000 Nov 19

         

National Adults

10

44

32

12

2

Gore supporters

8

41

35

15

1

Bush supporters

13

49

29

8

1

           

2000 Nov 11-12 ^

         

National Adults

15

49

25

9

2

Gore voters

17

49

23

9

2

Bush voters

14

50

27

8

1



Which comes closer to your view -- [ROTATED: there has been permanent harm done to the United States as a result of the election process this year, (or) there has been no permanent harm done to the United States as a result of the election process this year]?

 

 

Has been
permanent harm

No permanent
harm

No
opinion

       

National Adults

     

2000 Dec 15-17

39

59

2

       

2000 Nov 26-27

37

62

1

       

Gore "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

50

48

2

       

Bush "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

28

72

*

 

 

Which comes closer to your view -- [ROTATED: you are willing to wait at least a little while longer for a final resolution to the presidential election situation (or) the presidential election situation has gone on too long already]?

 

Willing to wait
a little while longer

Gone on too
long already

No
opinion

       

2000 Dec 2-4

     

National Adults

36

63

1

       

Gore supporters

69

30

1

Bush supporters

9

90

1

No preference

28

70

2

       

2000 Nov 26-27

     

National Adults

37

62

1

       

Gore supporters

67

32

1

Bush supporters

9

90

1

No preference

35

62

3

       

2000 Nov 19

     

National Adults

51

48

1

Gore supporters

82

17

1

Bush supporters

16

83

1



 

As of today, do you think Al Gore should concede the election, or should he not concede?

 

Yes, concede

No, not concede

No opinion

       

2000 Dec 2-4

     

National Adults

58

38

4

       

Gore supporters

27

68

5

Bush supporters

84

14

2

No preference

55

34

11

       

2000 Nov 26-27

     

National Adults

56

38

6

       

Gore supporters

36

59

5

Bush supporters

81

16

3

No preference

37

48

15

       

2000 Nov 19 ^

     

National Adults

46

46

8

       

Gore supporters

28

67

5

Bush supporters

70

24

6

       

^

WORDING: In your opinion, should Al Gore concede the election, or should he not concede?



 

 

Next, we'd like to get your overall opinion of some people in the news. As I read each name, please say if you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of this person -- or if you have never heard of him. How about... [Random order]

A. Al Gore

 

 


Favorable


Unfavorable

Never heard
of


No opinion

         

2000

       

(NA) 2000 Dec 15-17

57

40

*

3

         

(NA) 2000 Dec 2-4

46

52

*

2

(NA) 2000 Nov 13-15

53

44

*

3

(RV) 2000 Nov 13-15

54

44

*

2

(RV) 2000 Nov 4-5

56

39

*

5

Which comes closer to your view of Al Gore -- [ROTATED: he is a man of principle, who fought for what he believed in, (or) he is a sore loser, who should have conceded earlier]?

 

Man of principle

Sore loser

No opinion

       

National Adults

     

2000 Dec 15-17

67

30

3

       

Gore "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

94

5

1

       

Bush "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

34

62

4



 

 

Now, suppose that the presidential election of 2004 were being held today, and it included Al Gore as the Democratic candidate and George W. Bush as the Republican candidate. Would you vote for -- [ROTATED: Al Gore, the Democrat (or) George W. Bush, the Republican]?

 

Gore

Bush

Other (vol.)

No opinion

         

Registered Voters

       

2000 Dec 15-17

50

41

1

8



GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

Florida Recount/Results

Would you favor or oppose having Florida officials recount the votes in certain counties by hand, as the Gore campaign requested?

 

 

Favor

Oppose

No opinion

       

2000 Nov 11-12

     

National Adults

55

42

3

       

Gore voters

85

13

2

Bush voters

20

78

2



In your opinion, should these vote recounts by hand be included in the final vote total in Florida, or not?

 

Yes, included

No, not included

No opinion

       

2000 Nov 19

     

National Adults

60

37

3

       

Gore supporters

92

6

2

Bush supporters

23

75

2



 

 

Do you approve or disapprove of the Gore campaign’s legal action to require that the results of the hand recounts in three Florida counties be included in the state’s final vote count?

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

       

2000 Nov 19

     

National Adults

53

45

2

       

Gore supporters

92

6

2

Bush supporters

12

87

1



 

Who do you consider to be the real winner of the election in Florida -- [ROTATED: Al Gore (or) George W. Bush], or are you unsure?

 

Gore

Bush

Unsure

No opinion

         

2000 Nov 26-27

       

National Adults

15

51

32

2

         

Gore supporters

35

13

51

1

Bush supporters

*

93

7

*

No preference

5

37

53

5



 

 

 

Regardless of the figures which have been announced by the Florida Secretary of State or any other election official in Florida, who do you think would have won the election in Florida if every voter had properly cast his or her vote and all valid votes were accurately counted? Do you think -- [ROTATED: Al Gore (or) George W. Bush]--would have won, or are you unsure?

 

 

Gore

Bush

Unsure

No opinion

         

2000 Dec 2-4

       

National Adults

37

39

23

1

         

Gore supporters

76

6

17

1

Bush supporters

6

72

21

1

No preference

29

23

45

3



Just your best guess, if the Supreme Court of the United States had allowed the vote recount to continue in Florida, who do you think would have ended up with the most votes in Florida -- [ROTATED: Al Gore (or) George W. Bush]?

 

 

Gore

Bush

No opinion

       

National Adults

     

2000 Dec 15-17

46

45

9

       

Gore "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

74

19

7

       

Bush "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

15

77

8



 

 

 

 

Electoral Reform

From what you have heard or read, who won the national popular vote this year -- that is, the most votes in the country overall -- [ROTATED: Al Gore (or) George W. Bush], or are you unsure?

 

 

Gore

Bush

Unsure

No opinion

         

2000 Dec 2-4

       

National Adults

65

16

18

1

         

Gore supporters

81

4

15

*

Bush supporters

55

26

18

1

No preference

56

13

29

2



 

 

As you may know, more people across the country voted for Al Gore than George W. Bush, but Bush has been declared the next president because he won more votes in the Electoral College. Do you think this was a fair or unfair outcome of the presidential election?

 

Fair

Unfair

No opinion

       

National Adults

     

2000 Dec 15-17

51

46

3

       

Gore "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

23

74

3

       

Bush "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

85

13

2



Thinking for a moment about the way in which the president is elected in this country, which would you prefer -- [ROTATED: to amend the constitution so the candidate who receives the most total votes nationwide wins the election, (or) to keep the current system, in which the candidate who wins the most votes in the Electoral College wins the election]?

 

 

Amend the constitution

Keep the current system

Both/Neither
(vol.)

No
opinion

         

National Adults

       

2000 Dec 15-17

59

37

1

3

         

2000 Nov 11-12

61

35

2

2

         

Gore "voters"

       

2000 Dec 15-17

75

22

1

2

         

Bush "voters"

       

2000 Dec 15-17

40

57

*

3



 

Which comes closer to your point of view -- [ROTATED: the federal government should pass laws that would establish the same ballots and voting procedures in all states for all presidential elections, (or) decisions on ballot and voting procedures should be left to state and local officials, as is currently the case]?

 

 

Same procedures
for all states

Left to state and
local officials

No
opinion

       

2000 Nov 11-12

     

National Adults

67

29

4

       

Gore voters

79

18

3

Bush voters

54

44

2



 

 

Public Perceptions of the News Media

Would you say that you strongly approve, approve, disapprove, or strongly disapprove of the way each of the following has handled the situation surrounding the results of the election for president? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

The news media

 

 

Strongly approve


Approve


Disapprove

Strongly Disapprove

No
opinion

           

2000 Nov 26-27

         

National Adults

5

43

35

13

4

           

Gore supporters

6

55

28

9

2

Bush supporters

5

30

43

18

4

No preference

3

47

34

7

9

           

2000 Nov 11-12

         

National Adults

4

35

38

17

6

Gore voters

5

40

39

12

4

Bush voters

1

29

44

23

3



 

 

Do you think the media have been paying too much attention or the right amount of attention to the election situation in Florida?

 

Too much

Right amount

Too little (vol.)

No opinion

         

2000 Nov 26-27

       

National Adults

47

51

1

1

         

Gore supporters

40

57

1

2

Bush supporters

53

46

*

1

No preference

49

49

1

1



Thinking about the media's coverage of the Florida recount, do you think the media have been -- [ROTATED: biased in favor of Al Gore (or) biased in favor of George W. Bush], or has it not been biased toward either candidate?

 

Biased in favor
of Gore

Biased in favor
of Bush

No bias toward either candidate

No
opinion

         

2000 Nov 26-27

       

National Adults

23

10

63

4

         

Gore supporters

6

18

74

2

Bush supporters

45

4

48

3

No preference

7

12

74

7



 

 

 

Partisan and Racial Divisions Related to the Florida Situation

 

If Al Gore is declared the winner and is inaugurated next January, would you accept him as the legitimate president, or not?

 

 

Yes, accept

No, not accept

No opinion

       

2000 Dec 2-4

     

National Adults

71

28

1

       

Gore supporters

97

2

1

Bush supporters

46

52

2

No preference

76

22

2

       

2000 Nov 26-27

     

National Adults

74

25

1

       

Gore supporters

97

2

1

Bush supporters

46

53

1

No preference

88

9

3

       

2000 Nov 19

     

National Adults

80

19

1

Gore supporters

98

2

*

Bush supporters

58

41

1

       

2000 Nov 11-12

     

National Adults

82

16

2

Gore voters

97

1

2

Bush voters

66

31

3



 

 

SUMMARY TABLE: "DESCRIBES" REACTION TO BUSH AS NEXT PRESIDENT

 

2000 Dec 15-17

Yes, describes (ranked by black responses)

 

National Adults

Blacks

Whites

       

Cheated

32

68

28

Bitter

16

37

13

Angry

18

36

16

Relieved

62

33

66

Pleased

49

12

53

Thrilled

24

6

24



 

 

Do you think black voters were -- or were not -- less likely to have their votes counted fairly in Florida than whites?

 

Were
less likely

Were not
less likely

No
opinion

       

2000 Dec 15-17(National Adults)

34

53

13

       

2000 Dec 15-17(Blacks)

68

24

8

2000 Dec 15-17(Whites)

30

58

12



What is your view on voting in this year’s presidential election in Florida? Do you think -- [ROTATED: there was fraud involved, (or do you think) there were errors, but no fraud involved]?

 

 

Fraud
involved

Errors,
but no fraud

No errors
made (vol.)

No
opinion

         

2000 Dec 15-17(National Adults)

31

64

2

3

         

2000 Dec 15-17(Blacks)

64

33

*

3

2000 Dec 15-17(Whites)

26

68

3

3



Now that George W. Bush has been declared the winner and will be inaugurated next January, will you accept him as the legitimate president, or not?

 

 

Yes, accept

No, not accept

No opinion

       

2000 Dec 15-17(National Adults)

83

16

1

       

2000 Dec 15-17(Blacks)

58

40

2

2000 Dec 15-17(Whites)

86

13

1



 

 

Do you think that George W. Bush will or will not work hard to represent the interests of black Americans?

 

Yes, will

No, will not

No opinion

       

National Adults

     

(NA) 2000 Dec 15-17

61

33

6

       

(NA) 2000 Aug 4-5 ^

66

25

9

       

Blacks

     

(NA) 2000 Dec 15-17

22

70

8

       

(RV) 2000 Aug 4-6 ^

37

54

9

       

Whites

     

(NA) 2000 Dec 15-17

67

28

5

       

(RV) 2000 Aug 4-5 ^

70

22

8



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