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Convention Gain for Democratic Ticket Sustained in Latest Poll; Gore and Bush Remain Tied

Convention Gain for Democratic Ticket Sustained in Latest Poll; Gore and Bush Remain Tied

Gore ticket has gained 6 points compared to pre-convention polls, Bush has lost 2

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The Democratic ticket of Al Gore and Joe Lieberman remains in a virtual tie with the Republican ticket of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted this past weekend. The fact that the race has stayed at this virtual dead-heat level in two separate polls conducted since the Democratic convention ended on August 17 suggests that Al Gore and the Democrats have been successful in altering the basic structure of the race. Prior to the start of the conventions this summer, Bush led Gore in almost every poll conducted for the past year and was ahead by a 7.5% point margin in an average of four June and July polls. Now, in an average of the two polls conducted after the Democratic convention, the two candidates are dead even, each with 46% of the vote. Gore led Bush in Gallup's August 18-19 poll among likely voters, by a 47% to 46% margin (in a four-way ballot that includes Nader and Buchanan) and Bush leads in the latest August 24-27 poll by an almost identical 46% to 45% margin.

We can look at the recent history of the presidential race based on three discrete periods:

  1. The immediate pre-convention phase, based on four polls conducted prior to either convention, in June and July
  2. The inter-convention period, based on two polls conducted after the Republican convention, but before the Democratic convention
  3. The immediate post-convention phase, based on two polls conducted since the Democratic convention ended

Gore's average percent of the vote of likely voters:

Four polls prior to either convention
(June 6-7, June 23-25, July 14-16, July 25-26)

40%

Two polls conducted after the Republican convention
(August 4-5, August 11-12)

38

Two polls conducted after the Democratic convention
(August 18-19, August 24-27)

46

For George W. Bush:

Four polls prior to either convention
(June 6-7, June 23-25, July 14-16, July 25-26)

48%

Two polls conducted after the Republican convention
(August 4-5, August 11-12)

55%

Two polls conducted after the Democratic convention
(August 18-19, August 24-27)

46

Most importantly, we can compare the structure of the race before either convention with its structure after both have concluded:

Average percent of likely voters in four polls conducted in June and July:

Bush 48%

Gore 40%

And the structure after both conventions, based on the average of two polls conducted since the Democratic convention:

Bush 46%

Gore 46%

Bush lost two points over the period of time that encompassed both conventions. Gore, on the other hand, gained more significantly, up six points. (The two third-party candidates included in the polling -- Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan -- have averaged 4.5% in the last two polls, while they were averaging 7.25% in the four polls prior to either convention.)

Thus, as Labor Day approaches (the traditional start of the final phase of the election campaign season) the American public is basically split right down the middle on its preference for the two major party tickets.

How Likely is the Race to Change Between Labor Day and Election Day?
A review of Gallup polling conducted prior to every presidential election since 1936 shows only two situations in which early September polling was dead even, and each had a different outcome:

  • In 1960, the first Gallup poll conducted in September had Richard Nixon at 47% of the vote and John F. Kennedy at 46%. The closeness of that race persisted throughout the fall, and in the end the two candidates were virtually tied in the popular vote, with Kennedy winning by less than one percent of the popular vote.
  • In 1980, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan were tied in the first September Gallup poll, 39% to 39%. That race generally remained close in polling conducted in September and October, but as the election drew near, Reagan pulled away from Carter and went on to win by a 10-point margin, 51% to 41%.

The pattern by which Labor Day poll results relate to the actual Election Day vote can be further examined by reviewing elections in which post Labor Day polling showed differences between candidates. One thing is immediately apparent. If a candidate is substantially ahead around Labor Day, the odds are high that he will cruise to victory. This has happened four times in recent history, all when a popular incumbent sought a second term in office:

  • In 1996, President Bill Clinton led Republican Bob Dole by a 45% to 32% margin in Gallup's first poll after Labor Day. Clinton maintained his lead all fall, ultimately winning 49% to 41% over Dole.
  • In 1984, President Ronald Reagan was leading Democrat Walter Mondale by 19 points in Gallup's September 7-10 poll, 56% to 37%. Reagan's lead was never challenged, and he ended up winning by a 59% to 41% margin.
  • In 1972, incumbent Richard Nixon was overwhelmingly ahead of Democrat George McGovern in Gallup's September polling -- by a 61% to 33% margin. Nixon went on to win by a 61% to 38% margin.
  • In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson, still enjoying very positive overall ratings after taking over the presidency the previous November when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, led Republican Barry Goldwater 65% to 29% in September polling. LBJ went on to win by a 61% to 39% margin.

In several other election years, however, the structure of the race has changed as September and October have progressed:

  • In 1976, Democratic challenger Jimmy Carter was ahead of President Gerald Ford in a late August Gallup poll, 51% to 36%. After a series of debates the race narrowed, and Carter just managed to win, 50% to 48%.
  • In 1968, Richard Nixon was ahead of Vice President Hubert Humphrey in September, but the race got closer as the end of October approached, and Nixon ended up with only 43.4% of the popular vote, to Humphrey's 42.7%.
  • In perhaps the most famous example of changes between early polls and Election Day, Thomas Dewey led incumbent Harry S Truman by eight points in Gallup's first poll after Labor Day in 1948, and Dewey continued to lead in every poll that followed. Truman, as every student of election history knows, went on to win an upset victory over Dewey, by a 50% to 45% margin.

Americans with short memories may be excused for thinking that what you see on Labor Day is what you get on Election Day. In the last four elections, the leader after Labor Day has indeed gone on to win the overall election. Bill Clinton was ahead in both 1992 and 1996 in the first poll in September, and went on to win both times. In 1988, Vice President George Bush was ahead by a 49% to 41% margin in early September, and he eventually won by 7 points, a 53% to 46% margin. And, as noted, Ronald Reagan was ahead of Walter Mondale in 1984 and was never seriously challenged, ultimately winning by 18% points.

Survey Methods
The results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,019 adults, 18 years and older, conducted August 24-27, 2000. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Results based on likely voters are based on the sub-sample of 664 survey respondents deemed most likely to vote in the November 2000 General Election, according to a series of questions measuring current voting intentions and past voting behavior. For results based on the total sample of Likely Voters, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is +/- 4 percentage points.

Now, suppose that the presidential election were being held today, and it included Al Gore and Joe Lieberman [LEE-ber-min] as the Democratic candidates, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney [CHAIN-EE] as the Republican candidates, Pat Buchanan and Ezola [EE-zol-ah] Foster as the Reform Party candidates, and Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke as the Green Party candidates. Would you vote for -- [RANDOM ORDER: Al Gore and Joe Lieberman, the Democrats, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney the Republican candidate, Pat Buchanan and Ezola Foster, the Reform Party candidates, (or) Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke, the Green Party candidates]?

As of today do you lean toward Gore and Lieberman, the Democrats, Bush and Cheney, the Republicans, Buchanan and Foster, the Reform Party candidates, or Nader and LaDuke, the Green Party candidates?

 

 

Gore/
Lieberman

Bush/
Cheney

Buchanan/
Foster

Nader/
LaDuke

Other
(vol.)

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

%

%

Likely Voters

           

2000 Aug 24-27

45

46

1

3

*

5

             

2000 Aug 18-19

47

46

2

3

*

2

2000 Aug 11-12 †

39

55

*

2

*

4

2000 Aug 4-5

37

54

1

4

*

4

2000 Jul 25-26 ^

39

50

1

4

1

5

2000 Jul 14-16

43

45

3

5

*

4

2000 Jun 23-25

38

50

2

6

0

4

2000 Jun 6-7

41

46

2

6

*

5

2000 Apr 28-30

41

47

4

4

1

3

             

Registered Voters

           

2000 Aug 24-27

48

41

1

3

1

6

             

2000 Aug 18-19

48

44

1

3

*

4

2000 Aug 11-12 †

40

50

*

3

*

7

2000 Aug 4-5

35

54

1

4

*

6

2000 Jul 25-26 ^

41

46

2

4

1

6

2000 Jul 14-16

41

43

3

6

*

7

2000 Jun 23-25

40

47

3

6

0

4

2000 Jun 6-7

42

43

3

5

*

7

2000 Apr 28-30

41

43

4

4

1

7

             

^ Vice-Presidential candidates Cheney and LaDuke included on ballot beginning July 25-26, 2000

 

† Vice-Presidential candidates Lieberman and Foster included on ballot beginning August 11-12, 2000



 

 

Gore/
Lieberman

Bush/
Cheney

Buchanan/
Foster

Nader/
LaDuke

Other
(vol.)

No opinion

             

Republicans (LV)

           

2000 Aug 24-27

8

88

*

0

0

4

             

2000 Aug 18-19

8

88

2

1

*

1

2000 Aug 11-12 †

5

92

1

1

0

1

2000 Aug 4-5

3

94

0

1

*

2

2000 Jul 25-26 ^

2

92

3

1

0

2

2000 Jul 14-16

6

87

2

3

0

2

2000 Jun 23-25

7

89

2

*

0

2

2000 Jun 6-7

6

88

2

2

*

2

2000 Apr 28-30

4

87

5

1

1

2

             

Independents (LV)

           

2000 Aug 24-27

36

44

1

11

1

7

             

2000 Aug 18-19

43

43

4

6

*

4

2000 Aug 11-12 †

33

52

*

6

1

8

2000 Aug 4-5

26

53

3

10

*

8

2000 Jul 25-26 ^

28

49

2

9

1

11

2000 Jul 14-16

36

37

7

12

0

8

2000 Jun 23-25

29

54

3

10

0

4

2000 Jun 6-7

37

36

4

12

1

10

2000 Apr 28-30

37

44

5

7

2

5

             

Democrats (LV)

           

2000 Aug 24-27

85

9

1

1

*

4

             

2000 Aug 18-19

86

9

*

3

0

2

2000 Aug 11-12 †

84

11

*

1

0

4

2000 Aug 4-5

80

13

*

3

0

4

2000 Jul 25-26 ^

87

6

0

3

1

3

2000 Jul 14-16

86

7

*

4

1

2

2000 Jun 23-25

77

7

2

8

0

6

2000 Jun 6-7

83

7

2

4

0

4

2000 Apr 28-30

82

9

2

5

0

2

 

^ Vice-Presidential candidates Cheney and LaDuke included on ballot beginning July 25-26, 2000

 

† Vice-Presidential candidates Lieberman and Foster included on ballot beginning August 11-12, 2000

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