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Gallup Vault
Gallup Vault: What a Convention Bounce Looks Like
Gallup Vault

Gallup Vault: What a Convention Bounce Looks Like

On Aug. 18, 1988, Vice President George H.W. Bush accepted his party's nomination for president at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans. He heralded the nation's charitable organizations -- "a thousand points of light" -- and firmly vowed "no new taxes." A week later, George Gallup Jr. and Alec Gallup described several post-convention improvements in Bush's image, writing, "Bush's performance at the convention did much to soften voters' antipathy toward him and allayed many long-standing doubts about his character."

George H.W. Bush: Before and After the 1988 GOP Convention
Voters' views of Bush's personal characteristics, overall reaction to him and candidate preference
  Aug 5-7, 1988 Aug 19-21, 1988 Change
  % % (pct. pts.)
Warm and friendly 49 65 +16
Sincere 59 74 +15
Strong 42 57 +15
Steady and reliable 59 73 +14
A leader 37 50 +13
Confident 56 67 +11
Intelligent 61 70 +9
Favorable rating 51 60 +9
Trial heat:  
George H.W. Bush 42 48 +6
Michael Dukakis 49 44 -5
Based on registered voters

While Bush's selection of Indiana Sen. Dan Quayle as his running mate stirred immediate controversy, the 1988 convention offered plenty of positive moments, including an opening night speech by President Ronald Reagan.

Before the convention, 49% of registered voters described Bush as "warm and friendly." After the convention, 65% saw him this way. Before the convention, more voters thought Bush was a follower (52%) than a leader (37%). After the convention, the numbers nearly reversed. Similar gains in perceptions of Bush as "strong," "sincere," "confident" and "intelligent" resulted in a nine-percentage-point increase in his favorable rating and a six-point increase in support for Bush against his Democratic opponent, Michael Dukakis. As a result, after trailing Dukakis from May through August -- including by 17 points right after the Democratic convention in July -- Bush took the lead following the Republican convention and remained on top through the election.

The improvements seen in Bush's immediate post-1988 convention image and trial heat standing are not unusual in Gallup trends. For instance, in 2000 and 2008, Gallup found sharp increases in candidates' character ratings after their conventions. Further, Bush's six-point convention bounce roughly matched the 6.2-point average increase for both parties in Gallup polling from 1964 through 1992. More recently, however, the average convention bounce has been 3.8 points.

Read the original Gallup poll releases about Bush's character traits and convention bounce.

These data can be found in Gallup Analytics.

Read more from the Gallup Vault.

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