President-Elect Bush Faces Politically Divided Nation, but Relatively Few Americans Are Angry or Bitter Over Election Outcome

by Frank Newport

Americans more confident in Bush as result of actions of last week

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- President-elect George W. Bush faces a daunting task as he prepares for his inauguration as the 43rd president of the United States. The American public remains divided in its support for Bush, and about half continue to have doubts about the way in which he won the presidency, believing that -- had the Florida recount been allowed to continue -- Al Gore would have won. Still, most Americans appear willing to accept Bush as legitimate, and relatively few express strongly negative emotions about his victory or go so far as to say that he "stole" the election. Additionally, more than half of Americans say that Bush's actions over the last week have made them more confident in his ability to serve as president, and Bush's choice for Secretary of State, General Colin Powell, has one of the highest favorable ratings in Gallup Poll history.

A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted December 15-17, shows that Americans remain just as divided politically today as they were on Election Day nearly six weeks ago. About half of those who went to the polls across the country voted for Bush on November 7, and today only about the same number are willing to say that they consider themselves "supporters" of the president-elect.

This political split is also reflected in the public's reaction to last Tuesday's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that essentially ended the possibility of a recount in Florida and thus gave the presidency to Bush. Only about half of all Americans say they agree with the Supreme Court's decision, and that Bush won the election "fair and square." Americans are also evenly divided over who would have won the state of Florida if the recount had been allowed to continue, with 46% saying Gore and 45% saying Bush.

Yet, at the same time, the survey does not indicate that there will be an unwillingness to recognize Bush as the legitimate president when he is inaugurated in January, or that there is a sense of outrage or bitterness on the part of those who supported Bush's opponent, Al Gore.

In fact, as has generally been the case in six different surveys in the days since November 7, more than eight out of ten Americans -- 83% -- now say they will accept George W. Bush as the legitimate president of the United States. Gore's supporters cede Bush that legitimacy by more than a two-to-one margin -- 68% to 30%.

And despite the fact that half of the country feels that the U.S. Supreme Court decision was wrong, and that Gore might have won had the recount been allowed to continue, relatively few Americans have strongly negative emotions or feel that there was something illegal in what transpired in Florida:

  • Only 18% of the public say that Bush "stole the election"
  • About two-thirds say that while there may have been errors in the Florida election, there was no fraud involved
  • When respondents are asked to indicate if each of a series of adjectives describes their personal feelings about the fact that George W. Bush has been declared the winner of the presidency, just 16% say they are "bitter," and only 18% say they are "angry." About a third, mostly Gore supporters, say they feel "cheated."

Indeed, the one adjective with which Americans have the most agreement is "relieved," apparent testimony to the fact that Americans are -- perhaps more than anything else -- glad to have the case decided and a president-elect determined.

Challenges Ahead
Whatever the feelings about the way in which Bush arrived at the White House, there is significant skepticism that the bipartisan cooperation in Washington that Bush has been promising will become a reality. Just 39% of Americans think that Bush and the Democrats in Congress will "put politics behind them and work together in the future," while 56% say they will not. Gore supporters are particularly skeptical that Bush and the Democratic leaders will be able to work together in the future.

Still, 54% of Americans say that Bush's statements and actions over the last week have made them more confident in his ability to serve as president, almost twice as many as those who say that Bush's statements and actions have made them less confident. One of his more prominent actions has been the appointment of former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell as Secretary of State. Eighty-three percent of Americans gave Powell a favorable rating in the weekend poll -- one of the highest ratings in Gallup Poll history. Powell's favorable rating is only a little higher among Republicans (90%) than among Democrats (80%), signaling a bipartisan appeal rarely found among most politicians.

Finally, it should be noted that in a number of ways George W. Bush has big shoes to fill in terms of replacing Bill Clinton as president. Although Clinton receives consistently low marks from the public in terms of morality and ethics -- and a legacy that no doubt will always be focused at least in part on his impeachment by the House of Representatives in the fall of 1998 -- Clinton is receiving robust job approval ratings as his term winds down. In this latest poll, Clinton's job approval rating is 66%, the highest he has received in well over a year, and a rating that is significantly above the average received by American presidents since World War II.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with -- 1,011 -- national adults, aged 18+, conducted December 15-17, 2000. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points.

Results based on the subsample of -- 487 -- who said they would vote for Gore if the 2004 presidential election were being held today have a margin of sampling error of ±5 percentage points.

Results based on the subsample of -- 423 -- who said they would vote for Bush if the 2004 presidential election were being held today have a margin of sampling error of ±5 percentage points.

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.



Do you consider yourself to be a supporter of George W. Bush, or not?

 

 

Yes, supporter

No, not

No opinion

 

%

%

%

National adults

     

2000 Dec 15-17

49

49

2

       

Gore "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

14

84

2

       

Bush "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

93

6

1



 

 

2000 Dec 15-17

   

Accept and support Bush

49%

Accept but do not support Bush

32

Do not accept Bush

16

   

No opinion

3



Which comes closest to your view of the way George W. Bush won the election -- [ROTATED: he won fair and square, he won, but only on a technicality, (or) he stole the election]?

 

 

Won fair
and square

Won on technicality

Stole
the election

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

National adults

       

2000 Dec 15-17

48

32

18

2

         

Gore "voters"

       

2000 Dec 15-17

13

52

33

2

         

Bush "voters"

       

2000 Dec 15-17

91

8

1

*



Have George W. Bush's statements and actions over the last week made you more confident or less confident in his ability to serve as president?

 

 


More
confident


Less
confident

NO DIFFERENCE (vol.)


No
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

National adults

       

2000 Dec 15-17

54

28

14

4

         

Gore "voters"

       

2000 Dec 15-17

29

49

17

5

         

Bush "voters"

       

2000 Dec 15-17

85

3

9

3

         

Bill Clinton trend

       

1992 Nov 10-11

53

26

12

9



Turning now to the U.S. Supreme Court,

Which comes closest to your view of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last Tuesday night to stop the manual recounts in Florida -- [ROTATED: you accept the U.S. Supreme Court's decision and agree with it, you accept the U.S. Supreme Court's decision, but do not agree with it (or) you do not accept the U.S. Supreme Court's decision]?

 

 

Accept
and agree

Accept but
do not agree

Do not
accept

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

National adults

       

2000 Dec 15-17

49

32

17

2

         

Gore "voters"

       

2000 Dec 15-17

13

56

30

1

         

Bush "voters"

       

2000 Dec 15-17

91

5

3

1



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



Do each of the following describe or not describe your reaction to the fact that George W. Bush has been declared the winner of the presidency? How about --[ROTATED]?

A. Thrilled

 

Yes, describes

No, does not describe

No opinion

 

%

%

%

National adults

     

2000 Dec 15-17

24

75

1

       

Gore "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

3

97

*

       

Bush "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

52

47

1



B. Pleased

 

Yes, describes

No, does not describe

No opinion

 

%

%

%

National adults

     

2000 Dec 15-17

49

51

*

       

Gore "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

11

89

0

       

Bush "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

94

6

*



C. Relieved

 

Yes, describes

No, does not describe

No opinion

 

%

%

%

National adults

     

2000 Dec 15-17

62

37

1

       

Gore "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

37

62

1

       

Bush "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

92

7

1



D. Bitter

 

Yes, describes

No, does not describe

No opinion

 

%

%

%

National adults

     

2000 Dec 15-17

16

84

*

       

Gore "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

29

70

1

       

Bush "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

2

98

*



E. Cheated

 

Yes, describes

No, does not describe

No opinion

 

%

%

%

National adults

     

2000 Dec 15-17

32

67

1

       

Gore "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

60

38

2

       

Bush "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

3

97

0



F. Angry

 

Yes, describes

No, does not describe

No opinion

 

%

%

%

National adults

     

2000 Dec 15-17

18

82

*

       

Gore "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

32

67

1

       

Bush "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

3

97

*



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

 

2000 Dec 15-17

Yes, describes

 

%

   

Relieved

62

Pleased

49

Cheated

32

Thrilled

24

Angry

18

Bitter

16



Do you think the country is -- or is not -- more deeply divided this year on the major issues facing the country than it has been in the past several years?

 


Yes, more
deeply divided


No, not more deeply divided

COUNTRY NOT DIVIDED (vol.)


No
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

National adults

       

2000 Dec 15-17

64

33

1

2

         

Gore "voters"

       

2000 Dec 15-17

71

26

1

2

         

Bush "voters"

       

2000 Dec 15-17

57

41

*

2



In his speech on Wednesday night, George W. Bush said that he and the Democrats in Congress must put politics behind them and work together in the future. Do you think this will -- or will not -- happen?

 

Will happen

Will not happen

No opinion

 

%

%

%

National adults

     

2000 Dec 15-17

39

56

5

       

Gore "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

24

72

4

       

Bush "voters"

     

2000 Dec 15-17

59

36

5

       
       
       

* Less than 0.5%

(vol.) Volunteered response



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