Chat Transcript: Polling Unit Director Gary Langer

Gore certainly has made significant progress there, Paul. The key group we look at is made up of people who dislike Clinton personally but like his policies. That's about 30 percent of the electorate and on the basis of policy it's a natural Gore group. Yet this summer he was only winning half of those people. Since his convention, though, he's turned that around — now winning this important group by about 20 points.

John Johnson at 2:10pm ET

What role are candidates such as Harry Browne and Ralph Nader playing in these poll results?

Gary Langer at 2:13pm ET

Not much of one. John. We have Nader at three percent, Buchanan at less than one percent. Don't have Browne, but another poll I saw today had him at one percent. Not big numbers.

mike duran at 2:13pm ET

Being a union member, I wonder how Mr. Bush's election could possibly have a positive effect on my life or any other union member's life.

Gary Langer at 2:15pm ET

It would seem that most union members — and their families — tend to agree with you, Mike, since Gore leads by 61-33 percent among likely voters in union households. That happens to be about the same as Clinton's margin in this group in 1996. It's a big group, too — about 23 percent of voters in 1996, according to our exit poll.

One interesting thing I'd note is this: Our poll finds that more than two-thirds of likely voters think that either Bush or Gore would probably be a good president. Given that, it could be a low-turnout election, in which case get-out-the-vote efforts become all the more important. And unions are good at that. Could it make a difference in some battleground states? I wouldn't rule it out. Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Jersey come to mind.

Moderator at 2:15pm ET

At one point, Bush had a slight lead over Gore among women. Why is there now such a wide gender gap, with the majority of women backing Gore and the majority of men supporting Bush?

Gary Langer at 2:20pm ET

It's a big gender gap, biggest we've seen: Gore +18 among women, Bush +20 among men — a 38-point gap. (The average in elections since 1980 is just 13 points. We'll see where this one ends up.)

I'd point to a couple of reasons. One cuts to political philosophy: women are somewhat more apt to favor a larger, more active government; men are more apt to favor smaller, less active government, and those roughly delineate the two major parties and the two candidates. Another is that Gore has aimed his campaign at the economic midmarket, and there are more women there.

Gail Milner from adv.tcu.edu at 2:22pm ET

It occurs to me that it is possible that the tightening poll numbers reflect a growing perception out here in the real world, which has not been paying much attention to the presidential race until just now: it's not the issues, stupid — it's that the Repubs have nominated a candidate who is too weak to hold up under close scrutiny. What's your impression?

Gary Langer at 2:24pm ET

I don't think most people see it that way at all, Gail. In fact, as I noted earlier, in our latest poll more than two-thirds of likely voters say either Bush or Gore would probably make a pretty good president. As far as issues vs character, people divide evenly on which is more important to them — but vote preferences are about the same in both groups.

Ashley Vinsel at 2:24pm ET

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