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Voters swayed by economy, health care, education, Social Security

By Times staff writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 8, 2000


A look at voter thinking nationally in Tuesday's presidential election:

Who voted how

OVERALL: George W. Bush won solid majorities of men, whites and the wealthy. Al Gore was winning among women, blacks, Hispanics and those earning below $30,000.

FAMILIES: Bush was leading among voters who were married, particularly those with children; Gore was doing better among those who were not married.

RELIGION: Bush was leading among Protestants, and Gore was leading among Jews and those who did not identify with any religion. Bush and Gore were splitting the Catholic vote. The more likely a voter was to attend religious services, the more likely he or she was to vote for Bush.

Notable groups

LATE DECIDERS: Nearly one in five voters said they made up their minds in the last week, and Gore had a solid lead with this group. Bush and Gore were very close among voters who decided earlier.

UNIONS: About one in four voters came from a union household, and a solid majority of them were supporting Gore.

CLINTON VOTERS: Gore was holding on to the vast majority of those who voted for President Clinton in 1996, though Bush was doing better among Clinton voters than Gore was doing among those who voted for Republican Bob Dole. Bush also won the lion's share of those who supported Reform Party nominee Ross Perot in 1996.

Issues and qualities

MOST IMPORTANT ISSUES: Bush was winning among voters who cared most about world affairs and taxes. Gore was winning among voters who cared most about Medicare/prescription drugs, Social Security, health care, economy/jobs and education.

ISSUES OR PERSONALITY?: A solid majority of voters said a candidate's position on issues was more important to them than leadership and personal qualities.

BUSH DRUNKEN DRIVING: About one in four voters said the revelation last week of Bush's 1976 arrest for drunken driving was very or somewhat important to their vote. Those voters went overwhelmingly for Gore.

SAY ANYTHING?: Voters were more likely to believe that Gore would say anything to get elected than that Bush would. But a large chunk of voters -- about four in 10 -- thought they both would.

SMART ENOUGH?: Voters were more likely to think Gore had the knowledge needed to serve effectively as president than they were to think the same of Bush.

HONEST ENOUGH?: More voters thought Bush was honest and trustworthy enough to be president than felt that way about Gore.

MILITARY: Almost half of voters thought the U.S. military has become weaker since Clinton took office; more than one-third thought it stayed about the same. Bush's voters overwhelmingly said it was worse, while Gore supporters were divided.

Economy

FAMILY FINANCES: Half the voters said their finances were better now than four years ago, and they overwhelmingly voted for Gore. Most other voters said things were about the same, and these voters favored Bush by 2-to-1.

CLINTON CREDIT?: About two in three voters said the Clinton administration was very or somewhat responsible for the good economy, and they favored Gore. Those who didn't give the administration much credit were overwhelmingly in Bush's camp.

Nader factor

STEALING FROM GORE?: About half of Nader voters said they would have voted for Gore if it had been a two-way race. But about one in three said they simply would not have voted in a two-way race.

* * *

Voters were interviewed as they left the polls by Voter News Service, a consortium of the AP and the television networks. Early results were based on interviews with 8,364 voters as they left their polling places. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 1.3 percentage points, higher for subgroups.

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