Introduction and Summary

No matter who wins the presidency, George W. Bush or Al Gore, many Americans think that the victor will come to office because of the way the voting was conducted or counted rather than because he legitimately won the election in Florida. Ironically, this view has become more prevalent regarding a potential Bush victory since the most recent certification of the Florida vote.

The second wave of the latest Pew Research Center’s survey, conducted Nov. 27-30, finds the public thinking Bush will have legitimately won, by a 48% to 33% margin. But the first part of this survey, conducted Nov. 20-26, showed a wider 54% to 28% margin thinking Bush will be a legitimate winner. A plurality of voters, both before and after the Nov. 26 certification, say a victory by Gore would be a matter of way the votes were counted rather than a legitimate win.

Overall, there is mostly good news in this survey for the Bush camp — the percentage of Americans thinking he will be the next president rose from 58% last week to 66% in the polling conducted since Sunday. At the same time, the number of Americans who believe that Bush won and Gore should concede increased from 36% to 45%; and the number who said that Gore has no chance of winning rose from 31% to 41%.

Not surprisingly views on what might happen and what should happen are colored by partisanship — Republicans, almost to a person, think Bush will be president and Gore should concede. Among Democrats, however, fewer than one-in-four (23%) think the vice president should throw in the towel. However, over half of Democrats (56%) now think that Bush will be the next president.

It should be noted that even though many think that either candidate will have won the vote because of the way it was counted, most Americans still will accept either candidate as a “legitimate” president, according to other national polling conducted this week. This is because the vast majority think it impossible to get a completely accurate count of the Florida vote, according to a Gallup poll last week.1