Voters back Bush for honesty, leadership; Gore on experience, knowledge

Tuesday, November 7th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ George W. Bush got strong backing Tuesday from voters who sought honesty and strong leadership in a candidate, exit polls say, while Al Gore drew solid support from those who wanted experience and understanding of complex issues.

The voters' split priorities reflected the tug-of-war between personality and experience that has been at the core of this campaign, exit surveys suggested.

Voters were interviewed as they left the polls by Voter News Service, a consortium of The AP and television networks. The poll results were based on interviews with 8,364 voters after they voted Tuesday and have an error margin of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.

Gore led among women, blacks and Hispanics; Bush among men and whites. Bush led among parents; Gore among non-parents, a larger group. The two candidates were matched fairly evenly among most age groups. Gore led among those who made $30,000 or less while Bush led among those who made $75,000 or more. They were evenly divided among middle-income voters. Gore led among those who thought issues were most important while Bush led among those who valued personal qualities.

Gore led among those who called themselves moderates, while Bush led among Protestants and white Catholics, a group President Clinton carried in 1996.

They both had strong support from their party base and were splitting independents about evenly in preliminary poll results. Gore was getting four of five Clinton supporters from 1996 and Bush was getting nine of 10 supporters of Bob Dole. Ross Perot's voters from 1996 tilted toward Bush.

In Rogers Park, on the north side of Chicago, dentist John Scovic said integrity was the issue that led him to vote for Bush.

``I just think George Bush has more leadership skills and a more principled, centered-type personality,'' Scovic said.

Gore supporter Sharon Gordon, a homemaker from Dimondale, Mich., came in to vote even though she had the flu.

``I don't think Bush is very bright. I wasn't happy with his dad. I think we'll get the same thing,'' she said. ``I got a little sick of this bringing up morality.'' She praised Gore as ``a good family man.''

The most important issue for voters was the economy, and those who picked that issue backed Gore heavily. About half the voters said their personal finances were better than four years ago and that group overwhelmingly voted for Gore.

Taxes were another important issue and that group backed Bush by an overwhelming margin.

Bush was backed by those who thought world affairs was the top issue, while Gore was backed by those who thought health care and prescription drugs were top issues.

By a 2-to-1 margin, voters thought the country was on the right track, and that group leaned toward Gore. By almost the same margin, voters though the country was on the wrong track morally, and that group tilted toward Bush.

Both candidates felt the effect of Clinton in this election.

Two-thirds of voters felt the president was at least somewhat responsible for the strong economy and those people leaned toward Gore. Those who felt the president was very responsible backed Gore by a 4-to-1 margin. About one in four voters were from union households and they backed Gore 2-to-1.

About one in five voters made their decision in the last week and favored Gore. Bush and Gore were very close among those who decided earlier.

Just under half felt the president's scandals were at least somewhat important and they tilted heavily toward Bush. Those who thought the scandals were very important backed Bush by 6-to-1.

Mary Cole, a 67-year-old retired state worker usually votes Democratic, but she cast her ballot for Bush in St. Clair Shores, Mich.

``I just liked the way Bush talked,'' she said. ``He was honest. There was something about Gore I didn't like. I think I felt more secure with Bush.''