What the Polls Say
NOVEMBER 4, 1996
Charlayne Hunter-Gault looks at the final pre-election polls.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: The newest poll from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press was released yesterday. Among likely voters, 49 percent supported President Clinton, 36 percent Bob Dole, 8 percent Ross Perot, and 7 percent didn't know or were voting for other candidates. We get the details behind these numbers now from Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. Andy, thank you for joining us again. What are the details behind those numbers?
ANDREW KOHUT, Pew Research Center: Well, the details are pretty simple. Not much changed between mid-October and this final weekend of the campaign, and not much has changed between early September and mid-October, as the last--as some people said in the last segment, nothing much has happened with the voters. And that's borne out by these survey numbers. And if you look behind just the survey numbers, themselves, the horse race numbers, we find every reason to believe that Bill Clinton has a very solid lead. People are saying they strongly support him at the same level and said that about George Bush in 1988 when he went on to win, as said that about Jimmy Carter in ‘76, so the strength and support is there, in addition to just the, the width of that lead.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And where is the strength?
MR. KOHUT: Well, the strength of it is in terms of Bill Clinton pulling together a strong Democratic coalition. He's getting close to 90 percent of Democrats--88 percent of Democrats and independents who lean Democratic say they're going to vote for Bill Clinton. That's very unusual. Democrats are generally much more fractious. He's getting good support from labor, from minority groups, and poor people, plus unusually for presidential candidates, Democratic presidential candidates, he's carrying the white vote, he's carrying the suburban vote, he's carrying the middle class vote. And, uh--
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And I think when we talked earlier, you said something about the gender--particularly there was a huge--
MR. KOHUT: Oh, a huge agenda cavern. I think the--the figures that we had were something like a 53-29 margin among women, and a very close race that's in favor of Clinton, a very close race among men.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And your polls are not showing any spillover from the water that we heard referred to that, that the campaign finance scandal or charges were taken on.
MR. KOHUT: Well, we used to hear about Ronald Reagan is the Teflon President, boy, this is the Teflon President. We found only one in five voters say that they were paying very close attention to these allegations about campaign finance irregularities, and when we asked Clinton-backers if these charges or allegations raised any doubts in their minds, only 7 percent of the people who will say they're backing Bill Clinton said it raised any doubts in their minds.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: What about some of the other polls? I mean, some of them have Clinton--you heard the discussion about the magic 50 percent number--your poll, I think, had Clinton at what, 49 percent?
MR. KOHUT: 49, yeah.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And a couple of the others, ABC, CBS, New York Times, had him at 50 and 53.
MR. KOHUT: Right. Well, all of these polls, five of the six leading independent polls are all very, very close to one another, showing small digit--double-digit leads for Bill Clinton. There's barely a difference in statistical terms between ABC, CBS, Gallup, our survey, and the NBC Poll. There's one poll with a somewhat unorthodox approach that has a very narrow lead, but generally like Bill Clinton's unmovable lead, there's been more consistency in the polls than we typically see. And when we take our survey--our survey and allocate our undecideds, we get 52-38-9--52 for Clinton, 38 for, for Dole, 9 for Perot--as our best estimate of what's likely to happen on Tuesday, which would put him over the 50 percent mark.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But you have a higher list of undecideds than the others--than the other two polls that we're talking about.
MR. KOHUT: That generally in polls reflects how hard you push the undecideds. The CBS/New York Times poll, for example, asks a few questions in front of the horse race question that we don't, but pretty much the, the analysis of, of our undecideds suggested that there's no--there's no hidden vote for Dole or Perot, and particularly among undecided voters.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: I was just going to ask you about the Perot factor, because he--the polls--this, your poll and the other two polls I cited having been in the single digits, but last week he was in the double digits, and you heard David Broder refer to double digits for Perot. What's going on there?
MR. KOHUT: Well, there was a little boomlet. Actually, our polls showed a 2-point increase for, for Perot, which I wouldn't make of, except it was some confirmation that last week in some of the other polls, but that boomlet isn't going very far because we find as many as 74 percent of the public were not supporting him, saying that there's no way they're going to support him, and only another 7 percent saying that they might support Ross Perot. So I don't think it's going very far. But I want to add one little caution here. Perot surprised the pollsters in ‘92. He got better support on election day than he did in the polls. If there's anything that's at all uncertain about these numbers, from my point of view, it might be the percentage Perot--he might spill into double digits.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Briefly, are the polls indicating any avenue for a Dole upset?
MR. KOHUT: We've seen no movements since September. It would be hard to, to fathom a movement overnight. If the polls are wrong now, it's going to make the miscue in 1948 look like a minor fumble because there's such consistency and the margins are so wide and deep.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: We discussed a moment ago the water that, that Clinton was not--that was not affecting Clinton in terms of the campaign financing allegations, but Ron Brownstein said that it might be affecting the congressional races? But is it as far as the polls are showing now, and what else are you seeing there?
MR. KOHUT: It may well, because there are a lot of Republican--there are a lot of independents who are on the fence on the--in the congressional races. We have 48 percent inclined to a Democratic candidate, 44 percent inclined to a Republican candidate. That's too close to call to say that the popular vote will go to the Democrats, and the margin of error on the generic measure is, uh, greater in presidential years than in off years, and I would say we're not going to know about the popular vote until tomorrow night. Uh, I don't--I don't have as much faith in this number as I do in the presidential numbers. First of all, the national polls are all over the lot on that.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: All right. Andy Kohut, we'll see you tomorrow.
MR. KOHUT: Okay.