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Poll: Most Americans have confidence in Bush presidency but view country as deeply divided

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President-elect George W. Bush's statements and actions in the past week have made Americans more confident in his ability to serve as president, but they see deep divisions in the country on major issues and are pessimistic that the two parties will put politics behind them and work together on the country's problems, according to the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.

Bush's decision to nominate Colin Powell as Secretary of State adds possibly the most popular public figure to his administration: Powell's favorable rating is 83 percent, while only 6 percent have an unfavorable view of him. But will the president-elect be overshadowed by his aides? Powell is not the only administration figure with a higher favorable rating than Bush -- Dick Cheney's favorable rating is at 61 percent, and his unfavorable rating is significantly lower than Bush's. The triple-overtime presidential election may have little effect on public attitudes toward the incoming Bush administration.

More than eight in 10 Americans say they accept Bush as the legitimate president. But Americans are divided right down the middle on whether they support Bush -- 49 percent call themselves Bush supporters and 49 percent do not.

One potential plus for Bush: the public appears to take him at his word when he says he wants to work with both parties. Thirty-five percent say it is very likely he will work with Democratic leaders on the country's major problems and 44 percent say it is somewhat likely. But fewer think that either the Democratic or Republican leaders in Congress are as likely to cooperate with the opposition.

The poll consists of Interviews with 1,011 adult Americans, was conducted December 15-17, 2000 and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

December 15-17

Have George W. Bush's statements and actions over the last week made you more confident or less confident in his ability to serve as president?

More confident      54%

Less confident      28

Do you think the country is -- or is not -- more deeply divided this year on the major issues facing the country than it has been in the past several years?

Yes       64%

No        33

In his speech last Wednesday night, Bush said that he and the Democrats in Congress must put politics behind them and work together in the future. Do you think this will happen?

Yes       39%

No        56

Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of this person -- or if you have never heard of him.

            Favorable  Unfavorable

Powell        83%         6%

Cheney        61         23

Bush          59         36

Now that George W. Bush has been declared the winner and will be inaugurated next January, will you accept him as the legitimate president, or not?

Yes      83%

No       16

Do you consider yourself to be a supporter of George W. Bush, or not?

Yes     49%

No      49

How likely is it that Republicans in Congress will work With Democrats?

Very likely        19%

Somewhat likely    51

Not likely         28

How likely is it that Democrats in Congress will work with Republicans?

Very likely        14%

Somewhat likely    55

Not likely         29

How likely is it that Bush will work with Democrats in Congress?

Very likely        35%

Somewhat likely    44

Not likely         19

Public confidence unshaken

Although the public is deeply divided over whether the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore was the correct one, and half say the justices were influenced by their own political views, confidence in the high court as an institution does not appear to have been shaken by the judicially-imposed endgame to the presidential election.

The number of Americans who have a great deal of confidence or quite a lot of confidence in the Supreme Court has remained essentially the same since mid-summer, and confidence in the presidency as an institution has risen in that same time (although Congress remains low in the public's estimation).

Most Americans are willing to accept the Supreme Court decision that ultimately ended the presidential election, but only about half agree with that decision, and just 48 percent believe that Bush won the election fairly and squarely. A third believe he won but only on a technicality, and 18 percent say he stole the election.

December 15-17

Which comes closest to your view of the way Bush won the election -- he won fair and square, he won, but only on a technicality, or he stole the election?

Fair and square       48%

On a technicality     32

Stole the election    18

Do you have a high level of confidence in the following:

U.S. Supreme Court     49%

The presidency         49

U.S. Congress          31

High level of confidence in Supreme Court

Now       49%

June      47

High level of confidence in the presidency

Now       49%

June      42

High level of confidence in television news

Now       31%

June      36

Which comes closest to your view of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last Tuesday night to stop the manual recounts in Florida: Do you accept the U.S. Supreme Court's decision, but do not agree with it, or you do not accept the U.S. Supreme Court's decision?

Accept it and agree with it   49%

Accept it, don't agree        32

Don't accept it               17

Overall, do you think the U.S. Supreme Court justices were influenced by their personal political views when deciding this case?

Yes       50%

No        46

Changing the electoral system

Americans are willing to accept as fair Bush's victory in the Electoral College even though he lost the popular vote, but they would rather see that system replaced by one in which the winner of the nationwide vote becomes president. Confidence in the system by which Americans cast and count their votes is low, and although only a quarter say the system needs a complete overhaul, most are in favor of reforms.

December 15-17

As you may know, more people across the country voted for Al Gore than George W. Bush, but Bush has been declared the next president because he won more votes in the Electoral College. Do you think this was a fair or unfair outcome of the presidential election?

Fair      51%

Unfair    46

Thinking for a moment about the way in which the president is elected in this country, which would you prefer -- to amend the constitution so the candidate who receives the most total votes nationwide wins the election, or to keep the current system, in which the candidate who wins the most votes in the Electoral College wins the election?

Amend the Constitution          59%

Keep the current system         37

Do you think the system in which votes are cast and counted in this country is in need of -- a complete overhaul, major reforms, minor reforms, or no reforms?

Complete overhaul    28%

Major reforms        39

Minor reforms        27

No reforms            4

How much confidence do you have the system in which votes are cast and counted in this country -- a great deal, quite a lot, some, or very little?

Great deal         15%

Quite a lot        15

Some               32

Very little        35


Monday, December 18, 2000



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