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Inside Politics

Poll finds optimism after divisive election


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President Bush: No limit to America's greatness.

Sen. John Kerry: 'Need, desperate need, for unity.'
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America Votes 2004

(CNN) -- A majority of Americans polled said they were hopeful that President Bush would do more to unite the country than divide it, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found.

Fifty-seven percent of 621 American adults surveyed Wednesday night said they expect Bush to unite the nation during his second term. But 39 percent said they believe the president will be divisive.

Bush won re-election over Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry without the need for recounts or court battles that followed the presidential election of 2000. He also picked up 51 percent of the popular vote on his way to victory. (Bush looks forward)

Even after the highly polarizing campaign, the poll indicated some optimism for the next four years.

One-third of respondents said they were optimistic about Bush's second term, and 23 percent were enthusiastic. Another 24 percent said they were afraid and 18 percent expressed pessimism.

Just over half -- 51 percent -- of respondents said they were pleased with the outcome of the presidential election; 38 percent said they were upset.

During the 2000 campaign, Bush promised to be a "uniter, not a divider." But in this week's election the nation seemed nearly as divided as it had been in Bush's first election. (President Bush declares victory 'historic')

Few states switched from the party that prevailed four years ago. New Hampshire, which Bush narrowly won in 2000, went for Kerry. Bush has so far carried no state won by Democrat Al Gore, although he leads in two, Iowa and New Mexico.

But this time around the nation does not appear to be divided over who won. Today, 74 percent of those surveyed said Bush won "fair and square." In 2000, the figure was only 48 percent.

Four years ago, Bush beat Gore by just 537 votes in Florida after the U.S. Supreme Court voted to stop ballot recounts in several counties. That gave Bush an Electoral College vote of 271 -- one more than necessary to win.

It seems the country may have been hoping to avoid a legal stand-off this year, because 80 percent of respondents agreed with Kerry's decision to concede the election Wednesday afternoon. (Kerry calls for unity)

The outcome remained in doubt overnight even though Bush was ahead in the popular vote by more than 3.7 million votes. He was short of winning the 270 votes needed in the Electoral College because the race in the battleground state of Ohio remained so close.

Kerry had considered forgoing a concession speech until after all provisional ballots were counted, 11 days after the election.

Sixty percent of respondents said Kerry was merely being a realist in making his decision to concede while 35 percent thought of him as a statesman.

The group surveyed also had a distinct opinion on how Bush should lead now that he's won another four-year term.

Sixty-three percent said Bush should emphasize a bipartisan program. Just under a third, 30 percent, said Bush needs to advance the Republican agenda.

The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.


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