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Men's Backing Helps Power Bush Past Gore

Survey shows the GOP nominee is ahead, 48% to 42%. Women prefer the vice president by 7 points, but the Texas governor has a 22-point lead among males.


WASHINGTON — Overwhelming support among men has powered George W. Bush back ahead in the race for the White House, a new Times Poll has found.

Less than six weeks before the Nov. 7 election, the survey finds men and women diverging on their presidential choices to an enormous degree. While women still prefer Vice President Al Gore by 7 percentage points, men give Bush a crushing 22-point advantage--enough to provide the Texas governor a 48%-42% overall lead among likely voters, the poll found.

Yet the poll--which found a slightly wider Bush lead than several other surveys released this week--also pinpoints the assets that may allow Gore to rebound in what's emerging as perhaps the closest presidential race since John F. Kennedy squeezed past Richard Nixon in 1960.

Despite Bush's overall lead, voters divide almost evenly between the two men on a long list of personal attributes--and give Gore the edge on most issues, including the critical measure of which candidate can best keep the country prosperous. And nearly 3 in 4 voters say the presidential debates that begin Tuesday will have an important effect on their vote.

Still, at this point Bush has pushed ahead by restoring a cavernous margin among white men--the bedrock of his support--and regaining an advantage among white married women, which is offsetting the traditional Democratic strength with single women. And after weeks of criticizing Gore's plan to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, Bush has also taken a narrow lead with senior citizens.

Indeed, Bush is attracting voters who tend to vote Democratic slightly more effectively than Gore is capturing support from those who lean toward Republicans--a trend the vice president will need to reverse if he is to recover before November.

The survey found little national interest in the two third-party candidates. Green Party nominee Ralph Nader drew just 2% and Pat Buchanan, the Reform Party standard-bearer, just 1%. Seven percent said they were still undecided.

The Times Poll, supervised by Polling Director Susan Pinkus, surveyed 1,052 registered voters, including 694 likely voters, from Sept. 23 through Sept. 25. All the results reported here are from the 694 voters considered likely to turn out in November; for those voters the survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Other Polls Give Bush Smaller Lead

The last Times survey, taken in early August, between the Republican and Democratic conventions, showed Bush with a 12 percentage point lead over Gore among likely voters. But after the Democratic convention ended in mid-August, almost all public surveys through mid-September showed Gore taking the lead as he consolidated his lead among Democrats, surged among women and reduced Bush's advantage among white men.

But Bush has rebounded in the latest round of polls. Three other surveys released Tuesday showed Bush regaining the lead over Gore, though his margins were narrower than in the Times result: The Texan led by 2 percentage points in the daily Gallup/USA Today/CNN survey, 2 points in a survey by independent pollster John Zogby and 3 points in the daily tracking poll by the political Web site

All of these surveys followed a week in which many analysts said Bush had his best stretch since the GOP convention, which included appearances on daytime television shows hosted by Oprah Winfrey and Regis Philbin. Gore, meanwhile, was entangled in questions about his disputed assertion that an identical arthritis drug cost his mother-in-law far more than it did for his dog.

With election day nearing, the Times Poll found each candidate successfully consolidating his base. Fully 94% of Republicans say they are voting for Bush; among Democrats, 86% say they are backing Gore.

Independents preferred Bush over Gore by 11 percentage points in The Times survey. That's partly because Bush's lead among independents who consider themselves conservative is larger than Gore's lead among those who call themselves moderate and liberal.

Gender Is Big Story Among Independents

But the larger story among independents--like virtually every group in the poll--is gender. Gore remains strong among women but not nearly as strong as Bush is among men. The pattern recurs when looking at virtually any category of men and women.

Among women 65 and older, for instance, Gore leads Bush by 17 percentage points; but senior men prefer Bush over Gore by about 2 to 1. As a result Bush leads among seniors overall by 46% to 42%. Gore has a single-digit lead among women who are independents, but independent men again prefer Bush by almost 2 to 1.

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