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CNN Today

Gallup Poll: Bush Has Big Shoes to Fill

Aired December 18, 2000 - 4:37 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: As the transition to the Bush administration takes shape, so does public opinion.

Let's again bring in Gallup Poll editor in chief Frank Newport with a look at the nation's thoughts about George W. Bush.

Frank, a lot was made out of the Florida turmoil and whether that would affect the legitimacy of Mr. Bush's rise to the presidency. What do you see in your poll numbers?

FRANK NEWPORT, EDITOR IN CHIEF, GALLUP POLL: Well, the same thing we've been seeing all the way along; and keep saying this, that the public has never really doubted the legitimacy of either Bush or Gore, if they were to win. That's our central message.

Despite all the turmoil in Florida, as you just mentioned, the public is not that out of the sorts, and the world goes on. The public is accepting George W. Bush, it looks like, to us; including the majority of Democrats, without a lot of problem.

Here's the basic question: Will you accept George W. Bush as the legitimate president? Not that he got there legitimately, but accept him as legitimate once he is there. We've had 86 percent who said yes back in November. We've tracked that almost weekly; as of the last night, 83 percent of the public, including a lot of Gore and Democrats -- Gore supporters and Democrats, saying, yes, we will accept George W. Bush as the legitimate president. So we really don't see that we have a major problem with the democracy going on.

Now, in fact, we've been seeing a lot of footage there of the transition today. The public's giving Bush pretty good marks in terms of what he's been doing since he became the president-elect last week. Interestingly, we asked the same question about a week after the election in November of 1992: How is Clinton doing? Fifty-three percent said his actions have made them more confident in his ability to serve.

Well, this weekend we asked the same question about George W. Bush; same numbers, 54 percent. So it looks like, right now, Clinton and Bush about the same in terms of this transition effort.

We have some other data which were quite interesting to you here, in terms of Dick Cheney and, particularly, Colin Powell on the right- hand side; 83 percent approval rating for the secretary of state- designate. Obviously a very, very popular choice among everybody. His approval, as you can see, dwarfs both that of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. And their approval ratings are certainly in pretty good territory, as these things go.

Now, what about this rapprochement, as it were, or at least -- maybe that's not the right word -- but the bipartisanship that they're going to come about between Bush and the Democrats in Congress? The public skeptical. Joie, 56 percent of Americans say, despite the promises, they don't say that George W. Bush and the Democrats in Congress are really going to, quote, "put politics beside them and be able to work together." So the public's waiting to see this, rather than just see the talk -- Joie.

CHEN: All right, Frank; respect is one thing, but whether they like the guy is another thing entirely. After all, Governor Bush is following a very popular president, despite all of his troubles. Does the public like the man they've just chosen?

NEWPORT: Indeed they do, but he has big shoes to follow. Bill Clinton's job approval rating, as of this weekend is at 66 percent, Joie. Actually, the public gives Clinton, as we all know, low rating in terms of personal ethics and morality; but job approval-wise, near the end of his term 66 percent -- that's the highest for Clinton in a year 1/2. So our point here is that George W. Bush has some pretty big shoes to fill because he's stepping into a job being filled by a man who, according to the public, is doing very, very well at it, even despite the fact that the economy is going down some.

So George Bush has a real challenge ahead of him.

CHEN: Frank Newport with the Gallup Poll; thanks Frank.

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