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Poll: Bush, Gore in statistical tie

October 16, 2000

Presidential candidates vying for electoral votes might be hitting up Michigan residents with even more campaign commercials during nightly TV viewing.

A new poll by The Detroit News shows Republican Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Democratic Vice President Al Gore nearly tied in Michigan.

The poll, which had a 4 percent margin of error, found 42.5 percent of 581 likely Michigan voters plan to vote for Bush, and 42.3 percent plan to vote for Gore. That means they are statistically tied.

The survey was done by Mitchell Research & Communications Inc. Oct. 9 through Oct. 13.

Green Party candidate Ralph Nader drew 2 percent of the votes, and 12 percent were undecided.

Ed Sarpolus, vice president of EPIC-MRA, a Lansing-based polling firm, said the presidential race between Bush and Gore has been in a dead heat nationally but only because Bush has made an impressive leap in the polls after the first two presidential debates.

“The debates have been the worst nightmare for Al Gore,” Sarpolus said. “In the public’s mind Bush won both debates.

“Debate coaches would say Gore won both, but people rate debates differently than professional coaches.”

Michigan’s electoral votes are a hot commodity among presidential candidates. Since Bush has a slight lead over Gore, the amount of campaigning in Michigan will probably increase.

Charles Atkin, chairman of the Department of Communication, said the public claims to dislike negative campaign ads, but the ads are very effective.

Atkin teaches a class on campaign advertising and media coverage

“Republicans have been using negativity to attack, and in the last week, Bush’s ads have been more effective,” Atkin said. “The final debate is a big opportunity for Gore to regain that lost ground (in the polls).”

Jason Ahrens, chairman of the MSU College Republicans and a general management senior, said he expects to see more negative campaigning in Michigan.

“Nationally it’s such a tight race, but it’s going to come down to Michigan,” Ahrens said. “It’s such an important state to win because you can’t get much done without it - (Michigan has) got a lot of electoral votes.”

With one debate left, Sarpolus said Gore needs to focus the campaign on issues instead of character.

“It’s turning into a personality contest rather than a debate of issues,” he said. “It’s getting back to personality and character (like) who people would feel more comfortable watching from their bedroom at 11 o’clock at night.”

According to the same poll, Michigan’s U.S. Senate race has a significantly larger gap than the presidential election. Republican U.S. Sen. Spence Abraham, R-Auburn Hills, has 50 percent, while Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, has 33 percent, even after televised debates. Sarpolus attributes this to Abraham’s financial backing and campaign timing.

“Debbie Stabenow needs more than debates to beat Spence Abraham,” Sarpolus said. “People don’t know who she is because all they’ve heard is Abraham’s opinion of her.”

However, Jeanne Raven, president of the MSU College Democrats and a social relations senior, has hope for Democrats in Michigan.

“No one can predict which way it is going to go,” she said. “You never can count on a poll - it all comes down to election day.”


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