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Bush’s DUI Affected Some Voters

November 8, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ George W. Bush’s arrest for drunken driving in 1976 cost him some votes, exit polls suggest.

More than a fourth of voters said news of Bush’s arrest for driving under the influence was somewhat or very important to their vote. They were about four times more likely to vote for Gore.

``I really don’t like the fact that Bush had a DUI. It’s not like he was a kid _ he was 30 years old,″ said Cathy Dodge of Sparks, Nev., who voted for Gore. ``There’s no excuse.″

But about half of voters said the charge of driving under the influence was ``not at all important,″ and they strongly favored Bush.

Ben Suhr, a Bush voter in Minneapolis, said the last-minute revelation didn’t sway him because he believes neither candidate has a blemish-free past. ``It’s just that Bush got caught and Gore didn’t,″ Suhr said.

Throughout his campaign, Bush deflected questions about drinking by admitting he made mistakes while young and emphasizing that he gave up alcohol at age 40. When reporters broke news of the 24-year-old arrest in the election’s final days, Bush suggested the Gore campaign was behind it.

Shirley Merryfield of Knoxville, Tenn., said she was going to vote for Gore but changed her mind because she blamed him for the disclosure. ``That was uncalled for,″ she said.

Voters were interviewed by Voter News Service, a consortium of The Associated Press and the television networks. Early results were based on interviews with 12,361 voters as they left polling places. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percentage points, smaller for subgroups.

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