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Gallup, Harris Polls Find Slight Bush Edge

October 12, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ The Republican ticket held a 49-43 percent edge over the Democrats in a survey of registered voters by the Gallup Organization, while a Harris Poll released today put the presidential contest at 50-48 percent.

The results in both cases were dead heats, given the surveys’ margins of error. However, other national polls have shown George Bush and Sen. Dan Quayle retaining a slight lead over Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen.

Harris polled 1,355 likely voters Thursday through Monday. Gallup, which released its survey Tuesday, polled 1,007 registered voters Friday through Sunday.

The Harris survey found that Dukakis might be helped slightly by concern over the qualifications of Bush’s running mate. Asked to chose between Bush and Dukakis only, without their running mates mentioned, Dukakis dipped from 48 percent support to 46 percent while Bush remained at 50 percent.

Similarly, a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Monday indicated that the impact of Quayle’s performance in the vice presidential debate last week resulted in a shift of 2 percentage points in Dukakis’ favor.

The differences, though small, could be significant. Pollster Lou Harris, speaking on National Public Radio’s ″Morning Edition″ program, said: ″The race is stuck without any dominant front-runner. Reminiscent of Kennedy-Nixon in 1960 and Humphrey-Nixon in 1968. Both races were settled by less than one point.″

The Harris Poll found six in 10 respondents agreeing that Bush, Dukakis and Bentsen, the Democratic nominee’s running mate, have the personality and qualifications a president should have. But six in 10 said Quayle does not have those qualities.

Like other recent polls, the Harris and Gallup surveys indicated that Bentsen was regarded as having decisively beaten Quayle in their debate Oct. 5 in Omaha, Neb.

In Gallup’s poll, slightly less than half rated Quayle as qualified to serve as president if necessary, but that was up from about one-third before the debate. Seventy-six percent called Bentsen qualified, up from 68 percent.

Gallup sought to measure the effect of doubts about Quayle by isolating the respondents who saw no difference between Bush and Dukakis but did see a difference between Quayle and Bentsen. They made up 9 percent of the total, were mostly Democratic and went for Dukakis by a 2-1 margin.

Most recent polls have been conducted among registered voters who are considered likely to cast ballots. Gallup, applying a relatively loose gauge of likely voters, found Bush leading by 52-41 in that group of 748 people.

Gallup stressed the closer 49-43 result among registered voters in its analysis of the survey, on the ground it was too soon to count likely voters.

The bigger Bush lead in Gallup’s likely voter group could stem from the vice president’s greater support among better educated voters, who generally are more likely to vote. He was backed by 58 percent of college-educated respondents, compared with 37 percent of those who have not finished high school.

Also, the Gallup poll found about as many respondents calling themselves Republicans as Democrats, a result matched in some but not all other polls. In past years, the Democrats have held a clear edge.

The margin of error was four points in Gallup’s poll and three in the Harris survey.

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