Stocks and Sore Losers: Gore Slips in Opinion Polls

Justin Torres | July 7, 2008 | 8:27pm EDT
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( - Though Vice President Al Gore said Tuesday that he has spent most of his political life "debunking the importance of public opinion polls," it is clear that public opinion is turning against him.

The numbers are telling: Forty-nine percent of the public says it would vote for Texas Gov. George W. Bush if the election were held again, while only 36 percent say they would choose the vice president, according to a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll. In a Newsweek poll, 61 percent said Gore should concede - no matter what the U.S. Supreme Court or Florida courts decide. In an ABC News poll, 65 percent of the public disapproves of the way Gore has handled his legal challenges.

What is behind this accelerating turn away from Gore as the post-election battle for the White House lengthens?

Most observers say a variety of factors are at play, a primary one being Gore's already low rating on the likeability scale.

Aubrey Immelman, who studies political psychology at the College of St. Benedict and St. John's University in Minnesota, said Gore's actions since the election have confirmed for many people the suspicions already held about Gore.

Immelman, who says "style gives us a clue as to the character and personality and how the president might act three or four years down the road," calls Gore's post-election persona "whiny and seemingly duplicitous."

Most damaging for Gore in the public's mind, said Brookings Institution fellow Richard Haas, was the public perception that in a Congress where Republicans lead only narrowly, Bush will do a better job of keeping the political peace and passing legislation.

"Throughout the campaign, Bush talked about his record of bipartisanship in Texas, and he wasn't lying about it - it was real," said Haas. "In a tough Washington scene, people trust Bush more to provide leadership."

A real factor in most people's assessment of when enough is enough for legal challenges is the perception that the protracted election battle is harming the country, especially its economic performance.

Since Election Day, the Nasdaq has dropped 25 percent, or nearly a trillion dollars, in value, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen 18 percent. Both indices were up sharply Tuesday, in part, said senior equity analyst Johnny Hea, because of what the market sees as the increasing probability of the presidential contest being decided soon.

"The market really doesn't like uncertainty. . . . It looks finally like the market is getting some clarity," said Hea. "In the end, I don't think it's necessarily a Bush market or a Gore market, so much as a market that wants this resolved."

Still, said Hea, "it's clear that certain sectors are very happy at the thought of Bush winning," citing oil stocks, tobacco stocks, and mutual funds that are heavily invested in Microsoft - which may see the federal anti-trust lawsuit against it relaxed under a Bush administration - in that group of "Bush stocks."

Most damaging for Gore, though, said political scientist David Koczar, is the perception that Gore - as the ubiquitous Republican sign says - is a "Sore Loserman."

"Americans like a winner and they admire a gracious loser," said Koczar. "They hate most of all a sore loser."

Koczar adds that most Americans "have been willing to give Gore the benefit of the doubt in asking for recounts, but that willingness is fading. He's lost in most of the courts and the Supreme Court refused to back him up, and for most people, that's enough time."

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