- The Washington Times - Friday, November 17, 2000

Florida voters are willing to wait until tomorrow for the results of the election, but a strong national plurality now thinks that Texas Gov. George W. Bush will be the next president, new polls show.

Nearly three-quarters of Florida voters (71 percent) said they are willing to wait until tomorrow when Secretary of State Katherine Harris has said she will certify the presidential vote count, an NBC/ Wall Street Journal survey found.

But little more than a third (36 percent) said they were willing to wait several weeks for a determination of whether Mr. Bush or Vice President Al Gore won Florida.

In a national poll conducted by the same two media outlets, 36 percent said Mr. Bush should be declared the winner in the disputed Florida count. Just 19 percent said Mr. Gore should get the nod. Another 39 percent said it was "too soon to say," while 6 percent said "not sure."

Asked "Who do you think will be the next president?" nearly half (47 percent) of all voters said Mr. Bush, while a quarter (24 percent) said Mr. Gore. Ten percent said it "depends" and 19 percent were "not sure."

A strong 72 percent said they did not want to see a new election in Palm Beach County and 64 percent were opposed to holding a new statewide election to decide the outcome.

However, the NBC/Wall Street Journal national survey found voters split nearly down the middle about whether a hand count of all ballots should be conducted in the four disputed counties that the Democrats want to recount. The poll found that 50 percent wanted such a hand count and 47 percent did not.

Notably, in polling data filled with seeming contradictions, 71 percent of the voters said they would accept the Florida results from a machine recount, compared to 26 percent who said that would be unacceptable.

Another survey for CBS and the New York Times earlier this week showed 44 percent believed Mr. Bush should be declared the winner, while 40 percent said Mr. Gore should win, and the rest said they were not sure.

That poll found that 46 percent said they approved of the way the Bush campaign has dealt with the Florida dispute and an equal percentage approved of the way the Gore campaign was handling it.

But the statewide poll in Florida found that 57 percent of its residents opposed Mr. Bush's efforts to prevent a hand count in the disputed counties, and 59 percent supported Mr. Gore's demand that a hand count be conducted.

When asked if such a recount should take place in the four counties where the vote is being challenged, Floridians split down the middle on the issue: 48 percent said such a recount was needed, while 48 percent said it was not.

A Newsweek poll conducted between Nov. 9-10 of 1,000 adults found that 72 percent believed that making certain the count was fair and accurate was more important than quickly resolving the impasse.

However, the poll also showed that Americans want the two candidates to end the battle once the numbers are certified, with 61 percent saying that they should "accept the results as final" then.

The Florida poll also found that a 51 percent majority believed that Mrs. Harris is "upholding the law" by refusing to accept new county recounts submitted after the state's 5 p.m. Tuesday deadline.

Only 37 percent of the state's voters said they thought that Mrs. Harris, a Republican and a strong Bush supporter, was taking that stand for "political reasons."

The Harris question was asked before she announced that she would not accept any further recounts after the deadline had passed.

The poll also showed that Florida voters were almost as comfortable with the idea of Mr. Gore as president as they were with Mr. Bush.

Asked "How would you feel if the declared winner is Bush?" 71 percent said they would be "comfortable and prepared to support him," while 27 percent said they would not.

A lesser 66 percent said that they would be comfortable with Mr. Gore, while 32 percent said they would not.

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