WASHINGTON -- Debate watchers gave Democrat Al Gore the edge over Republican George W. Bush in three of four instant polls, but both candidates apparently improved their image with voters.
Vice President Gore was judged to have performed better in the debates in a CBS News poll of 812 registered voters by 56 percent to 42 percent for the Texas governor. Gore was seen to have performed better by 48 percent to 41 percent for Bush in a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll of 435 registered voters who watched the debate. In an NBC News instant poll, 46 percent said Gore did the better job, while 36 percent said Bush fared better.
And the two were ranked about even in an ABC News poll -- women favored Gore, while men favored Bush.
One measure that may have helped Bush: A third in the CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll had a better impression of him after the debate, while a fourth had a better impression of Gore.
The ABC News poll of 491 registered voters showed no significant change in candidate preference. They were about evenly split before the debate, 48 percent for Bush and 45 percent for Gore, and the numbers barely budged.
The CBS poll, conducted online among a random sample of viewers who were given WebTV to participate, showed that Bush still has to convince more voters that he has adequately prepared for the job of president. Just over half, 54 percent, said he has adequately prepared for the job compared with 70 percent who said that of Gore. That's about the same results the two got on that question in a regular CBS-New York Times poll released Monday.
The polls are not considered a measure of settled public opinion. They are measures of instant, emotional reaction that don't always hold up over time.
Public opinion about debates can take several days to develop, based on discussions among friends and co-workers, news coverage and further consideration by the viewer.
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