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Among voters, a restlessness about choices

The Christian Science Monitor/TIPP Poll: One of every 4 likely voters - and 42 percent of independents - has seriously considered voting for a third-party candidate.

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Two weeks before election day, Americans remain sharply divided - and often uneasy - in the choice between Vice President Al Gore and Gov. George W. Bush of Texas.

Why the uncertainty? There are multiple factors at work.

First, both Democrat Gore and Republican Bush have successfully gotten their messages across to voters, but the effect has been to split the electorate almost right down the middle.

Mr. Gore has won the support of voters who see him as tough, smart, and highly experienced in the ways of government. They say he will be good for the economy, and will improve medical care for the elderly.

Mr. Bush has solidified his base among Americans who judge him to be a strong, honest, and moral leader. They like his program to cut taxes across the board, and they are convinced he will strengthen the military.

Yet there remains a large chunk of voters this year who are unswayed. They are unhappy with both candidates. Many of these voters have seriously considered third-party candidates, particularly Green Party nominee Ralph Nader.

The race remains so fluid and close, even at this late hour, that neither Democrats nor Republicans can rest easy. Large numbers of voters - particularly independents - warn that they may still change their minds before election day.

According to the newest Christian Science Monitor/TIPP poll of 829 likely voters nationwide, Bush leads Gore narrowly - 44 percent to 42 percent, the same as a week ago, although still within the poll's margin of error.

Switching sides

Either man could still win. Eight percent of Gore supporters and 6 percent of Bush supporters say they may switch sides. And among independents, 16 percent may switch.

Even more worrisome for the two major-party nominees - particularly Gore - is the fact that 1 of every 4 likely voters has seriously considered voting for a minor-party candidate.

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