Texas Gov. George W. Bush widened his lead in a new presidential poll over the weekend, despite reports revealing that 24 years ago he pleaded guilty to a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol.
The latest Christian Science Monitor/TIPP poll finds Governor Bush moving ahead of Vice President Al Gore by a 48 percent to 39 percent margin.
It is the first time Mr. Gore has dipped below 40 percent in the tracking poll.
Following reports of Bush's 1976 arrest, the Monitor/TIPP poll asked several hundred likely voters whether the news had damaged their opinion of the Texas governor.
The poll found that 95 percent of likely voters had heard about the conviction. Most had also heard Bush's response that he had "made mistakes" in his life, and had "learned from those mistakes."
Ironically, the survey found that the DUI news - together with Bush's defense - actually improved some voters' views of the governor. Many saw his response as straightforward and contrite.
Overall, 71 percent said the DUI conviction had "no effect" on their opinion of Bush. Of the rest, 15 percent said it improved their opinion of Bush, while 13 percent said they viewed him less favorably.
The whole DUI blowup appears a wash for Bush, says Raghavan Mayur, president of TIPP, a unit of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, who conducted the poll.
Among the all-important undecided voters, in fact, the DUI news may have been a plus for Bush. Nearly 19 percent of this group said it improved their opinion of Bush, while 6 percent said their opinion was less favorable.