Al Gore may be having trouble in the polls these days, with two key ones -- Rasmussen and Mason-Dixon -- showing his Texas Republican rival, George W. Bush, edging ahead in the vice president's home state of Tennessee.
But some modest help arrived this week with the release of a poll prepared by the Social Science Research Institute at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville; it shows Gore leading Bush in Tennessee by 43 percent to 41 percent, and he seems to be strong throughout the state, even in traditionally Republican East Tennessee, where he trails Bush by only four points.
Of course, these poll results (like most of the others, including the much-vaunted Mason-Dixon that shows a margin of three points for Bush) are those of the proverbial dead heat; in reality, both men are running equally well -- or equally badly.
Males prefer Bush by 44 percent to 37 percent, while females go for Gore by a margin of 46 percent to 36 percent. Blacks are for the vice president at the lopsided rate of 72 percent to 8 percent, while whites divided more evenly, with 45 percent preferring Bush and 37 percent opting for Gore.
African Americans, always a stronghold for Democrats, favor Gore over Bush 72% to 8%. Whites favor Bush, but not by nearly the same margin; 45% say they will vote for Bush in November, while 37% say they intend to support Gore.
Higher income groups tend to prefer the Republican, though not by an exaggerated differential. What might dismay the intellectual class -- habitually and instinctively liberal -- is that college graduates tilt toward the more conservative Bush by the margin of ten percent.
The once-vaunted third-party candidacies of Pat Buchanan (Reform Party) and Ralph Nader poll no more than 1 percent each among the Tennessee electorate. What is even more interesting is that Nader does no better than Buchanan among Democrats; each is at flat Zero, depending for support on the Republican and independent fringe.
Also illuminating is that some 3 percent of the Tennesseans polled opted for the category of "other," and 11 percent just weren't sure. Such figures may reinforce the contentions of David Kustoff, Bush's Tennessee director, that a poll like this one of registered voters may not have the same precision as a sampling of likely voters.
Gore will surely not complain, however; but neither will he find anything in the UT results to let him breathe freer. The race in the Volunteer State is astonishingly tight.
(You can writer Jackson Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org