President Clinton’s once-imposing lead over Bob Dole is shrinking in a new round of polls, with one survey Friday giving Clinton his smallest advantage in a national survey in three months.
The Time-CNN survey gave Clinton a 6 percentage point lead over Dole among registered voters, narrowing the gap by 16 points from a similar survey a month earlier.
A Fox News poll released Friday and a Harris Poll the day before also found the presidential contest to have tightened in the past month, though not as dramatically.
“We’re catching up,” Dole told a cheering crowd of 400 at a campaign appearance in Savannah, Ga.
“It shows that I’m working,” Dole told reporters earlier. “Polls are polls, except this is better than I’ve seen. It means, I assume, we got a bump out of leaving the Senate, but you can only do that once.”
According to the CNN-Time survey, Clinton would get 49 percent and Dole 43 percent if the election were today. The June 12-13 telephone poll surveyed 807 registered voters and had an error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Clinton’s lead had tumbled 16 points from 56-34 in a May 15-16 CNN-Time poll.
A U.S. News & World Report survey released Friday put the two candidates 13 points apart, with Clinton at 50 percent and Dole at 37 percent. That survey of 1,000 registered voters, conducted June 1-3, had a 3-point margin of error.
The new polls were conducted after Dole’s emotional retirement Tuesday from the Senate, where he had been majority leader, to campaign full time for the presidency.
They also followed Dole’s appeal for a “declaration of tolerance” for people who oppose the Republican platform’s strong anti-abortion plank. Sixty-eight percent of Republicans in the Time-CNN sample supported including such a declaration in the platform.
The survey is the first independent national poll since mid-March to put Clinton’s lead in only the single digits.
Factors that may have hurt Clinton lately include guilty verdicts against three former Arkansas associates in the Whitewater real estate deal and the flap over a White House request for FBI files on political foes.