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Bush has support _ conditionally

Americans tend to rally behind a new president once the race is decided, and national surveys indicate that has happened with President-elect Bush, accepted as the legitimate winner by just over two-thirds of Americans.

Findings in recent weeks suggest, however, another basic obstacle for incoming presidents: Public support doesn't necessarily translate into public confidence.

"He's obviously established himself on a personal level, more than on a professional level," said Peter Hart, who polls for NBC and the Wall Street Journal. "They likehim personally, and he has the good will of the nation, wanting things to move forward. I think the question goes right back to where it was during the campaign, and that is competence."

Surveys taken by Hart and others suggest plenty of people have not yet developed confidence in Bush's abilities on matters ranging from the economy to international affairs.

Not surprisingly, the public is about evenly divided on these as on so many questions in this very unusual political year.

Bush and Vice President Al Gore ended the election in a virtual tie that took more than a month to unravel.

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