Boris N. Yeltsin may have saved the Soviet reform movement. But Mikhail S. Gorbachev remains the star of the political scene in the Soviet Union as far as Americans are concerned, according to a nationwide Times Poll conducted Tuesday night.
The survey done after Monday's coup attempt but before Gorbachev was returned to power finds his traditional popularity with the American people undiminished. Over three-quarters of the 661 people polled reported a favorable impression of the Soviet leader, and 31% rated him very favorably. Just 11% viewed him negatively.
And most (57%) said that Gorbachev, not Yeltsin, would make the better Soviet leader. THe Russian president was the pick of 21%.
Yeltsin isn't disliked in the United States. In fact, his admirers (43%) outnumbered his detractors (17%) by better than two to one. But even as he held out against hard-line forces Tuesday, two in five Americans still had to admit they didn't know enough about Yeltsin to rate him one way or the other.
Q. What is your impression of Mikhail S. Gorbachev? Somewhat Favorable: 46% Very Favorable: 31% Don't Know: 12% Somewhat Unfavorable: 8% Very Unfavorable: 3%
Q. What is your impression of Boris N. Yeltsin? Somewhat Favorable: 40% Very Favorable: 24% Don't Know: 19% Somewhat Unfavorable: 9% Very Unfavorable: 8%
Q. Who would make the better Soviet leader: Mikhail S. Gorbachev or Boris N. Yeltsin? Gorbachev: 57% Yeltsin: 21% Don't Know: 19% Both Equally: 2% Neither: 1%