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Blacks, Blue-Collar Voters Aided Clinton, Poll Finds

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TIMES POLITICAL WRITER

Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton revived his presidential hopes in Georgia by combining overwhelming support among blacks with the blue-collar, downscale base he built in the first primaries, a Los Angeles Times exit poll found Tuesday.

On the Republican side, conservative commentator Patrick J. Buchanan’s most potent weapon against President Bush continues to be discontent with the nation’s basic direction, not ideological dissatisfaction, the poll found.

These results suggest that the key fault lines in both races are hardening. In both the Republican and Democratic races, the exit poll results largely echo, rather than contradict, the findings in last month’s New Hampshire primary.

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In the Democratic contest, the poll found that, as in New Hampshire, the fundamental divide remains class and education. In Georgia, Clinton ran best among lower-income, less-educated voters, while former Massachusetts Sen. Paul E. Tsongas showed the most strength among upper-income, college-educated whites--though he did not capture nearly as many of those votes as he did in New Hampshire.

The poll also indicated that blacks--the new element in the Democratic equation as the race turns South--strongly prefer Clinton, who has garnered the most endorsements from African-American elected officials.

TV network exit polls in Maryland found almost exactly the same distribution in the Democratic race, with Tsongas running best among better-educated voters and Clinton rolling up a commanding majority among blacks, according to CNN. In Colorado--the third major primary contest of the night--Clinton also ran best with less well-educated voters, while Tsongas and former California Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown dueled for those with college degrees, CNN reported.

In the Georgia Republican race, the Times exit poll found the same pattern as in New Hampshire: Buchanan continued to draw his support almost entirely from those dissatisfied with the country’s basic direction, while Bush again depended on overwhelming majorities among Republican women to maintain respectable margins over his rival.

At the same time, the poll found that the harsh negative tones now dominating both races are taking a toll on all of the candidates’ standing with the public. Over 60% of Democratic voters and 54% of Republican voters said they believed new candidates “should get in” the race. In both parties, only a minority of voters declared themselves “satisfied with (their) choices.”

The Times’ poll, supervised by John Brennan, surveyed 1,372 Republican primary voters and 1,654 Democratic primary voters as they left the polls in Georgia; it has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points for each contest.

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Clinton won his overwhelming Georgia victory partly because Southern college-educated suburbanites were more sympathetic to him than their counterparts in New Hampshire. But equally important to Clinton’s success was the fact that voters with less education and blacks constituted a significantly greater share of the electorate in Georgia than in affluent, virtually all-white New Hampshire.

Since most of the Southern states that vote in next week’s Super Tuesday contests look much more like Georgia than New Hampshire--or for that matter, Maryland and Colorado--that could augur well for Clinton.

Blacks, for example, cast virtually no votes in any of the contests before Tuesday night, but they were a major factor in Georgia and Maryland. In Georgia, blacks cast a third of primary votes, and despite predictions that black turnout might sag, that was not a dramatic decrease from the African-American share of 36% in 1988, when Jesse Jackson was on the primary ballot.

Those black voters gave Clinton three-fourths of their ballots; Tsongas attracted just 12%. Clinton’s black support did not diminish by class or level of education: He ran as well among the affluent as among the poor.

Clinton also won white voters, by a margin of almost 2-to-1. But among whites, the class and education pattern evident in New Hampshire and Maryland reappeared.

Whites in Georgia with a high school education preferred Clinton by a margin of more than 4-to-1; among those with some college education, his margin dropped to more than 2-to-1; and those with a college degree or greater actually preferred Tsongas by a 42%-31% margin. But college-educated voters, who made up over half the electorate in New Hampshire, constituted just 44% of the vote in Georgia.

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Likewise, Clinton ran up a 44-percentage-point margin over Tsongas among whites with incomes of $20,000 or less; but among those earning $40,000 or more, the gap was just four points. Clinton carried blue-collar whites by a 61%-13% margin; but among professionals, his margin was reduced to 40%-33%.

In some respects, the poll provided evidence that Clinton was overcoming unsubstantiated allegations of marital infidelity and the controversy over his Vietnam War-era draft status that have dogged his campaign.

Veterans--who made up about a fourth of the Democratic vote--backed Clinton as strongly as the overall population. Even among Vietnam War-era veterans, Clinton ran up a 50%-26% margin over Tsongas. Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, who stressed his Vietnam War service during a blistering campaign attack on Clinton in Georgia last week, attracted only 6% of Vietnam veterans, and 4% of those who served in other wars.

Nor was there any gender gap in the Democratic race: Clinton actually attracted a slightly greater share of women’s votes than men’s.

But tremors of concern about Clinton rumbled through other measures of voter sentiment. Clinton amassed overwhelming margins among those voters who cited as key factors in their votes such personal characteristics as experience, leadership, representing the party’s ideals and caring “about people like me.”

But those who cited trust--about a sixth of the overall sample--split evenly between Clinton and Tsongas; those citing ethics--though only about one-in-sixteen voters--actually backed Tsongas by 59%-21%.

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Overall, just 9% of Democratic voters said that the draft charges or the infidelity allegations lodged against Clinton were a major factor in their decision--and they only preferred Tsongas by a 41%-36% margin over Clinton. That result, though, is somewhat deceptive: Blacks who said they were concerned about those issues still backed Clinton by overwhelming margins. But whites who raised those concerns went for Tsongas by more than 2-to-1.

On the other hand, Clinton did somewhat better than Tsongas in holding Democratic primary voters in a hypothetical race against President Bush. Among Democratic voters, Clinton defeated Bush by 81%-15%; Tsongas’ margin was 68%-22%. About one-in-seven Democratic voters said they could not support Clinton in the general election--the same share that said they could not back Tsongas.

Though Buchanan barraged Bush with a far more ideological appeal in the South than in New Hampshire, the Georgia race, to an extraordinary degree, followed in the grooves cut in the first showdown between the two GOP contenders last month.

As in New Hampshire, ideology was only a limited influence on the race: Bush carried self-described conservatives (just over half of all primary voters) by a 56%-44% margin, his same margin among the small group of voters who described themselves as liberal.

Those who described themselves as moderates--41% of the Republican primary voters--backed Bush by a 64%-35% margin.

More dramatic were the divisions along the lines of gender and economic circumstance. In Georgia, as in New Hampshire, Buchanan’s brigades were those unhappy with the country’s basic direction. Two-thirds of Republican voters said they considered the country on the wrong track: They backed Buchanan by a 54%-46% margin. A third of the GOP voters said they believe the country is moving in the right direction, and they enlisted behind the President at an 89%-11% rate.

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Likewise, those Republicans who say they are better off than four years ago--three-in-10 overall--backed Bush by a commanding 71%-29% margin. By contrast, those who consider themselves worse off--also three out of every 10 voters--preferred Buchanan by 64%-36%. Those who consider their financial situation “about the same”--about two-in-five--went for Bush by more than a 2-to-1 margin.

Again as in New Hampshire, Bush did best with the Republican base--though that is something of a relative measure. Self-identified Republicans--about two-thirds of the primary vote--supported the President over his challenger by a 65%-35% count. But independents, who constituted about a fourth of the electorate, and Democrats, who made up about a tenth of the vote in this open primary, split evenly between Bush and Buchanan.

Though Buchanan vigorously attempted to attract a crossover vote, Democrats and independents made up virtually no more of the Republican electorate in 1992 than they did in 1988, according to the TV network exit polls.

For Buchanan, the key problem in Georgia--as in New Hampshire--was attracting women’s votes. Fully 56% of Republican primary voters were men, and they backed Bush by only a 53%-47% margin. But women’s votes allowed the President to keep his margin wide enough to prevent desperate embarrassment: They preferred Bush, who ran ads criticizing his challenger’s views on women, by a 68%-32% margin over Buchanan.

The depth of Buchanan’s gender-gap problem is illustrated by his inability to attract even women who consider the country’s fundamental direction to be off course. Among men who say the nation is on the wrong track, Buchanan humiliates Bush by a 64%-36% count. But women who despair over the country’s basic direction still stay with the President, by a 56%-43% margin.

Bush’s effort to stress his role in the Persian Gulf War met with some success: Forty-three percent of Republican primary voters said his leadership in the war as a major influence on their vote, significantly more than cited the conflict in New Hampshire. Those Georgia voters backed Bush by a 19-to-1 margin over Buchanan.

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But even the President’s election-eve apology for reneging on his “no new taxes” pledge did not defuse that issue: A fourth of GOP primary voters cited that “flip-flop” as a major factor in their decision, and they went for Buchanan almost unanimously. And that also followed the pattern laid out for the Republican struggle during the first engagement in New Hampshire.

THE TIMES POLL: The Message Behind the Votes

The Georgia primary provides the first look at what Southern voters think about the candidates. This exit poll by The Times is based on interviews with 1,654 Democratic primary voters and 1,372 Republican primary voters at 60 polling places across Georgia. The margin of error for each sample is plus or minus 4 percentage points. The error margin for subgroups may be higher. Numbers shown are percentages.

Democratic Primary

WHY DID YOU SUPPORT YOUR CANDIDATE?

All Democratic Primary Clinton Tsongas Voters Voters Voters Like him and his policies 54 53 56 He is the best of a bad lot 34 37 35 To send a protest message 12 10 9

WHAT DID YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT YOUR CANDIDATE?

All Democratic Primary Clinton Tsongas Voters Voters Voters Cares about people like me 17 21 11 Experience 10 11 5 He’s from the South 6 9 1 Represents the party 17 20 14 Has new ideas 21 20 21 No doubts about his ethics 6 2 16 Strong leader 12 14 10 Can win in November 4 5 4 Can bring change 21 20 21 Trust him more than others 15 11 27 Stands up for convictions 9 6 16 None of the above 12 9 9

WHAT ISSUES WERE MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU IN DECIDING HOW TO VOTE?

All Democratic Primary Clinton Tsongas Voters Voters Voters Education 30 31 29 Jobs/The economy 71 73 74 The environment 8 4 12 Taxes 17 17 15 Foreign trade 4 4 4 Health care 29 29 27 Poverty 3 4 1 Death penalty 1 1 1 Abortion 3 2 6 Foreign affairs 2 1 3 None of the above 4 3 4

DO YOU AGREE OR DISAGREE THAT: AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PROGRAMS TO HELP MINORITIES IN JOBS AND EDUCATION ARE USUALLY UNFAIR TO OTHER PEOPLE

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All Democratic Primary Clinton Tsongas Voters Voters Voters Agree 33 36 31 Disagree 29 28 31 It depends on the situation 38 36 38

IF BUSH RUNS AGAINST CLINTON IN NOVEMBER, HOW WILL YOU VOTE?

All Democratic Primary Clinton Tsongas Voters Voters Voters Bush 14 5 34 Clinton 82 95 61 Wouldn’t vote for President 4 -- 5

IF BUSH RUNS AGAINST TSONGAS IN NOVEMBER, HOW WILL YOU VOTE?

All Democratic Primary Clinton Tsongas Voters Voters Voters Bush 22 25 10 Tsongas 67 62 89 Wouldn’t vote for President 11 13 1

WHICH THINGS INFLUENCED YOUR VOTE?

All Democratic Primary Clinton Tsongas Voters Voters Voters Candidate debates 22 18 29 Candidate offering a middle-class tax cut 24 30 13 Endorsements by top Georgia officials 7 11 2 Candidate’s position on affirmative action 10 10 8 Campaign advertisements 5 4 6 Democratic issues: Tsongas’ health status 4 1 14 Charges that Clinton had an extramarital affair 5 2 11 Questions about Clinton’s military draft status 7 4 11 Republican issues: Charges that Buchanan is an extremist 6 4 11 Bush’s leadership in Gulf War 5 4 6 Bush’s flip-flop on taxes 22 26 19 None of the above 31 28 32

GOP Primary

WHY DID YOU SUPPORT YOUR CANDIDATE?

All GOP Primary Bush Buchanan Voters Voters Voters Like him and his policies 55 68 36 He is the best of a bad lot 24 31 13 To send a protest message 21 1 51

WHAT DID YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT YOUR CANDIDATE?

All GOP Primary Bush Buchanan Voters Voters Voters Cares about people like me 9 7 12 Experience 31 49 3 He’s from the South -- 1 -- Represents the party 18 16 21 Has new ideas 8 -- 21 No doubts about his ethics 12 14 9 Strong leader 26 37 8 Can win in November 6 9 2 Can bring change 12 2 27 Trust him more than others 17 23 8 Stands up for convictions 13 6 24 None of the above 10 5 17

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WHAT ISSUES WERE MOST IMPORTANT TO YOU IN DECIDING HOW TO VOTE?

All GOP Primary Bush Buchanan Voters Voters Voters Education 20 22 15 Jobs/The economy 66 61 74 The environment 5 6 4 Taxes 25 19 35 Foreign trade 11 8 16 Health care 15 15 14 Poverty 1 1 1 Death penalty 2 1 2 Abortion 9 10 9 Foreign affairs 14 21 3 None of the above 7 10 4

DO YOU AGREE OR DISAGREE THAT: AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PROGRAMS TO HELP MINORITIES IN JOBS AND EDUCATION ARE USUALLY UNFAIR TO OTHER PEOPLE

All GOP Primary Bush Buchanan Voters Voters Voters Agree 56 51 64 Disagree 12 12 14 It depends on the situation 32 37 22

IF BUSH RUNS AGAINST CLINTON IN NOVEMBER, HOW WILL YOU VOTE?

All GOP Primary Bush Buchanan Voters Voters Voters Bush 85 97 66 Clinton 11 2 25 Wouldn’t vote for President 4 1 9

IF BUSH RUNS AGAINST TSONGAS IN NOVEMBER, HOW WILL YOU VOTE?

All GOP Primary Bush Buchanan Voters Voters Voters Bush 84 98 63 Tsongas 12 2 27 Wouldn’t vote for President 4 -- 10

WHICH THINGS INFLUENCED YOUR VOTE?

All GOP Primary Bush Buchanan Voters Voters Voters Candidate debates 5 4 6 Candidate offering a middle-class tax cut 15 13 16 Endorsements by top Georgia officials 1 1 2 Candidate’s position on affirmative action 10 6 18 Campaign advertisements 5 4 5 Democratic issues: Tsongas’ health status 1 1 1 Charges that Clinton had an extramarital affair 6 6 5 Questions about Clinton’s military draft status 6 7 5 Republican issues: Charges that Buchanan is an extremist 11 16 2 Bush’s leadership in Gulf War 43 68 6 Bush’s flip-flop on taxes 25 1 61 None of the above 23 22 25

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Percentages may not add up to 100% because results for some candidates and voter groups are not displayed.

Source: Los Angeles Times Poll, March 3, 1992

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