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Only 29% in Poll Back Reelection of Bush

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A new nationwide poll indicates that, even as concern about the economy may be waning, only 29% of voters believe that President Bush deserves reelection and an overwhelming 80% remain pessimistic about the future of the country.

Bush advisers long have hoped that, as the economy improved, so would the President’s political prospects. But the new survey shows that, as voters have begun turning some of their attention from economic difficulties to other domestic problems--including education, crime and homelessness--Bush’s support still has dropped.

Nearly one-third of voters surveyed have a strongly unfavorable image of Bush, a negative rating even higher than that recorded by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Bill Clinton, who is rated strongly negative by roughly one-quarter of those surveyed.

Independent Ross Perot has a strongly positive image, but most voters in the poll indicated that they know very little about him. And when given information about some aspects of Perot’s past, many voters move away from him, suggesting that he may lose support as the public learns more about him.

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Still, Perot leads a three-way matchup, as he has in several other national polls. In the new survey, 36% would vote for Perot if the presidential election were held now, compared to 32% for Bush and 24% for Clinton.

The survey, conducted by pollsters Celinda Lake, a Democrat, and Edward A. Goeas III, a Republican, is the third in a series of polls they plan that are designed to examine underlying issues in the 1992 election. The recent survey questioned 1,000 registered voters from June 2 to 4 nationwide and has a margin of error of 3.1%.

In January, the last time the pair conducted a poll, 64% of voters surveyed said the economy posed the greatest threat to the country. Now, by contrast, 48% of voters give that response.

Despite that shift, Bush’s approval ratings have dropped. In January, 48% approved of Bush’s job performance. Now only 38% do.

The new poll also reported that 31% have a strongly unfavorable image of Bush.

By comparison, 26% have a strongly unfavorable view of Clinton. And despite the eight months he has spent campaigning for the White House, only 45% said they know Clinton well or very well, whereas 54% said they know him only a little or not at all.

Clinton strategists continue to hope that, as voters learn more about him, his ratings will improve. Focus groups, for example, have shown that a large number of potential voters believe incorrectly that Clinton grew up wealthy. When told about his actual childhood--a widow’s son who worked to put himself through college--voters’ view of Clinton tends to improve.

The survey showed potential vulnerabilities for Perot.

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For instance, when told that Perot had hired lobbyists and given campaign contributions to members of Congress while seeking tax breaks that would have benefited him, 67% of voters said they would be less likely to support him. And Perot’s past links with Marine Lt. Col. Oliver L. North led 46% to say they would be less inclined to back him.


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