While President Clinton has been wrestling with other issues and fending off attacks by Republicans and independent Ross Perot, public support for his long-range economic package has dropped dramatically.
A new poll released Thursday by the Times Mirror Center for the People & the Press shows support dwindling in the last two months from 58% favoring the President's plan for economic revitalization and 27% opposed to only 46% supporting the plan and 36% against it now.
During the same period, Americans' optimism that the program would help them in the long run has also fallen sharply, from 50% hopeful and 32% skeptical to an almost-even split--with 39% thinking they will be better off and 37% thinking they will be worse off in three years.
Clinton's long-term economic plan calls for almost $500 billion in deficit reduction, including net tax increases of $242 billion over the next five years.
In one encouraging finding for Clinton, voters will blame Republicans, who already have killed his short-term economic stimulus package through a Senate filibuster, if Congress fails to pass the long-range plan. Asked who they would hold most responsible, 48% said Republicans in Congress, 18% said the Administration, and 14% said Democrats in Congress.
But for the most part, the survey--which pegs Clinton's job approval rating at 45%, a drop of 11 percentage points in two months--reflects a decline in optimism about his economic plan among all demographic and political groups, with an especially sharp drop among Democrats and Clinton voters.
The President's declining popular support will, among other things, increase the pressure on him to put more emphasis on his economic program.
The Times Mirror poll results are based on phone interviews of a nationwide sample of 1,009 adults, 18 or older, from April 29 to May 2. Based on the total sample, it can be said with 95% confidence that it has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The poll shows Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) benefiting from leading the opposition to Clinton's programs, with a rating of 37% approval and 24% disapproval, compared to the President's 45%-37% evaluation.
Although there is wide public recognition that Clinton's economic stimulus plan died in the Senate, the public gives higher priority to stimulating the economy and improving economic conditions immediately (52%) than to reducing the budget deficit to improve the long-term outlook (41%).
Times Mirror Co. is the owner of the Los Angeles Times and other broadcasting and publishing enterprises.