In Shift, Most See Clinton as Effective, Survey Finds


A survey released today reinforces the message that Americans have a markedly better impression of Bill Clinton’s presidency as the year comes to a close than they did even three months ago.

After the Administration’s victories on the North American Free Trade Agreement and the passage of the Brady gun control bill, as well as some public acknowledgment of an improving economy, 63% of Americans now view Clinton as a President who can get things done, while only 27% do not, according to the survey by the Times Mirror Center for People and the Press.

In August, by comparison, only 36% of Americans considered Clinton effective, compared with 54% who did not.

The Times Mirror survey, based on interviews with 1,479 adults from Dec. 2 to 5, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The Times Mirror Center is owned by Times Mirror Co., which publishes the Los Angeles Times. The Times Mirror poll and a national poll by The Times released Wednesday were conducted separately.


A growing 39% of Americans said that they had paid very close attention to the coverage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which will end most trade barriers among Canada, Mexico and the United States, up from 21% in October. And 37% said that they paid close attention to passage of the gun control legislation, which would mandate a five-day waiting period for handgun purchases.

Similarly, a majority of Americans now can attribute a specific achievement to Clinton. Twenty-one percent mentioned health care; 19%, the trade agreement; 8%, the Brady bill.

Health care is an issue that continues to help the President significantly, despite some press accounts to the contrary.

Forty-five percent of respondents said that they are paying very close attention to the debate over the Clinton health care plan. Support for the plan itself is also rising. The survey found an approval rate of 49%, up from 41% in October, and just slightly less than the 53% after Clinton’s September speech to a joint session of Congress.


The key factors cited by those who support the plan are that it would ensure health security and universal access (42% now, 43% in September) and that it would change a health care system that does not work (20% now, 21% in September).

Opponents, who primarily based their objections on their belief that the plan will not save money, also are somewhat more worried now about government involvement (18%, up from 8% in September).

Overall, according to the poll, 48% of Americans approve of Clinton’s handling of his job--up from 44% in October--while 36% do not. Sixteen percent were undecided. (Those numbers are also similar to the separate Times Poll, which found Americans approve of Clinton’s performance by a margin of 55% to 35%. A much smaller 10% were undecided.)