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THE TIMES POLL : Voices of the Electorate

DEMOCRAT

Lilia Mitchell

* Account clerk

* Jersey City, New Jersey

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* 32, three children and a fourth on the way

* Household income: $22,000

ON GOVERNMENT

“I wish I could talk to President Clinton. One-on-one. The government is terrible. It’s in bad shape.”

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ON POLITICS

“Congress still spends so much money on themselves. They get these big salaries and when the retire they still get $90,000 a year and they wonder why we have a deficit....It’s unfair how they live. I’m just a single mother, with three children. I don’t get a high salary, but I’m just trying to get by.”

ON THE 1996 CAMPAIGN

Favors Clinton: “First of all, I don’t think Republicans care about the hard working people...so I just wipe them out my mind.” Unimpressed with the possibility of a Colin L. Powell run for the presidency: “If you are black and Republican and don’t care about me, I’m still not going to vote for you.”

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ON THE ISSUES

* Welfare: “I know there are women that earnestly need it...Yes, there are some people that don’t do anything for themselves. Those are the ones that need the reform, but they shouldn’t take it all away. They should make it so they can help them do better. I’ve been on both sides of it so I know. I was on public assistance, but I got off it.”

REPUBLICAN

David Putnam

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* Electric company manager

* Vestavia Hill, Ala.

* 51, Married, 2 grown children

* Income: $140,000

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ON GOVERNMENT

“I’m very excited about what is going on in Congress. They are finally focusing on reducing the deficit, reducing welfare and reducing the high costs. They are beginning to realize they have to run the country like a business...The Republicans recognize that there needs to be a balance between industry and social issues. The Democrats don’t realize that someone has to pay the bills.”

ON FAMILY

“I don’t think the family is as bad off as I sometimes read it is. What has hurt it is some of the attitudes of entitlement. That has especially hurt the family in the lower economic end. The family needs some help, but it’s not going to come from central government.”

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ON POLITICS

“I’m clearly a Republican. I like to think that I judge each candidate as an individual, but I always end up choosing the Republicans.”

ON THE 1996 CAMPAIGN

“Bob Dole seems to the most electable. He has the experience; his philosophy lines up closest to mine. I’m opposed to a third party. It’s not electable. I’d rather see [Ross] Perot play within the system. I hope Colin Powell does get involved, but it would be a waste of time if he ended up joining a third party. I’d like to see him as a Vice Presidential candidate for Dole. It would give him the training he needs.”

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Where Do You Fit In?

Democrats and Republicans sharply disagree on the role of government and key social issues. Analysis of poll results show that while neither party is unanimous on the issues, the following positions are among the key factors that dispose a person to be either a Democrat or a Republican. Key characteristics:

DEMOCRAT 42%

* Prefer bigger government with more services

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* Say rich people not paying their fair share of taxes is a bigger problem than poor people getting undeserved welfare benefits

* Want less defense spending

* Support the ban on assault weapons

* Support civil rights for gays

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* Say most poor people are hard-working

* Support the two-party system

* Believe a poor economy is more of a threat to families than declining moral standards

REPUBLICAN 40%

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* Prefer smaller government with fewer services

* Say poor people getting undeserved welfare is a bigger problem than rich people not paying their fair share of taxes

* Want more defense spending

* Oppose the ban on assault weapons

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* Oppose civil rights for gays

* Say most poor people are lazy

* Support the two-party system

* Oppose abortion

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INDEPENDENT 21%

Independents, by contrast, display a wide variety of stands on most major issues. What they do agree on is mistrust of government and the current political system.

* Believe the two-party system needs major overhaul

* Say they seldom, if ever, trust the government in Washington to do what is right

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* Say the country is seriously on the wrong track

* Say religion is not important in their personal lives

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DEMOCRAT

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Karen Casriel

* First grade teacher

* Long Beach, California

* 31, single

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* Income: $35,000

ON GOVERNMENT

“We have a better standard of living than a lot of countries. But our problems are social. Economically we may be ahead, but we don’t have a sense of community. That’s where we are poorer than other countries.”

ON FAMILY

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“There’s no sense of family and stability any more. People feel very isolated. People have children but don’t have a clue about how to raise them. We need education in school to teach people how to raise children because there are no models.”

ON POLITICS

“The kind of people who are in politics are pretty scary to me. Particularly the Newt Gingrich types. Those real right wing Republicans. I can’t believe they’re in office. They’re all about white-bread politics. These white conservatives are deciding what’s right for the country. But they’re not really representing the people who are out there. They have a male perspective only. They ignore the rights of women. If more women were in office, they’d be more liberal on a lot of issues because they would be protecting their own rights.”

ON THE 1996 CAMPAIGN

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“I’m not really following it. It seems like it just doesn’t matter. It feels like Hollywood. Like a big show. It’s just about winning. Not about helping society. That wouldn’t be popular.”

ON THE ISSUES

* Welfare: “The government has a responsibility to help the people. But people also have a responsibility to help themselves. It seems the underclass stays the underclass for generations. I don’t know if welfare is keeping them there. But I don’t think there is as much welfare abuse as people think.”

* The Deficit: “Has the budget ever been balanced in my lifetime? I can’t imagine anything different because I’ve never known anything different.”

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* Affirmative Action: “I think it’s a good thing. I don’t think other races have an equal chance. I think most whites have the idea that if you work hard enough, everyone has an equal chance. But racist attitudes haven’t really changed. People are still going to pick a white person first for the job.”

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REPUBLICAN

Warren Payne

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Supermarket meat manager

Harrisburg, Va.

57, divorced, four adult children

Household income: $28,000

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ON GOVERNMENT

Blames big government “for getting us into this mess...The government has too much control. The people don’t have the say that they should have. If the Congress would just give the American people what they want, come hell or high water...we could turn this country around.”

ON POLITICS

“I always found that I am more prosperous [when Republicans are in control.] My [Democratic] father painted the embassies, the Congress, and yet he was always a week away from financial collapse.”

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ON THE 1996 CAMPAIGN

“Right now, I’m leaning towards Dole. He’s knowledgeable. The man’s been up in Washington for what seems like forever.” But also would be willing to take a look at Ross Perot.

ON THE ISSUES

* The economy: “America is still the greatest and richest country in the world and for us to be in this financial shape is a disgrace to the rest of the world...[At his supermarket], “all the employees get by week to week. It’s a big joke, that we all reach into our pockets the day before pay day to see who has the most pennies.”

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* Abuse of government programs: “Food stamps have always been a very sore subject. I see people driving up in a Cutlass Supreme, using $100 worth of food stamps. I’ve seen it over and over. And I’m just one little guy, in a small town. Here I am working every day, and I have pennies in my pocket. I see someone using food stamps to buy a quart of oysters for $14.95 and I can’t...That’s not right.”

ON SOCIETY

“I began to see things change when they took prayer out of the school back in the ‘60s. I look at what is going around today, I saw a guy the other call his grandfather an SOB and I couldn’t believe. it. Where’s there decency?”

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INDEPENDENT

Jeff Benton

* Accountant

* Boise, Ida.

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* 29 years old, married, one daughter

* Household income: $140,000

ON GOVERNMENT

“I feel pretty good about my life and don’t see any direct influence between my life and the government. Your world is what you make of it. You should take care of yourself and not blame everyone else for your problems. Granted, there are some things beyond our control, but a lot of it you can control.”

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ON FAMILY

“Parents don’t make [raising a family] a priority. They blame job pressures. I mean, everyone has pressures. More parental guidance is needed. The parents needs to take some of the blame.”

ON POLITICS

Leans Republican, but votes “for the candidate and issues, not the party.

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ON THE 1996 CAMPAIGN

“I see it on television, but I’m not following it too closely.” Curious about Colin Powell.

ON THE ISSUES

* The Deficit: “It’s getting out of control. I’m more than willing to do my fair share to get it under control.” Rather than raising taxes, Benton thinks programs should be cut. “I pay a ton of taxes already.”

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* Welfare: “You need to give them education and training, then you phase it out.”

Note: Party percentages total more than 100% because of rounding and other factors.

Times Poll respondents interviewed by D’JAMILA SALEM and MILES CORWIN / Los Angeles Times


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