Democratic voters warm to bailouts

Times Staff Writer

Democratic voters in key primary states don’t oppose the Bush administration’s action to save investment firm Bear Stearns Cos. from bankruptcy, but most also think the government should bail out homeowners caught between rising mortgage payments and falling home values, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has found.

The findings suggest that even Democrats accept the Bush administration’s argument that helping Bear Stearns was necessary to prevent damage to the broader economy, and that Republican candidates won’t face much anger from voters over the decision.

Among likely Democratic primary voters in Pennsylvania, for example, 35% said the Bear Stearns action was a good thing, 32% said it was bad and 33% said they weren’t sure.


“I thought, in the big picture, it was the right thing to do,” said Renee Quinn, 59, a state government employee who said she planned to vote for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) in next week’s Democratic presidential primary election. “It was to prevent the economy from going totally down the tubes.”

Like most Democratic voters, she said the state of the economy was the most important issue. “It’s the worst it’s been in years -- the price of gas, the price of everything,” she said. But she said her decision to vote for Clinton was based on different factors: “I don’t know that much about Barack Obama. I’m a lifelong Democrat and, heck, I’m a woman,” she said.

The poll was conducted among likely Democratic primary voters in the three states with the next elections: Pennsylvania, Indiana and North Carolina. Voters’ responses were roughly similar in all three.

Large majorities of Democratic voters said they supported federal action to bail out distressed homeowners. In Pennsylvania, 67% of self-described Democrats said they favored such a program, even when it was described as a “bailout.”

Most Democratic voters also said they thought international trade had hurt the economy. In Pennsylvania, 55% of Democratic voters said trade had hurt and only 12% agreed with the Bush administration (and most economists) that trade helped the economy.

Among Pennsylvania Democratic voters who believe that trade hurts the economy, 48% said they planned to vote for Clinton, 42% for Obama. Among the minority of Democratic voters who believe trade helps the economy, 54% said they planned to vote for Obama, 38% for Clinton.

The two Democratic candidates have swapped charges over trade for months. But their positions are fairly similar; both have said they would renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

The poll, conducted under the supervision of Times Poll Director Susan Pinkus, interviewed 623 voters in Pennsylvania, 687 in Indiana and 691 in North Carolina who expected to cast Democratic ballots. The margin of sampling error for findings in each state is plus or minus 4 percentage points.