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The Times Poll : Bradley's Toxic Waste Ads May Be Paying Off

May 23, 1986|GEORGE SKELTON | Times Sacramento Bureau Chief

Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley's political strategy of harshly attacking Gov. George Deukmejian's handling of toxic waste seems to be paying off, although the challenger still trails in the gubernatorial race, the Los Angeles Times Poll has found.

Survey Results

By a 25-point margin, California voters now believe Bradley would do a better job than Deukmejian in disposing of toxic pollutants, the survey showed. This represents a significant boost of faith in the mayor's ability to clean up hazardous wastes, coupled with a marked loss of confidence in the governor on the problem, since a similar poll in late March.

During the same period--as Bradley escalated his assault on Deukmejian with a series of hard-hitting television commercials--the underdog Democrat trimmed the Republican incumbent's lead in t1751476594and now trails by 12, the Times Poll found.

The results of the latest survey are Deukmejian 46%, Bradley 34%, undecided 16%. Another 4% said they would vote for somebody else or nobody at all.

The Times poll, directed by I. A. Lewis, interviewed 1,652 registered voters by telephone for six days ending Monday night. The margin of error is 3% in either direction.

Clearly, a major plus for Deukmejian and a difficult obstacle for Bradley is the current satisfaction of California voters in the way things are going in the state. Only 17% of those interviewed thought the state has "gotten off on the wrong track." The other 83% favored Deukmejian by a 19-point margin.

Nevertheless, for Bradley the poll's findings offered a rare ray of sunshine in a campaign that has been beset by meager funds and big Deukmejian leads. The Times poll in late March, for example, found Deukmejian running comfortably ahead by 17 points--53% to 36%, with 11% undecided.

Just Wednesday, the independent California Poll of Mervin D. Field reported that Deukmejian had increased his margin over Bradley to 22 points, from 16 in late March, and was leading by 58% to 36% with only 6% undecided.

Although both the Times and the Field polls reported results that were relatively similar in March, their most recent findings were decidedly different, with significantly fewer voters expressing support for Deukmejian in the Times survey. One logical explanation is that Field stopped polling on May 7, two days before Bradley began running his first television commercials of the campaign. The Times poll bega1847617902were being widely telecast throughout the state.

Governor Angered

The Bradley commercials, which continued to be telecast all during the Times interviewing period and still are running, accuse Deukmejian of appeasing toxic polluters while accepting their campaign contributions. One commercial features a photograph of Deukmejian smiling in a corner of the TV screen while mounds of sludge pour through a big open pipe. Actress Tyne Daly of the television series "Cagney and Lacey" comes on to say, "George Deukmejian doesn't want you to see this." She charges he has been "blocking enforcement of our toxic cleanup laws."

Deukmejian, deeply angered by the commercials, has replied that under his Administration the toxics enforcement budget has doubled, the number of workers assigned to clean up hazardous materials has increased by 40%, several dozen toxics-related bills have been signed into law and more fines have been levied against polluters than ever before. This week, the governor also proposed a $200-million bond issue to speed up toxics cleanup. And a toxics task force appointed by the governor called for the elimination of untreated hazardous wastes in landfills and ponds.

The poll interviewing was completed before Deukmejian's latest actions, however, and it was clear by the responses of those surveyed that the Bradley commercials had taken a political toll on the governor.

Registered voters were asked: "Which candidate--Bradley or Deukmejian--would do the best job of handling toxic waste disposal problems, or don't you think there would be any difference?" The replies were Bradley 36%, Deukmejian 11%, no difference 37%, not sure 16%--a 25-point margin in Bradley's favor.

Two months earlier, when the same question was asked, and Bradley had not yet begun his TV campaign, the results were less conclusive. The answers then were Bradley 25%, Deukmejian 18%, no difference 34%, not sure 23%--a seven-point margin for Bradley.

Of those interviewed, 44% said they had seen at least one Bradley TV commercial in recent days. Also, 43% said they had caught one of Deukmejian's relatively calm commercials, which do not mention Bradley and concentrate on promoting the governor's leadership and integrity.

A third of the voters reported that such commercials help them to decide which candidate to support. And among these people, Bradley was trailing Deukmejian by only four points.

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