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Times Poll Finds Public Wants New Direction for U.S.

February 26, 1987|DAVID LAMB | Times Staff Writer

Americans by a margin of more than 2 to 1 want their next President to distance himself from President Reagan's policies and by a significant margin think Vice President Bush's association with Reagan will hurt rather than help his chances to become President, the Los Angeles Times Poll has found.

Although attitudes follow predictable party lines, with 81% of Democrats and 37% of Republicans wanting new national directions, the poll results appear to reflect the political damage of the Iran- contra affair and raise the possibility that an association with Reagan may be a liability to Bush and others in the 1988 presidential election.

Two-thirds of the public believe Bush's role in the Iran-contra affair has been minimal or nonexistent, yet nearly half the respondents--including 61% of the Democrats and 25% of the Republicans--think his association with Reagan will hurt his chances of becoming President. By a margin of 44% to 37%, they believe his ties to Reagan will hurt his presidential prospects.

One of four Americans view Bush less favorably than they did four months ago, but two in three maintain that the scandal has not affected their perceptions of him.

The national survey, conducted by telephone over four days ending Monday by Times Pollster I.A. Lewis, also showed that nearly six of 10 Americans do not believe there ever was a "Reagan revolution"--a fundamental shift toward a smaller role for government in American life. Three in ten think there was a revolution, but half of those consider it ended.

Trust in Congress

The public is inclined to trust Congress over Reagan when it comes to solving the nation's major problems by nearly a 2-1 margin.

"What we are seeing is the loss of President Reagan's political domination," Lewis said. "He seems to be passing into a lame duck position in which he'll have a tough time with Congress and the public sees him as coasting, believing he's already made his major contributions."

Looking ahead to next year's election, respondents were asked if they would be inclined to vote for Bush if he were running for President. Forty-six percent of Republicans and 21% of independents said yes, a combined drop of 17% since July, 1986. Asked if they would vote for Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, 29% of Republicans and 24% of independents answered affirmatively.

Dole Has Image Edge

Dole, however, is more acceptable to a broad range of voters and would be more likely than Bush to attract Democrats and independents, the poll showed. Dole also has less of a negative image than Bush, whom 29% of the Republicans and 51% of the independents said they would be inclined to vote against.

Gary Hart, a former Colorado senator, remains the Democratic front-runner, with 22% of the Democrats hoping he is the party's nominee. Other potential candidates receiving mention were civil rights activist Jesse Jackson (8%), Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey (6%), Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts (4%) and Sen. Sam Nunn of Georgia (3%). Over half the respondents did not list a preference. Forty percent of Democrats and 36% of independents said they would be inclined to vote for Hart if he were the nominee.

Hart Outpolls Bush

If the election were held today, Hart would out outpoll Bush by a 42-34 margin (with 12% of Republicans and 44% of independents voting for Hart). Against Dole, Hart would have a 39-29 edge (including the backing of 14% of Republicans and 39% of independents). In both contests a sizable percentage of the respondents were undecided.

A total of 2,346 adults were polled nationally in the survey. The margin of error in a poll of this magnitude is 3% in either direction.

PREFERENCES FOR PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATIONS

Among Democrats: Gary Hart 22% Jesse Jackson 8% Bill Bradley 6% Michael S. Dukakis 4% Sam Nunn 3% Richard A. Gephardt 2% Joseph R. Biden Jr. 1% Bruce Babbitt 1% Others 15% Not aware, unsure, or refused to answer 38%

Among Republicans: George Bush 36% Bob Dole 13% Howard H. Baker Jr. 10% Jack Kemp 7% Jeane J. Kirkpatrick 4% Pat Robertson 3% Pierre S. du Pont IV 1% Paul Laxalt 1% Others 3% Not aware, unsure, or refused to answer 22%

Source: Los Angeles Times Poll

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