ATLANTA — The dilemma Michael S. Dukakis faces in negotiating with the Rev. Jesse Jackson for campaign support is that the prospective Democratic presidential nominee risks alienating the "Reagan Democrats" he needs to win in November, a Los Angeles Times Poll indicates.
On the other hand, Dukakis also needs solid support from Jackson's black constituency, which in recent decades has loyally voted Democratic. So the Massachusetts governor must walk a political tightrope at the party's national convention which begins today, the survey illustrated.
On no issue is the difference more polarizing between Reagan Democrats and blacks than it is concerning Jackson himself. Reagan Democrats--those Democrats who voted for the Republican President in 1984--tend to dislike the civil rights leader, the survey showed. Two-thirds said Jackson did not deserve the vice presidency and about one-third thought he should have no role in a Dukakis Administration.
But nearly three-fourths of blacks interviewed thought Jackson should have been Dukakis' running mate. Most figured it would have strengthened the Democratic ticket.
Proportions Roughly Equal
Pre-convention telephone interviews by the Times poll with 1,763 registered voters, conducted July 5-10, showed there are roughly the same proportion of Reagan Democrats as there are blacks in the electorate, roughly 10% to 11%. But the reality confronting Dukakis, as this survey showed, is that the Reagan Democrats are much more likely to vote for Republican George Bush than are blacks.
"Dukakis gets a double bonus from every Reagan Democrat who votes for him," Times political analyst William Schneider noted. "Not only does he get their vote, but he takes a vote away from Bush. Reagan Democrats are swing voters. They could go either way. Blacks are not swing voters. They are the Democratic Party's base, the people who vote Democratic when no one else does. Or they don't vote."
Blacks, who voted 90% for Democrat Walter F. Mondale over Reagan in 1984, indicated in this survey that they would support Dukakis over Bush by 6 to 1. But a fourth of the blacks said they would vote for "somebody else." Presumably many had Jackson in mind.
Reagan Democrats were leaning only very narrowly toward Dukakis. Unlike blacks, they had a highly positive impression of Bush--3 to 1 favorable over unfavorable. Blacks were evenly divided in their attitudes toward Bush and, by 8 to 1, said they were "more likely" to vote for a Democrat than a Republican in November.
"Blacks are much stronger partisans than Reagan Democrats," Times Poll Director I. A. Lewis noted. But he added that "Reagan Democrats are much more likely to vote in November."
Group Likely to Vote
One-third of the Reagan Democrats who were interviewed scored high on the Times "likely voter" index, compared to one-fourth of blacks. Dukakis obviously would like Jackson to help him turn out a big black vote.
The interviews were conducted before Dukakis chose Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen as his vice presidential running mate and, in the process, angered Jackson and many of his supporters by not informing Jackson before announcing his selection. Pointing to his substantial support in the primaries, Jackson is demanding "partnership and shared responsibility" as his price for enthusiastically supporting Dukakis in the fall.
But Charles T. Manatt, who presided as Democratic national chairman during the 1984 Reagan landslide, said Sunday that Dukakis should be very careful about agreeing to any "partnership" with Jackson because such a pact could alienate swing voters.
"To the swing middle, 'partnership' is a dangerous word because it implies control--in other words, losing charge of the policy agenda," Manatt said. " 'Partnership' is all right if it only implies involvement, because input is not going to scare anybody."
Manatt also cautioned that Dukakis should not compromise with Jackson on major platform planks. "There's no room for movement," he said. "That would be trouble--key signs of capitulation."
Disagree on Minority Aid
Besides differing sharply in their views of Jackson personally, blacks and Reagan Democrats are poles apart in their notions of how much help minorities are entitled to from the federal government, the Times survey showed. Three-fourths of blacks said Washington "pays too little attention to blacks and other minorities." But three-fourths of the Reagan Democrats said the government pays either "too much" or "the right amount" of attention.
In a separate survey of convention delegates, the Times poll found that two-thirds agree with the nation's blacks that "too little attention" is paid by the government to minorities. But the interviews with registered voters showed that the delegates are out of sync with rank-and-file Democrats. Only one-third of all Democratic voters thought there is "too little attention."
Reagan Democrats and blacks also have diametrically opposed views regarding the Republican President. More than two-thirds of the Reagan Democrats approve of the way the President is handling his job. Fewer than one-third of the blacks do. Also, three-fourths of the Reagan Democrats have a favorable impression of Reagan. Only one-third of the blacks do.
As for Dukakis, both groups viewed him highly favorably--blacks a little more so than Reagan Democrats.
Half the Reagan Democrats thought the next President "should point the country in a new direction" from the current Republican Administration. But a far greater proportion of blacks--8 in 10--felt this way.
More than half the Reagan Democrats said they were "satisfied with the way things are going" in the nation. But nearly two-thirds of the blacks said they were "dissatisfied."
Staff writer Frank Clifford also contributed to this story.