Despite warnings that retired Gen. Colin L. Powell’s centrist views on contentious social issues could cost him any hope of winning the Republican presidential nomination, a new Los Angeles Times poll indicates his stands on issues such as gun control and affirmative action actually increase his support among Republican voters.
Powell’s pro-choice stance on abortion hurts him among poll respondents who describe themselves as Republicans - but not as much as might be expected. While 33 percent of the group said Powell’s tolerance of abortion would make them less likely to support his candidacy, 41 percent said it would make no difference, and 24 percent said they would be more likely to support him because of his qualified endorsement of a woman’s right to end a pregnancy.
On gun control, 44 percent of self-described Republicans said Powell’s support for some controls would make them more likely to vote for him, only 23 percent said less likely, while 27 percent said his position would make no difference. Powell’s support for affirmative action made 34 percent of self-described Republicans say they would be more likely to vote for him, while 17 percent said less likely and 42 percent said no difference.
There is a catch, however. Those Republicans who actually vote in GOP primaries tend to be considerably more conservative than the party’s supporters generally. And while Powell does reasonably well among conservatives, he does not do as well as the current GOP front-runner, Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., losing a hypothetical primary matchup to Dole 29 percent to 24 percent among that group. Powell’s real strength is among self-described moderates, who prefer him to Dole by 41 percent to 32 percent.
The telephone poll of 1,152 adults, supervised by Brennan, was conducted Saturday through Monday. It has a margin of error of 3 points.
Were Powell to run as the Republican nominee, the poll indicates he would trounce President Clinton, 50 percent to 40 percent, including a better than 2-1 margin among selfdeclared independent voters, who may hold the key to the 1996 election.
At the same time, Clinton has markedly strengthened his position against Dole, moving from an 8-point deficit in March into a 51 percent-45 percent advantage now.
In other general election matchups, Clinton holds decisive margins over other GOP hopefuls, including Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas (55 percent-35 percent), California Gov. Pete Wilson (58 percent-31 percent) and House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, who is not a declared candidate for the Republican nomination (61 percent-32 percent).