April 5, 1996 in Nation/World

Survey Finds Democrats Are Edging Back Into Favor But Perot Support Would Hurt Clinton As Well As Dole

Thomas Edsall Washington Post

For the first time since the 1994, when Democrats lost control of both the House and the Senate, voters are leaning more toward Democratic congressional candidates than Republicans, according to a Pew Research Center poll.

The finding reinforces data from other public surveys.

“Criticism of the GOP legislative agenda and the president’s improved standing in the polls now threaten prospects for continued Republican control of the House,” said Andrew Kohut, director of research center.

Asked the question: “Suppose the 1996 election for U.S. Congress were being held today, would you vote for the Republican Party’s candidate or the Democratic Party’s candidate for Congress in your district,” 49 percent said they would vote Democratic and 44 percent said Republican.

The Pew survey also found that the profile of the likely voter for Ross Perot in 1996 is substantially different from the 1992 Perot voter, supporting the controversial findings of some other surveys that a 1996 Perot candidacy is as likely to hurt President Clinton as the presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. Bob Dole.

The likely Perot voter this year is substantially less well off economically, less educated, and more inclined toward the Democratic Party than those who voted for the Texas billionaire in 1992.

In 1992, 37 percent of the voters who said they backed Perot had annual incomes of $50,000 or more, and 23 percent had incomes of less than $30,000. This year, only 24 percent of voters saying they are likely to back Perot make more than $50,000, while the share making less than $30,000 has ballooned to 36 percent. Similarly, the percentage with college degrees or some college has fallen from 59 percent to 32 percent.

With striking consistency, Perot voters remain overwhelmingly male, 61 percent in 1992 and 62 percent in 1996. But the 1992 Perot voters were 19 percent Democrat, 30 percent Republican and 48 percent independent, while the 1996 Perot supporters are split between the two parties, 24-24, while independents are virtually the same at 47 percent.

The Democratic gains in the generic congressional vote were heaviest among women, the elderly, those with high school degrees, those who make less than $20,000 a year, and residents of the East and Midwest.

Kohut noted that the same groups have contributed significantly to Clinton’s continuing strength in head-to-head match-ups with Dole. The Pew survey gave Clinton a 53-41 lead over Dole in a two-way trial heat.

In a three-way race with Perot included, Clinton drops nine points to 44, Dole drops six points to 35 and Perot gets 16 percent.

Clinton, the survey found, depends entirely on women for his substantial lead over Dole.

Among men, the two are almost tied at 48 percent for Clinton and 46 percent for Dole. Among women, however, 57 percent would vote for Clinton and 37 percent for Dole.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email