February 9, 1996 in Nation/World

New Poll Bolsters Nethercutt Only 17 Percent Of Respondents Want Him Out; Economy Top Concern Of 5th District Voters

By The Spokesman-Review

U.S. Rep. George Nethercutt has just more than a year on the job, but Eastern Washington voters seem to like what they see.

Half the voters in a new 5th Congressional District poll say he’s doing a good or excellent job, while only 17 percent say they want him replaced.

“That’s great news,” the freshman Republican said Thursday as he prepared to leave Washington, D.C., to return to Spokane. “Half the battle is having the public feel you are doing a good job.”

Those findings, in a scientific survey conducted for The Spokesman-Review and KHQ-TV, reveal Eastern Washington Democrats could have a hard time reclaiming the seat Nethercutt captured from former House Speaker Tom Foley in 1994.

Nethercutt’s support indicates the 1996 election “is his to lose,” said Del Ali, an analyst for the firm that conducted the poll. His job rating is better than the ratings of the state’s two senators, Slade Gorton and Patty Murray, as revealed in a larger statewide poll.

In that survey, 47 percent of voters rated Republican Gorton as excellent or good, and 45 percent gave similar ratings to Murray.

Nethercutt has no announced opponent.

Sue Kahn, a former Spokane County freeholder, said she is interested in running if she determines “this is the right time.”

The fact Nethercutt appears to have significant support “makes it an even more interesting challenge,” she said.

The poll, conducted by Political/Media Research Inc. between Feb. 3 and 5, also asked the 403 respondents to name the most important issue that will help decide their vote for Congress.

The responses show that Nethercutt and his opponents - like President Clinton and his challengers - will have to address voter concerns about the economy.

Slightly more than one voter in five said the economy or jobs was the top issue in the congressional race.

Responding to a similar question about the presidential race, 25 percent of those surveyed listed the economy or jobs as the top issue.

But Eastern Washington voters would be far more likely to keep Nethercutt and oust Clinton if they were voting today, the survey indicates.

While 42 percent of those surveyed said they would vote to re-elect Nethercutt, 44 percent said they would vote to replace Clinton.

Female voters - who according to the survey are more concerned about health care and crime than men - give Nethercutt significantly lower marks for his performance, and are less likely to say they will reelect him.

Conversely, Clinton gets lower marks from men in the survey, who were more likely to tell pollsters their top issues are the economy or taxes when deciding how to vote for president.

Nethercutt said he would like to talk to the 17 percent who said they would vote for someone else “to see if they are basing their judgment on information that’s accurate or inaccurate.”

He said he’s not surprised the economy is the top issue for a significant block of voters.

“I think it’s all about security - being able to raise your family and give yourselves what you want to achieve in life,” he said.

The soft support among women gave Kaun room for optimism.

It bolsters her opinion that Congress is doing a poor job of addressing issues important to women.

“I don’t see women represented up there,” she said.

The Eastern Washington survey suggests that Democrats may not have much success defeating Nethercutt by painting him as an extremist, Ali said.

“If they’re going to run against Newt (Gingrich) to defeat Nethercutt, it’s not going to work,” Ali predicted.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: How we see U.S. Rep. Nethercutt

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