WASHINGTON -- Postwar euphoria has lifted President Bush's political popularity, and that of the Republican Party, to historic new highs, a new national poll indicates.
If the election were held now, Mr. Bush would crush a hypothetical Democratic ticket of New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo and Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey by an astonishing 77-16 majority, according to the survey by the Times Mirror Co., which publishes The Sun and other newspapers.
Mr. Bush's handling of his job as president drew the approval of 84 percent of those questioned, down slightly from the 90 percent and 91 percent levels in polls taken just after the war ended.
The Times Mirror poll, completed Tuesday, found that the Republican Party enjoys a 7-point advantage when Americans are asked which party they identify with. That's the largest GOP lead in modern polling history, the authors indicated, and represents a significant Republican gain since last fall, when Democrats held a 4-point advantage in Election Day exit polls.
If the 1992 congressional election were held today, Republican candidates would lead Democrats by a 50 percent to 40 percent margin, according to the new survey of 2,028 people, conducted March 14-19. The poll has a margin of possible sampling error of 2 percentage points.
Political professionals in both parties cautioned that the GOP's current advantage could narrow, or even be reversed, as the war recedes into memory and other issues emerge over the 19 months between now and Election Day.
The poll's clearest danger sign for Democrats was the finding that Republican gains were largest among young people. Americans under 30 said they would prefer a GOP candidate to a Democrat in their congressional district by a 2-1 margin.
E. Spencer Abraham, co-chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said such findings would be of great benefit to his efforts to recruit Republican candidates for the 1992 election.
The new survey showed, as have other recent polls, that Vice President Dan Quayle continues to be a potential drag on Mr. Bush's re-election. In a test matchup with Gen. Colin L. Powell as his running mate, Mr. Bush ran 8 percentage points better against the Cuomo-Kerrey ticket, and produced substantially more support for Republican candidates, than a Bush-Quayle ticket.