With presidential year 1992 fast approaching, Dan Quayle is likely to be more of a liability than an asset to President Bush's expected re-election bid.
The latest Gallup Poll indicates that the vice president's public image has improved very little during his time in office. While there are a few bright spots in the results, even the good news must be qualified:
* While Mr. Quayle is generally regarded as likable, Americans find him significantly less likable than his two immediate predecessors. Fifty-seven percent say they have a favorable opinion and 37 percent say they have an unfavorable opinion of )) the vice president. But at a similar point in office, former Vice Presidents George Bush and Walter F. Mondale received much higher ratings (70 percent favorable, 23 percent unfavorable for Mr. Bush; 69 percent favorable, 17 percent unfavorable for Mr. Mondale).
* More Americans say that Mr. Quayle is qualified to be president in 1991 than expressed such views during his first two years as vice president. The latest poll finds 40 percent expressing confidence in Mr. Quayle's ability to fill Mr. Bush's shoes. Polls during 1989-1990 showed that percentage falling between 31 percent and 34 percent. Even so, a majority (54 percent) of respondents still think he is not qualified.
* A Bush-Quayle ticket beats an unspecified Democratic ticket by 51 percent to 34 percent in a trial heat of the 1992 election. Yet a majority (52 percent) of Americans prefer that Mr. Bush select a new running mate.
As long as Mr. Bush's approval ratings hold up and he remains in good health, Mr. Quayle's problems may not seriously hamper Mr. Bush's efforts to win a second term. Past polling data suggest that few people change their votes on the basis of their feelings about vice presidential candidates.
Few voters appear to take Mr. Quayle seriously as a contender for the nation's top job. When Republican voters were asked whom their party should nominate for president next year -- in the unlikely event that Mr. Bush bows out -- only one in 10 chose Mr. Quayle from a list of six potential candidates. Secretary of State James A. Baker III topped the list, with 18 percent, followed by Housing Secretary Jack F. Kemp (16 percent), Defense Secretary Dick Cheney (13 percent) and Mr. Quayle (10 percent).
The results are based on telephone interviews Aug. 8-11 with a randomly selected national sample of 1,013 adults, 18 years and older. Results have an error factor of plus or minus 3 percentage points.