Poll shows more erosion in voter support for Bush

November 26, 1991|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON IDB — WASHINGTON -- Americans are reassessing the Bush presidency and setting the stage for a competitive election next year because of a striking loss of confidence in President Bush's economic leadership, according to the latest nationwide New York Times/CBS News Poll.

Only one American in four now approves of Mr. Bush's handling of the economy, a level of discontent unmatched since the days of double-digit inflation under President Jimmy Carter. Mr. Bush's overall job approval rating is now at 51 percent, a 16 percentage point drop since mid-October. The declines seemed to reflect a month of bad economic news and turmoil in the White House.

Mr. Bush can take comfort from the fact that his overall approval rating is still well above the lows reached by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. Also, such ratings of presidential popularity often swing sharply, and past incumbents with similar or lower ratings have gone on to win.

Still, for the first time in the Times-CBS News Poll, Americans are evenly divided when offered a choice between re-electing Mr. Bush or some unidentfied Democrat: 39 percent of registered voters said they would probably vote for Mr. Bush, while 37 percent said they would probably vote for the Democrat, according to the telephone survey of 1,106 adults, of whom 840 were registered voters.

Support for Mr. Bush's re-election has undergone a striking erosion among voters from the age of 30 to 44; among middle-income voters, earning $30,000 to $50,000; and among voters in the West. These are all considered important swing voters in any presidential election.

The latest poll shows a public unconvinced by the administration's contention that the recession is over and the recovery is under way. When asked to rate the condition of the economy, 74 percent said it was "fairly bad" or "very bad."

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