Ross Perot leaps up in poll Texan has 21% in face-off with Bush, Clinton.

March 31, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

Signaling dissatisfaction with the choices in the presidential contest, one-fifth of registered voters say they would support Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot in a three-way race for the White House with President Bush and Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, a new Los Angeles Times Poll has found.

In a hypothetical three-way election, Mr. Perot drew 21 percent, compared with 37 percent for Mr. Bush, and 35 percent for Mr. Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, the poll found. What makes Mr. Perot's strength even more striking is that only one-third of registered voters now know enough about the industrialist to have an opinion of him.

Mr. Perot, who made his fortune building a computer services company in Texas, has said he will seek the presidency as an independent if volunteers obtain enough signatures to place him on the ballot in every state.

In a two-way race without Mr. Perot, the poll found Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton locked in a virtual dead heat, with the president leading the Democratic front-runner 48 percent to 46 percent, a result within the poll's margin of error. In the volatile struggle for the Democratic nomination, Mr. Clinton held a 53 percent to 25 percent lead over former California Gov. Jerry Brown Jr. among registered Democrats and independents leaning toward the party, the poll found.

Matched against the president in a general election, Mr. Brown did not run as well as Mr. Clinton: Mr. Brown trailed Mr. Bush 53 percent to 41 percent.

For Mr. Clinton, the poll results offer both encouragement and vivid warnings. On the one hand, he is running about as well as Jimmy Carter did against President Ford in 1976 and Ronald Reagan did against President Carter in 1980 at roughly the same points in their campaigns.

Moreover, the poll suggests that in a general election against Mr. Bush, Mr. Clinton is positioned to largely maintain the powerful coalition of blacks and working-class whites that has propelled him to the forefront of the Democratic field. Against Mr. Bush, Mr. Clinton draws nearly 90 percent of blacks and evenly splits blue-collar whites with the president.

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