Clinton continues to sink in latest poll most voters can't name anything he did

October 13, 1994|By Paul West | Paul West,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- One month before the 1994 midterm elections, President Clinton's job-approval rating has fallen to a new low, and Democratic prospects for keeping control of Congress continue to sink, a new national poll shows.

In a startling finding, most Americans could not name a single thing Mr. Clinton has accomplished so far as president. The most frequently mentioned accomplishment -- health care reform -- actually failed in Congress this year.

The survey, conducted for the Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press and released today, contained bad news for Democratic congressional candidates. It found that a majority (52 percent) of registered voters say they would choose the Republican candidate if the election were held today, while only 40 percent say they would vote Democratic.

The last time Republicans achieved a majority in a national congressional preference poll was in 1954 -- the last year they controlled both houses of Congress.

"We've never seen a protest like this," said Andrew Kohut, director of polling for Times Mirror, which publishes The Sun and other newspapers. "There are three elements to it: anti-incumbent, anti-Washington and anti-Clinton."

Fewer than half (49 percent) said they would like to see their own member of Congress re-elected next month. That's down considerably from the 62 percent who wanted to re-elect their local congressman in a Gallup Poll taken shortly before the 1990 midterm election.

The survey of 1,513 adults was conducted Oct. 6-9, as Mr. Clinton was ordering U.S. forces into the Persian Gulf to counter Iraqi troop movements and as his Haiti policy was continuing to succeed. But there was no boost for Mr. Clinton's popularity: Only 38 percent said they approved of the way Mr. Clinton is handling his job, while 47 percent expressed disapproval.

That's the lowest approval rating ever for Mr. Clinton, whose previous low in the Times Mirror poll was 39 percent approval in August 1993. The poll has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

Mr. Clinton's failure to get his accomplishments across to the public was apparent when Americans were asked to name the most important thing he had done so far. Fully half said he hadn't done anything or that they didn't know what he'd done.

The next largest number -- 18 percent -- cited health care reform, while 11 percent mentioned foreign policy matters, including Haiti and Mideast peace efforts. Despite a strong economic recovery and the creation of more than 4 million jobs since Mr. Clinton took office, only 7 percent cited his budget-deficit

reduction or job-creation efforts.

There was also little public awareness of what Congress had done. About 2 in 5 Americans did not know that Congress passed an anti-crime bill this year. And a similar number were not aware that Congress had given up on health care reform for this term.

Other recent national surveys, as well as polls in individual Senate and House races around the country, have shown a surge of support for Republican candidates in recent months. To gain control, the Republicans need a net gain of seven Senate seats (35 are at stake next month) and 40 House seats (all 435 are up for grabs).

In a new effort to counter the Republican trend, the Democratic National Committee announced a $2 million TV ad campaign that accuses GOP candidates of wanting to take the country back to the "failed" policies of the 1980s.

"Trickle-down economics. Deficits out of control. Why would we go back now?" asks the Democratic ad, expected begin airing tomorrow in at least eight battleground states, including Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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