Clinton leads in poll despite verdict, Dole resignation Crime emerges as most important issue for voters

June 05, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

The standings of President Clinton and Sen. Bob Dole remain relatively unchanged from two months ago, despite events that could have roiled the presidential race, including the convictions of Clinton's former business partners and Dole's resignation from the Senate, the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll shows.

The survey also found that economic concerns have receded somewhat as a concern and that crime has become the most important problem for voters, even though federal statistics show dramatic drops in many big cities' crime rates.

Dole's efforts to seize on the crime issue in recent weeks have not helped him blunt the president's popularity. Voters give neither man an edge in addressing crime, though Clinton was perceived as likely to do better at dealing with such root causes of crime as unemployment and poverty, while Dole was seen as better able to set a moral and religious tone for the country.

The poll is based on telephone interviews with 1,200 adults around the country from Friday through Monday and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Several findings show Clinton continuing to display striking political resilience, to the point of enjoying slight upturns in many areas, while Dole's efforts to gain ground have thus far not been successful.

Overall, Clinton's job approval rating remains steady at 51 percent, while 42 percent gave Dole such a rating, a drop of 10 points from the last Times/CBS News matchup in early April. The president even gained nine points on his handling of foreign policy, to 52 percent approval.

If the election were held today, 54 percent of registered voters said they would back the president, while 35 percent said they preferred Dole. That is a slight improvement for Clinton since the last poll.

In another notable sign of strength for the president's party, Democratic candidates are favored over Republicans for the House of Representatives by 45 percent to 38 percent.

Asked specifically whether the convictions of his former partners in Arkansas affected their opinion of Clinton, an overwhelming 76 percent of Americans said it would not, while only 19 percent said it would. And while 6 of 10 Americans said the president was mostly telling the truth about Whitewater but also hiding something, that figure has not appreciably changed in months.

Pub Date: 6/05/96

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