Delegates are mostly well-off white men Republican gathering has fewer minorities, women than 4 years ago

Republican Convention

August 12, 1996|By CHICAGO TRIBUNE

SAN DIEGO -- Two thirds of them are men. Almost 90 percent of them are white. They earn more money than most Americans.

Meet the delegates to the 1996 Republican National Convention.

The profile of the delegates convening in San Diego does little to help the GOP as it tries to convince American voters that it is not a party of the elite, that it does not alienate women and minorities, and that it is not pushed to extremes by religious conservatives.

The 1,990 delegates gathered here include fewer women and minorities than the group that gathered four years ago in Houston, a survey by the Associated Press found. The delegations of more than a half-dozen states are completely white and are dominated by religious conservatives, according to the survey.

"We've got lots of diversity," one wag from Iowa quipped. "We've got evangelicals and we've got fundamentalists."

The joke underscores the difficulties the GOP may have as it tries to appeal to a broad array of Americans. This year, the party is struggling to overcome a pronounced gender gap, with women giving Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole considerably less support than males.

"Perception is a problem for the Republicans," said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont-McKenna College.

"Republicans face a dilemma. On the one hand, they're philosophically opposed to quotas and preferential treatment. On the other hand, they want to overcome the gender gap and the ethnic gap."

Both white and black GOP delegates convening here are more affluent than the average American. The median household income in delegate neighborhoods is $34,295, 17 percent higher than the figure for the average American, as reported in the 1990 Census.

Some delegates chosen to represent the GOP may only reinforce the perception of a party growing more extreme. Louisiana delegate Vincent Bruno has described himself as an adviser on religious issues to David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klansman and an unsuccessful candidate for governor.

Asked about the survey results, Dole campaign spokeswoman Christina Martin said, "In keeping with the traditional dynamic primary process, the Republican Party has been able to attract an increasing number of women without reducing them to mere statistics as a means of meeting a cold numerical goal as the dTC Democrats are wont to do."

The lack of diversity among delegates is likely to be overshadowed by pageantry, especially as retired Gen. Colin L. Powell and Rep. Susan Molinari of New York take the podium to deliver their high-profile speeches.

Pub Date: 8/12/96

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