Related topics

In New Jersey and California, Dukakis Draws Reagan Democrats

June 8, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ Gov. Michael Dukakis drew Reagan Democrats back to the fold in the California and New Jersey primaries Tuesday, garnering support from a voting group whose choice will be critical in the general election.

About a quarter of the voters in the two primaries said they had backed President Reagan in 1984, and nearly two-thirds of them said this year they would favor Dukakis over George Bush, CBS News-New York Times polls said.

A Los Angeles Times exit poll of Republicans in California contained other good news for Dukakis: only about a third of the Republican voters viewed him unfavorably, far fewer than usual for a candidate of the opposing party.

Also, a sizable share of Democratic opponent Jesse Jackson’s voters viewed Dukakis favorably, an indication that Dukakis will be able to win them over with relative ease, said Los Angeles Times pollster I.A. Lewis.

In the 1984 and 1980 Democratic primaries in California, supporters of the losers were far more antagonistic toward the winners, Lewis noted. ″Jackson voters are not unfavorable to Dukakis,″ he said. ″So it won’t be so hard for them to bind up their wounds.″

On the other side of the country, exit polls of New Jersey voters said more Democrats considered Dukakis to be a strong and experienced leader than in earlier contests, and more said they supported him strongly.

His strength of support was not as great in California, according to preliminary poll results. But Dukakis’ voters still valued his experience and leadership more than generally was the case in earlier races.

The polls in California indicated that Dukakis and Jackson split the liberal vote, a large segment of the Democratic electorate there, while Dukakis won among moderates and conservative Democrats.

The polls said Jackson won about a quarter of the white vote in California - one of his best showings among whites - but only 9 percent in New Jersey, one of his worst showings with whites. He got more than 90 percent of the black vote in both states.

ABC News poll results from New Jersey said Dukakis continued to appeal to Democrats across the ideological spectrum. He won majorities of liberals, moderates and conservatives, and 56 percent of all Democrats said his views were ″just about right″ as opposed to too liberal or too conservative.

In both California and New Jersey, about a quarter of Democratic voters said they were not sure of Dukakis’ ideology, less than in earlier races but still an indication he was somewhat ill-defined, said John Brennan, an ABC poll analyst. Still, Brennan noted, small minorities of voters thought Dukakis too liberal or too conservative.

That broad ideological appeal could be double-edged, Brennan said: ″It’s an indication he’s run a moderate campaign. It also indicates people haven’t scrutinized him closely. He’s all things to all people.″

The CBS-Times poll found that 54 percent of the Dukakis voters in New Jersey supported him strongly, up from most earlier races. When asked the most important qualities they considered, 43 percent said experience and 41 percent cited strong leadership - also increases from earlier contests.

In California, roughly half of the Dukakis voters had some reservations about him, and fewer said they were strongly for him. Still, experience and strong leadership were most often cited as reasons for backing him.

The strength of Dukakis’ support in New Jersey ″could stem from the fact that he’s on a roll. He’s got momentum″ from a string of primary victories, said CBS News poll analyst Keating Holland. It also could reflect a regional bias for a fellow Northeasterner, he said.

Although the electorate was racially polarized, 70 percent of Jackson’s New Jersey supporters told ABC they would vote for Dukakis over Bush in November, while just 7 percent took Bush and 22 percent said they would not vote. And while most Jackson voters wanted him to be the vice presidential nominee, a slight majority in New Jersey, 54 percent, said the choice should be left up to the presidential nominee, ABC reported.

ABC’s polls had a margin of sampling error of five percentage points; the CBS-Times poll had a four-point margin, NBC’s, 2 points.

Update hourly