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Perot Atop Polls: Is It An Early Peak or Sign of What’s Ahead?

May 6, 1992

NEW YORK (AP) _ Texas billionaire Ross Perot ran slightly ahead of President Bush and trounced Bill Clinton in new statewide polls published Wednesday in California and Colorado.

The media-sponsored polls gave yet another boost to the independent presidential campaign that Perot says he will mount if supporters get him on November ballots across the country.

Perot is as quick as any politician to brush off the importance of polls that presume to report results of the horse race way before the final stretch.

″You remember the song ‘It’s a long, long time from June to December?’ It’s a long time from May to November too,″ Perot said Wednesday at a luncheon to honor volunteer groups in Dallas. ″I don’t pay attention to polls.″

But the polls are helping Perot by creating the impression of a series of victories although he has not run in any elections.

If the general election were held now, Perot would win 35 percent of Colorado voters, Bush 30 percent and Clinton 16 percent, according to a poll of 503 registered voters taken for The Denver Post and KCNC-TV on April 24-May 3. If Perot isn’t on the ballot, Bush is ahead of Clinton 47 percent to 31 percent.

In a three-way matchup in California, Perot takes 38 percent, Bush 32 percent, Clinton 20 percent. The poll of 808 registered voters was taken by Mason-Dixon Political-Media Research on April 30-May 4 and published in Clinton’s hometown Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The results are seen as a slight or apparent Perot lead because results for each candidate are subject to a margin of sampling error of as much as 4.4 points in Colorado and 3.5 points in California. In addition, there is uncertainty about how the large share of undecided voters might go, if they vote.

The Clinton and Bush campaigns have been dismissing Perot’s ascendancy in the polls since April 20, when a Texas Poll showed him 5 points ahead of the president, who maintains a Houston residence, and 15 points ahead of Clinton, the governor of neighboring Arkansas. Perot is based in Dallas.

Clinton and White House spokesmen said Perot was unscathed by media scrutiny, hadn’t had a chance to take unpopular positions and was enjoying a public-opinion honeymoon. They invoked memories of John Anderson, an independent who had about 20 percent in the polls at this point in 1980, but finished with less than 7 percent of the vote in November.

A national poll released Tuesday by the Times Mirror Center for The People & The Press indicated the rioting in Los Angeles hurt Bush’s standing and threw the presidential campaign into a virtual tie, with Bush at 33 percent, Clinton and Perot each at 30 percent. The margin of error was 3 points.

When it comes to dealing with the country’s racial problems, 31 percent thought Clinton would do the best job, and 13 percent named Perot, Times Mirror reported. Only one in four thought Bush would do the best job with the problem that was dominating public attention.

Bush’s vulnerability on that issue could fade as other issues come to the fore. But the polls show Perot’s support is more than a protest against the Democratic and Republican candidates. An ABC-Washington Post poll last month found 56 percent of Perot’s supporters said they liked what he stood for.

The Washington Post found Perot’s greatest inroads were in the West.

The recent poll in California asked Perot supporters about his positions on several issues. About 75 percent said they were more likely to vote for him because he favors abortion rights, supports the death penalty and wants to raise taxes on Social Security benefits for the wealthy.

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