Poll: Democratic leaders back Dean
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As the Democratic National Committee opens its annual meeting, a new poll of DNC members suggests party leaders want to see some serious changes and believe former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean will do an excellent job as party chairman.
The CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Thursday indicates the members who chose to reply to the survey also overwhelmingly believe the party should draw clear distinctions between itself and the GOP and should work to defeat the Republican agenda over the Bush administration's final four years.
Surveyors questioned 223 of the DNC's 447 members or their spokespeople by phone between January 27 and February 8. Answers are representative of the views of the members who chose to take part in the poll.
The DNC, comprising delegations from the states and other Democratic institutions, began its annual meeting Thursday and is set to select Dean -- the six other candidates have dropped out -- as its chairman, replacing Terry McAuliffe.
Another survey conducted by CNN/USA Today/Gallup from January 14 through January 16, this time a poll of rank-and-file Democrats nationwide, indicated that Democrats are more skeptical about their party's prospects in the 2008 presidential race than are members of the DNC leadership.
Of DNC members, 96 percent thought the party has a fair shot to recapture the White House -- with 30 percent saying it is extremely likely, 47 percent saying very likely and 19 percent somewhat likely.
Nearly half of the Democrats surveyed nationwide last month said it is only somewhat likely, while 18 percent said extremely likely and 24 percent said very likely.
The margin of error for the national poll was plus or minus 5 percentage points.
Dean's candidacy for the chairmanship has galvanized some parts of the party, but some results of the poll seemed at odds with the enthusiastic support for him.
Although 63 percent of the DNC members who responded to the survey said that the socially liberal/fiscally conservative Dean would make an excellent chairman (and another 27 percent said he would be good in the job), just over half indicated the party should be more moderate and 23 percent said it should be more liberal.
In last month's poll of Democrats, 35 percent of respondents wanted to see the party become more liberal and 59 percent wanted to see it become more moderate. Fewer of the Democrats polled nationwide gave a "no opinion" on that question.
Asked why John Kerry lost to Bush in 2004, the DNC members surveyed said it wasn't the Democratic positions on the issues.
Almost half the DNC members who agreed to be interviewed said Bush's status as a wartime president up for re-election was the main factor. Twenty percent cited inability to keep up on a grass-roots level, and 16 percent said Kerry was too weak a candidate.
Only 7 percent said it was the party's positions.
Fifty-six percent of the party leaders said the party needs major changes in its approach to winning elections, and another 34 percent called for minor changes -- and 61 percent, given a choice between persuading undecided voters and mobilizing the base, said going after so called "swing" voters is the more important.
Most DNC members questioned were in favor of withdrawing troops from Iraq. The poll showed 37 percent favored bringing some troops home and nearly a quarter said all of the troops should return now. About 15 percent favored sending more troops and 17 percent said to leave the troops level as is.