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Clinton Rides High On Issues Public Cares About Most

By Keating Holland/CNN


WASHINGTON (Feb. 3) -- As Bill Clinton prepares to go again before a Republican-controlled Congress for his State of the Union speech, Americans have more confidence in Clinton than the GOP on nearly every issue that tops the public's list of priorities, according to a new CNN/USA TODAY/Gallup poll.

By a 48-39 percent margin, the country wants Clinton to have more influence than the GOP over the direction the nation takes in the next four years. Americans have more confidence in Clinton than in the Republicans in Congress on education, crime, health care, and Social Security -- the four issues which the public thinks should be top priorities for Congress and the president to deal with in 1997.

The public also has more confidence in Clinton on Medicare, welfare, the environment and the economy. Clinton's approval rating, now at 60 percent, has remained high in the weeks following his inauguration and is substantially higher than the number of Americans who approve of how Congress is handling its duties.

The poll of 1,056 adult Americans was conducted Jan. 31-Feb. 2 and has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points on questioned asked of the entire sample.

Who Do You Want To Have More Influence Over Nation?
Clinton 48%
GOP in Congress 39

Top Priorities For President and Congress
Education 42%
Crime 36
Health care 33
Social Security 30

Who Do You Have More Confidence In?
Clinton GOP
Education 57% 35
Health care 54 37
Crime 46 40
Social Security 47 43
Sampling error: +/-5% pts

Who Do You Have More Confidence In?
Clinton GOP
Medicare 54% 37%
Welfare 52 40
Environment 52 38
Economy 47 41
Sampling error: +/-5% pts

Approval Ratings
Clinton 60%
Congress 36


But 1997 may not be smooth sailing for Clinton on all issues. The public has more confidence in the GOP than in Clinton on two issues currently brewing in Congress: the federal budget deficit and campaign spending reform.

If Clinton and the Republicans in Congress lock horns over a balanced budget amendment, the GOP will have an advantage. More than two-thirds of the country favors a balanced budget amendment.

Clinton may argue that an amendment would not be necessary once Congress passes a budget plan which would eventually eliminate the deficit. But even if a balanced budget plan is passed this year, 54 percent of the public would still support an amendment.

One reason: a majority believe that the government is doing too many things which should be left to individuals and businesses. Four years ago, as Clinton prepared his first budget plan, nearly half the nation felt that the government should do more to solve the country's problems.

Who Do You Have More Confidence In?
GOP Clinton
Campaign finance 48% 33%
Federal deficit 47 41
Sampling error: +/-5% pts

Favor a Balanced Budget Amendment?
Yes 68%
No 25

Favor Amendment Even If Balanced Budget Passes?
Yes 54%
No 35

Government Doing Too Much?
Now 1993
Yes 58% 45%
No 33 49

Campaign finance may be a trickier issue for the GOP to exploit. Only 15 percent of the country says that campaign finance reform should be one of the top priorities for the President and Congress in 1997.

In addition, nearly two-thirds say that the contacts between political donors and the White House last year were typical of the way most recent administrations of both parties used the White House to raise campaign money.

Only a quarter say that the Clinton White House was less ethical than other administrations in this respect. Two thirds also believe that the ethics of both parties' fundraising efforts last year were about the same.

Nonetheless, 70 percent say the way federal campaigns are financed needs to be completely overhauled or have major changes, and 59 percent favor a plan to give federal funds to House and Senate candidates who agree to limit their overall campaign spending and fundraising.

Clinton White House Contacts With Political Donors
Typical 63%
Less ethical 26

Which Party's Fundraising Was Less Ethical?
Republican 9%
Democratic 19
About the same 67

Federal Funding for Candidates Who Agree To Spending Limits
Favor 59%
Oppose 34

There are other issues on which Americans have more confidence in the GOP than in Clinton, but in almost every instance, those issues rank at the bottom of the public's list of priorities. GOP issues include defense spending, congressional term limits, a capital gains tax cut, and campaign finance reform, but only one in seven Americans believe that any of those issues should be a top priority for Congress and the President in 1997.

Top Priorities For President and Congress
Campaign finance 15%
Defense spending 15
Capital gains tax 14
Term limits 12

Who Do You Have More Confidence In?
GOP Clinton
Capital gains tax 50% 34%
Defense spending 49 40
Campaign finance 48 33
Term limits 44 38
Sampling error: +/-5% pts

Other Polls:

President Clinton Is America's Most Admired Man (12/30/97)
Americans Support U.S. Role In Bosnia (12/22/97)
Reno Should Have Appointed Independent Counsel (12/3/97)
Americans Want Independant Counsel (11/24/97)
Virginia Exit Poll: Governor's Race (11/6/97)
New Jersey Exit Poll: Governor's Race (11/4/97)
New York City Exit Poll: Mayor's Race (11/4/97)
Clinton, Gore Approval Ratings Rise (10/30/97)
America's Leaders Like America's Course (10/13/97)
Americans Want Campaign Reform (9/29/97)
Bad, Good News For Gore (9/12/97)
Congress Returns With High Approval Rating (8/28/97)
More Americans Want Jones vs. Clinton Settled Out Of Court (8/14/97)
Credit For Balanced Budget Deal Goes To GOP (8/1/97)
Clinton, GOP Deserve Credit For Budget (7/28/97)
GOP Congress Out Of Touch, Favors Wealthy (6/30/97)
People Still Care About Washington Scandals (6/3/97)
High Court Correct On Jones Case (6/2/97)
Public Supports Budget Deal By 2-1 Margin (5/8/97)
Few Americans Volunteer Regularly (4/25/97)
Most Say No To Wheelchair In F.D.R. Memorial (4/24/97)
Clinton's Approval Suffering Little (4/21/97)
Majority Says Gingrich Loan 'Inappropriate' (4/18/97)
Clinton's Approval Rating Remains High (3/27/97)
Gore's Poll Numbers Dip (3/14/97)
WSJ/NBC Poll On Fund-Raising (3/13/97)
Is Clinton's Honeymoon Ending? (2/27/97)
Americans Are Split On Clinton's Fund-Raising Tactics (2/27/97)
For 2000, Powell's No. 1 With GOP Voters (2/21/97)
President's Approval Rating Stays At High Levels (2/8/97)
New Yorkers Strongly Support Pataki (2/7/97)
Public Confidence High In Clinton On Most Issues (2/7/97)
Clinton Rides High On Issues Public Cares About Most (2/3/97)
Clinton Approval Rating At All-Time High (1/16/97)
Polls - Campaign '96

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