Despite deep public concerns about his character, President
Bill Clinton holds a strong lead in Missouri and the St. Louis
area, the Post-Dispatch's latest Show-Me Poll indicates.
Clinton had the support of more than 48 percent of the 1,003
people su rveyed in June, while more than 29 percent favored Bob
Dole, the presumed Republican nominee.
Meanwhile, Missouri Gov. Mel Carnahan, a Democrat, widened his
lead over his likely Republican opponent, state Auditor Margaret
Kelly. Of the 871 Missourians sampled, almost 51 percent preferred
Carnahan. Slightly more than 27 percent favored Kelly.
Clinton and Carnahan's solid leads are partly a result of
gender and age gaps. Women and younger voters are solidly in the
That's despite strong misgivings among all ages and both sexes
about Clinton's character. Just 36 percent of those polled rated
Clinton's performance as "good" or "excellent." Other ratings seem
even more damaging:
Fifty-five percent questioned Clinton's moral character.
Sixty-two percent said the Whitewater controversy raised
concerns about the president's honesty.
Dole's failure to capitalize on Clinton's problems is partly
because of the former senator's own apparent liabilities:
About 40 percent of those polled view Dole as "mean-spirited."
Thirty-eight percent say Dole, at 72, is too old to be
president. Of those at least 55, 45 percent say he's too old.
If those polled could choose anybody for president, the
majority prefers somebody other than Clinton or Dole.
Retired Gen. Colin Powell was the top dream candidate in a
crowded wish list. Clinton came in second. Dole was fourth, nosed
out by Texas billionaire Ross Perot.
Perot, who says he will run for president if nominated by his
party, p was not pitted against Dole or Clinton in the poll. In
1992, in his independent run for the White House, he got 23 percent
of the votes in Missouri and 19 percent nationwide.
The poll indicates Perot may have a tougher time this year.
Although about a third said they thought a new party was needed,
fewer than 4 percent planned to vote for a third-party presidential
Flaws Are Overlooked
Ken Warren, a political science professor at St. Louis
University who has written several books on the presidency, said
the poll's findings didn't surprise him. The public apparently has
decided to ignore Clinton's personal liabilities, he said.
"Clinton's in good shape," he said.
The public often overlooks character flaws in presidential
contenders, Warren said. Performance is considered more important.
"Four years ago in exit polls, George Bush beat Clinton
substantially in the moral character area," Warren said.
Even so, Clinton won the election because Bush was blamed for
the lagging economy. Conversely, in 1972, Warren said, polls showed
George McGovern getting higher character ratings than Richard
Nixon, yet Nixon went on to cream McGovern. Voters were queasy
about McGovern's sweeping economic proposals.
For Ed Hillhouse, 47, of Pacific, character is key. That's why
he's leaning toward Dole, although reluctantly.
John Scully, 72, also of Pacific, says he doesn't care about
Clinton's personal problems. "Politicians are all the same," Scully
said, adding that he plans to vote for Clinton because of the
president's record. …