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Voters Slam Dems. in National Poll

By Charles V. Zehren
Newsday
WASHINGTON

If President Clinton and the Democrats needed more convincing that they must consider radical changes following last week's Republican congressional landslide, they got it Thursday in the form of yet another national opinion poll.

While independent voters say "their families are still just holding on," they said they believe the Democratic-dominated national politics under Clinton has grown "corrupt," "divisive" and "slow to address the needs of ordinary citizens."

Not only did Clinton fail to produce promised changes during his first two years in office, the respondents said, but the president always seemed to be "in trouble" in heading a party that spent "too much and wastes taxpayers' dollars."

In fact, those surveyed said, Washington under the Democrats clearly favored lobbyists and "special interests" over constituents, emphasized big government programs like the administration's failed health care proposal, and backed a liberal cultural agenda embodied by policies allowing gays in the military. Mention "Democrat" and the voters spit out these responses: "Liberal," "Immoral," "Spenders," "Hot Air," and "Kennedy."

Pretty rough stuff, yet all the more remarkable given that it was cited by Clinton's own pollster, Stanley Greenberg, who Thursday offered his latest assessment of the political mood of the country in the wake of last week's Democratic debacle.

But despite the poll's bad news for Democrats, Greenberg insisted that the election was a rejection of both parties and national politics in general. Only about 8 percent of those surveyed attributed "the mess in Washington" to the president, he said, adding that voters did not did not cast their ballots to dismantle government. He said they sent a message that Washington must become more efficient and responsive to average people.

Greenberg also asserted that those surveyed did not express confidence in the Republican Party, which posted a favorability rating just slightly higher than the Democrats. Indeed, he said, there is still just as high a level of public sentiment that Republicans favor the wealthy and corporations as in 1992.

"It was a revolt against a politics that failed people's hopes," Greenberg wrote in the attached report. "There is little interest in the country in a Traditional Democrat that believes government can solve problems and protect people from adversity.' Instead by 66 to 19 percent, the electorate prefers a New Democrat' who believes government should help people equip themselves to solve their own problems."

However, in reviewing the results of the survey, Greenberg acknowledged a "collapse in confidence" in the Democratic Party. A majority of independents - 55 percent - expressed disappointment with the Clinton presidency. And many Democrats stayed home and did not vote because they feel ambivalent toward the president.

Meeting with reporters Thursday, Haley Barbour, the chairman of the Republican Party, scoffed at such notions. A "New Democrat," he sniffed, is simply a politician who "campaigns as a moderate and governs as a liberal."