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Americans Think GOP Program Cuts Go Too Far, Survey Shows

By Richard Morin
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

Most Americans believe that Republican lawmakers are going too far in cutting federal social programs that benefit children, the elderly, the poor and the middle class, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News survey.

As a result, the survey suggests, President Clinton may be slowly winning back some of the political ground he surrendered to Republicans immediately after the GOP landslide in last November's congressional elections.

Clinton also appears to be getting a sustained second look from many middle-class voters who deserted the Democratic Party last year. In a critical reversal of attitudes, the survey found that people now say they trust Clinton more than Republicans in Congress to help middle-class Americans. Barely a month ago, Republicans enjoyed a clear advantage over Clinton.

Yet these doubts about congressional Republicans have not yet appreciably helped Clinton's overall public standing. His personal job approval rating stood at 52 percent in the latest survey, essentially unchanged from last month. And Republicans still remain more trusted than Clinton to deal with the "main problems the nation faces."

A total of 1,524 randomly selected adults were interviewed March 16-19. Margin of sampling error for the overall results is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The survey suggests that the honeymoon may be over for the Republican Contract with America. While a majority of those interviewed still give approval in concept to the contract, 52 percent also agreed with the statement "the more I hear about what Republicans do in Congress, the less I like it." Forty-four percent expressed the opposite view.

Among the public's biggest worries: that the Republican majority in Congress will cut too deeply and too quickly into social programs to finance tax cuts and other benefits to wealthy Americans.

Nearly six out of 10 persons - 59 percent - agreed with the statement that Republicans "will go too far in helping the rich and cutting needed government services that benefit average Americans as well as the poor." That's a 14 percent increase since January in public concern with Republican initiatives.

Pluralities specifically said Republicans in Congress were trying to make too many cuts in the nation's education programs and in the school lunch program.