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Half of Americans Want Cheney on 2004 GOP Ticket

Although pollsters are constantly tracking the president’s popularity and approval rating, the major pollsters don’t track the vice president nearly as much. But a handful of polls in the past month or so shed some light on how the public feels about Vice President Cheney. [IMGCAP(1)]

In late October, Gallup, CNN and USA Today asked about keeping Cheney on the Republican ticket in 2004.

Fifty-one percent said President Bush should keep him, but 42 percent said he should choose someone new. Those responses are essentially unchanged from July, when 53 percent wanted to keep him and 39 percent wanted a new candidate.

They also closely mirror the situation in November 1991, when 43 percent said George H.W. Bush should keep then-Vice President Dan Quayle on the ticket. But the percentage of people wanting Quayle to be replaced was a little higher: 46 percent.

A higher percentage of Republicans, not surprisingly, wanted to keep both Cheney and Quayle. Sixty-nine percent said President Bush should keep Cheney, according to the October poll, while 61 percent of Republicans felt that way about Quayle in November 1991.

Although Cheney’s power in the White House has often been the butt of late-night jokes, 51 percent said Cheney has “about the right amount of power” in the Bush administration, while 21 percent said he has too much. In May 2001, 61 percent said he had the right amount and 13 percent said too much.

Sixty-three percent think Bush makes more of the important decisions in this administration; 18 percent say Cheney does. In a question with slightly different wording in January 2001, 55 percent said Bush would be making more of the important decisions and 30 percent said Cheney would.

In a Nov. 10-12 CBS News poll, 17 percent said Cheney had more honesty and integrity than most people in public life, 22 percent less, and 47 percent about the same amount. Fifty-two percent of Republicans, 42 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of independents said he had about the same amount.

And there’s good or bad news for Cheney, depending on your viewpoint: In a late August-early September Gallup poll, 69 percent were able to name the current veep.

Thirty-one percent could not.

The Health of the Health Care System. In a 1994 Gallup poll, 17 percent described the health care system as being in a state of crisis, 52 percent as a system with major problems and 29 percent as having minor problems. When Gallup repeated the question in early November, 14 percent chose the crisis formulation, 54 percent major problems and 30 percent minor problems.

Thirty-eight percent wanted to replace the current system with a government-run system, but 57 percent said the current system should be maintained. In 2001, those responses were 33 percent and 61 percent, respectively.

Attention to AIDS. In 1987, 68 percent told Gallup interviewers that AIDS was the most urgent health care problem facing the country. In early November, 8 percent gave that response. In the new poll, cost was the top health care issue, cited by 27 percent.

Wall Street’s Woes. In mid-October, 68 percent told Harris Interactive interviewers that Wall Street benefits the country and 16 percent said it harms the country. In 1996, those responses were 70 percent and 22 percent, respectively.

In another question in the poll, 62 percent said Wall Street was absolutely essential because it provides the money business must have for investments (69 percent gave that response in 1996). At the same time, however, 54 percent said that most people on Wall Street would be willing to break the law if they believed they could make a lot of money and get away with it (64 percent in 1996).

Thirty-five percent said people on Wall Street were as honest and moral as other people, down from 43 percent in 1996.

Iraq Moves Up. In September, 9 percent told CBS News interviewers that Iraq was the most important problem for the country; in CBS’ early November poll, 18 percent give that response.

In Gallup’s open-ended question, where people can give any response they wish, the proportion mentioning Iraq or fear of war as the most important problem today was 7 percent in May and 19 percent in November.

Forty-six percent told CBS that the war in Iraq was a major part of the war on terrorism, 14 percent said a minor part and 35 percent said the Iraq war was separate from the war on terror. Those responses are unchanged from September.

Forty-nine percent said it is possible for the United States to create a democracy in Iraq (40 percent said it was not). Sixty-seven percent said it was possible for the Iraqi people to do so (23 percent said no).

Bush vs. Bush on the Economy. In the Nov. 10-12 CBS News poll, 43 percent said they approved of the job the president was doing handling the economy; 46 percent disapproved. His approval number on the economy was 41 percent in October and 42 percent in April.

In November 1991, 25 percent approved of George H.W. Bush’s handling of the economy.

In its recent release on consumer confidence, the University of Michigan reports that “for the first time in 10 years, the majority of consumers reported hearing news of positive economic developments.”

Karlyn Bowman is a resident fellow specializing in public opinion and polls at the American Enterprise Institute.

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