Monday, February 4, 2008

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s endorsement might have won a lot of press attention for fellow senator and presidential hopeful Barack Obama, but it probably didn’t net him many new voters, a Fox 5/The Washington Times/Rasmussen Reports poll says.

Thirty-four percent of Democrats in the poll said the Massachusetts Democrat’s endorsement made them less likely to support Mr. Obama. Thirty-three percent said it had no effect at all, and 30 percent said it made them more likely to support the senator from Illinois.

The poll of 1,000 adults, taken Wednesday and Thursday, also found that if Mr. Obama wins the Democratic nomination he probably should keep Mr. Kennedy out of his campaigning for the general election. While 10 percent of independent voters said the endorsement helped Mr. Obama, 30 percent said it hurt. The rest said it was irrelevant, or had no opinion.

For Republicans, the numbers were overwhelming: 74 percent said it made them less likely to vote for Mr. Obama.

The Kennedy family has split in this year’s presidential race. The most prominent members have backed Mr. Obama, but others, including former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, supports the bid of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York for the Democratic nomination.

The daughter of former President John F. Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, called Mr. Obama an inspiring figure on the level of her father, but such an endorsement was met with general disbelief.

Democrats were nearly split, with 42 percent agreeing with Mrs. Schlossberg and 39 percent doubting that Mr. Obama could match the former president. Overall, nearly half of those surveyed disagreed that Mr. Obama’s appeal could reach Kennedy levels.

In other questions, the poll found that the tax rebates Congress is debating might not be used the way the government intends. Americans said they were more likely to use the expected federal tax rebates for savings or paying down debts than spending it. That would defeat the goal of having consumers pump the money into the economy.

Only 18 percent said they would spend their rebates, while 32 percent said they would put it into the bank and 39 percent said it would go to pay down debt. Men were more likely than women to say they would spend, while women were more likely say they would save.

Studies disagreed over how taxpayers acted in 2001, the last time the government distributed rebate checks. One found the rate of spending about one in five, close to the poll’s findings, but another study said about two-thirds of taxpayers spent their checks within six months of receiving them.

The poll also found Americans split on why former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani’s presidential campaign faltered, though 20 percent said it was because he was wrong on the issues. A plurality of 32 percent said he chose the wrong campaign strategy, and that number rose to 39 percent among Republicans.

Mr. Giuliani, who withdrew from the Republican race last week, having never placed better than third in any of the early state contests, pinned his hopes on later contests in bigger states.

The poll had a margin of error of three percentage points.

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