Sunday, July 25, 2004

BOSTON — Democratic National Convention delegates are much further to the left on economic, social and defense issues than the general public and more liberal than most other Democrats, according to polls published yesterday.

Differences over the war in Iraq is the most illustrative example of the ideological gulf between the more than 4,300 convention delegates representing the party and the general electorate.

More than nine out of 10 delegates — 93 percent — said the war to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime “was not worth the loss of life and other costs,” according to the New York Times/CBS News poll.

But the poll showed that the rest of the country is more evenly divided over the war in Iraq, with 46 percent of all voters still supporting the invasion. Even among Democratic voters, 21 percent still say the war was the right thing to do.

A similarly large gulf on the war on terrorism separates the delegates from many in their party and the rest of the country.

About 77 percent of the delegates said they were more worried that counterterrorism laws would restrict civil liberties. But a much smaller 53 percent of Democrats hold that view and 43 percent of all voters agree.

Notably, few delegates here — barely one in six — see the Iraq war and terrorism as one of the most important issues in this election. Instead, more than half see the economy and jobs as the chief issues, compared with one-third of all voters who hold this view.

A survey by the Associated Press similarly found that 70 percent of all delegates ranked the economy and jobs as among the most important issues facing the country. That was followed by health care (52 percent), Iraq (44 percent), education (37 percent) and fighting terrorism (17 percent).

Most surveys have alternately placed the economy and the war on terrorism and Iraq in the top two tiers of issues that most concern the American people.

The Times/CBS survey, which polled 1,085 of the delegates at random in the past month, also found that the Democratic delegates who will nominate Sen. John Kerry for president this week see themselves as far more liberal than most other voters and most other Democrats. The survey also polled 823 registered voters for comparison’s sake earlier this month.

Both samples in the Times/CBS poll have a margin of error of three percentage points.

Asked to describe their political views, 41 percent identified themselves as “very or somewhat liberal,” 52 percent called themselves moderate and only 3 percent said they were “very or somewhat conservative.”

A much smaller percentage off all Democratic voters, 33 percent, called themselves liberal, and 19 percent said their views were conservative.

This is in sharp contrast to how those in the general electorate describe themselves. Only 20 percent say they are liberal, 42 percent moderate and 35 percent conservative, the Times/CBS survey said.

Also separating these delegates from the rest of the country are their views on social and cultural issues. Among the differences:

• The death penalty: 19 percent of delegates say killers should be executed versus 66 percent who favor life in prison. But 39 percent of all Democrats favor capital punishment, as do more than 50 percent of all voters.

• Religion: 62 percent of the convention delegates say the candidates should not “make this a part of a presidential campaign,” while 33 percent said they “should discuss the role of religion in their lives.” Democrats, as a whole, agreed.

But voters overall are more evenly divided, with 48 percent saying religion should be discussed and 50 percent saying it shouldn’t.

• Homosexuality: 44 percent of the delegates support same-sex “marriage”; 43 percent back civil unions; and 5 percent opposed both.

This is in sharp contrast to 33 percent of all Democrats and 40 percent of all voters who oppose any legal recognition of such relationships.

• Abortion: Three-fourths of the delegates think abortion “should be available to those who want it,” compared with 49 percent of Democratic voters and 34 percent of all voters who take that position.

The racial makeup of the delegates generally mirrors the population as a whole. Twenty percent are black, and 12 percent are Hispanic.

But the convention is heavily weighted with union members, a major power bloc in the party. They make up 21 percent of the delegates, even though union membership represents 13 percent of all eligible voters.

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