Poll: Republicans Turning On Lott

Trent Lott, Republicans, Thumbs Down CBS

A new CBS News/New York Times poll shows Sen. Trent Lott is losing support among fellow Republicans as he tries to retain his leadership role in the wake of racially insensitive remarks about segregation. Just one in five Republican National Committee members interviewed this week think Lott should stay on as Senate majority leader; more than twice that number say he should step down.

And three times as many RNC members expect Lott to either resign or be voted out as the party's Senate leader as think he will continue in the job.

SHOULD SEN. LOTT CONTINUE AS MAJORITY LEADER?
RNC Members
Yes 20%
No 45
Don't know 35

45% of RNC members think Lott should step aside as the party's leader in the Senate, while 20% think he should continue in the job. 35%, however, offer no opinion.

Committee members residing in the South and West are more supportive of Lott remaining as Majority Leader than those who live in the East and Midwest.

Whether Lott is voted out as Majority Leader by Senate Republicans or decides to resign, many committee members think he will not be able to hold on to the position. Nearly half - 48% - think he will no longer be the Majority Leader; this includes 35% who say he will resign and 13% who think his colleagues will vote him out. Just 16% of RNC members think Lott will continue to serve as Majority Leader. A small number -- 2% -- think that not only will he leave his leadership position, but that he will also resign from the Senate.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN WITH SEN. LOTT?
RNC Members
Resign as Majority Leader 35%
Be voted out as Majority Leader 13
Continue as Majority Leader 16
Resign completely from Senate 2
Don't know 34

As for who should succeed Lott if he does not continue as Majority Leader, more than half of RNC members will not give their choice for his successor. Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee tops the list with 26%, followed by Sen. Don Nickles of Oklahoma with 10%, and Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, with 6%.

WHO SHOULD SUCCEED LOTT AS MAJORITY LEADER?
RNC Members
Sen. Frist 26%
Sen. Nickles 10
Sen. McConnell 6
Don't know 51

Committee members would be satisfied if President George W. Bush remains outside this fray. Last week, President Bush sharply criticized the comments made by Sen. Lott, but since then, the White House has not weighed in as to what the Senate Majority Leader's fate should be.

According to RNC members, the President should neither encourage Lott to continue as Majority Leader, nor encourage him to step down. Just 4% think Bush should tell the Senator to continue as Majority Leader, while 13% think he should encourage him to resign. 70% say he should do neither.

WHAT SHOULD PRESIDENT BUSH DO ABOUT TRENT LOTT?
RNC Members
Encourage Lott to stay 4%
Encourage Lott to step down 13
Neither 70

There is concern among RNC members over how the Lott controversy will impact the Republican Party. 45% say that if Lott continues as Majority Leader, it will be bad for the Republican Party, while only 6% think it will be good for their party. Less than a third do not think it will have any effect on the Republican Party.

IF LOTT CONTINUES AS MAJORITY LEADER IT WILL…
Be bad for the GOP 45%
Be good for the GOP 6
Have no effect 30

The biggest concern of committee members is that the GOP image will be tarnished and the party will be labeled as racist as a result of the Lott incident, or that it will hurt the Republicans with minorities. There are those, however, who say the incident has turned into a media frenzy and has been blown out of proportion.

BIGGEST CONCERN ABOUT LOTT INCIDENT
RNC Members
Damages GOP image 20%
Blown out of proportion 17
Hurts GOP with minorities 14

There is also concern that the incident will divert attention away from the GOP legislative agenda. On the other hand, some members say Lott is not a racist and he has apologized for his statements.

THE REPUBLICAN PARTY AND THE 2002 MID-TERM ELECTIONS
Most RNC members give credit to George W. Bush for the Republican wins in the mid-term elections last month. Bush is cited by 57% as the main reason for the Republican victories, followed by Republican Party ideas, mentioned by 11%, and Republicans having a clear message and turning out the vote, each with 7%.

MAIN REASON BEHIND REPUBLICANS' WINS IN 2002
RNC Members
George W. Bush 57%
Republican party ideas 11
Republicans had clear plan 7
Turnout 7

Since the 2002 elections were a Republican success, many RNC members do not see a reason for their party's positions on political matters to change. Half (51%) say Republican positions on most political matters should stay the same as they are now, 23% say party positions should become more moderate, while 19% say more conservative. Just 2% think the party's views should become more liberal.

Most committee members describe the Republican Party's ideology as conservative. 61% say their party's positions on political matters are conservative, while a third say they are moderate. When questioned about their own ideology, RNC members offer answers nearly identical to those given about their party.

POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY
REP. PARTY IS:
Conservative 61%
Moderate 33
Liberal 0

MEMBERS ARE:
Conservative 60%
Moderate 32
Liberal 1

THE ISSUES
In the 2000 Republican Party platform, the party opposed federal licensing of gun owners and nation gun registration. Continuing in that vein, two-thirds of RNC members think the Republican Party should oppose stricter gun control laws. Less than one in five think the party should favor stricter laws.

THINK THE GOP SHOULD FAVOR OR OPPOSE STRICTER GUN LAWS?
RNC Members
Favor 18%
Oppose 66

On the issue of abortion, opinions on what position the Republican Party should take are more mixed. Just a quarter of committee members think the party's position should be one that does not permit abortion at all. 44% think the Republicans should take the view that abortion should be available but under stricter limits than it is now, while 12% prefer the position that abortion should be available to those who want it.

WHAT SHOULD BE THE GOP'S POSITION ON ABORTION?
RNC Members
Available to those who want it 12%
Available, but under stricter limits 44
Not permitted 24

BUSH AND 2004
RNC members think the economy and terrorism are the two most important issues for their party to concentrate on for the 2004 presidential election. These issues weighed heavily on the public's minds heading into this year's mid-term elections. 75% of RNC members mention the economy and jobs as one of two most important issues for 2004, closely followed by 71% who say terrorism. Trailing far behind are taxes (11%), education (7%) and health care (7%). Only 3% say the Republican Party should focus on the potential war with Iraq.

With continuing high approval ratings for their president and the takeover of the Senate next year, RNC members are confident that Bush will be re-elected in 2004. 61% think Bush will have an easy time defeating the Democratic nominee for President in 2004 in their state (including 37% who say it will be very easy). Less than a third think it might be somewhat or very difficult for Bush to win their state. There are regional differences, however.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
WILL IT BE EASY OR DIFFICULT FOR BUSH TO WIN YOUR STATE IN 2004?
RNC Members

 TotalNortheastMidwestSouthWest
Very easy

37%

10%

39%

50%

53%


 TotalNortheastMidwestSouthWest
Somewhat easy

24%

10%

26%

33%

21%


 TotalNortheastMidwestSouthWest
Somewhat difficult

22%

44%

26%

12%

12%


 TotalNortheastMidwestSouthWest
Very difficult

10%

20%

6%

0%

9%

CBSNEWS Polls


A majority (64%) of those living in the Northeast think Bush will have a very or somewhat difficult time winning their state in 2004. (He lost nearly all of those states in 2000.) Those living in the South are most confident: 83% of Southern RNC members think Bush will win their state easily in 2004.

Many Republicans may be disappointed that Al Gore has decided not to seek the Democratic nomination in 2004. 43% of RNC members said they hoped the Democrats would nominate Gore for President.

When RNC members were asked which potential Democratic candidate would represent the biggest challenge to the President, more than half couldn't say -- or said no Democrat posed a challenge. 11% each said Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina represent the biggest challenges. Gore was cited by just 5%.

WHO WILL PRESENT THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE TO BUSH IN 2004?
RNC Members
No one/couldn't say 57%
Sen. Kerry 11
Sen. Edwards 11
Al Gore 5
Sen. Lieberman 5

Most members of the RNC think their 2004 ticket will remain the same – with Dick Cheney as the candidate for Vice President. 89% of members think Cheney will be the Vice Presidential nominee in 2004, while just 5% think he will not.

However, if Dick Cheney does not remain on the ticket, many members (40%) are unsure as to whom Bush should choose as his running mate. Secretary of State Colin Powell tops the list at 9%. He is followed by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, with 7%, Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, at 6% and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and Sen. Bill Frist, each with 5%.

IF VP CHENEY DOES NOT RUN IN 2004, WHO SHOULD REPLACE HIM?
RNC Members
Colin Powell 9%
Condoleezza Rice 7
Rudy Giuliani 6
Tom Ridge 5
Bill Frist 5

HOW REPUBLICANS VIEW THE DEMOCRATS
Members of the RNC think both lack of leadership and lack of ideas are big problems for the Democrats, cited by 40%. 30% say it is only a lack of specific ideas and not leadership, while 27% say the opposite.

Committee members perceive the Democrats as vulnerable on many key issues, and most vulnerable on the issue of war with Iraq. 88% view the Democrats as very or somewhat vulnerable on Iraq, including 47% who see them as very vulnerable. Nearly as many RNC members -- 85% -- see the Democrats as vulnerable on terrorism and on the economy.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
HOW VULNERABLE DO YOU THINK THE DEMS ARE ON THE ISSUE OF …?
RNC Members

 Very/Somewhat VulnerableNot Vulnerable
War with Iraq

88%

7%


 Very/Somewhat VulnerableNot Vulnerable
Terrorism

85%

6%


 Very/Somewhat VulnerableNot Vulnerable
The economy

85%

11%


 Very/Somewhat VulnerableNot Vulnerable
Prescription drugs

77%

15%


 Very/Somewhat VulnerableNot Vulnerable
The environment

60%

34%

CBSNEWS Polls




This survey was conducted December 9–18, 2002, among 128 of the 165 members of the Republican National Committee interviewed by telephone, fax and e-mail. The RNC chair and co-chair were not contacted. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus four percentage points for results based on the entire sample. Results have been weighted to reflect the regional and gender breakdowns of all committee members. Questions about Senator Trent Lott were asked from December 17-18; 97 RNC members responded to those questions. RNC members who had already completed a survey prior to December 17 were re-contacted for those questions. The margin of error for the Lott questions is plus or minus seven percentage points.

For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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