Poll: The Dem Delegates

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Here are highlights from the CBS News/New York Times Delegate Poll, released Saturday evening. The poll was conducted June 16-July 17, 2004 with a random sample of 1,085 delegates. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus two percentage points for results based on the entire sample.

More voters this year believe there are important differences between the two parties than CBS News has ever seen when asking this question over the last quarter decade. 75% of registered voters (and 70% of all adults) say this now, and the Democratic delegates illustrate some of those distinctions.

  • The delegates say they are moderate – and even more think John Kerry is a moderate. But their positions on a variety of issues set them apart from the opposition, and even set them apart from many of their party's own voters:
    • Almost twice as many Democratic delegates as Democratic voters think abortion should be permitted in all cases.
    • Just 19% of delegates think death should be the penalty for murder. 39% of Democratic voters say that would be their choice as the penalty, as opposed to life in prison without parole.
    • Delegates are much more willing to think that the government should be doing more -- 79% of delegates say this, compared with 48% of Democrats nationally.

  • But there are many other issues were the delegates and their voters agree:
    • In both cases, more than seven in 10 say the government should not favor one set of values over another.
    • Most delegates and most Democratic voters would support some legal recognition of same-sex unions; four in 10 would permit gays and lesbians to legally marry.
    • Six in 10 agree that the environment must be protected, even if jobs in their local communities are lost because of it.
    • Two thirds believe trade restrictions are necessary to protect domestic industries.

  • Demographically, delegates don't quite match their party's voters. One in five delegates are black, while 28% of Democratic voters nationally are black. Just over one in 10 delegates are Hispanic, as are 15% of Democratic voters nationally.
  • One in five Democratic delegates says that religion is "extremely important" in their daily lives, while one in ten say it is "not important at all." Democratic voters divide similarly. And like Democratic voters nationally, about two thirds of the delegates say presidential candidates should not discuss the role of religion in their lives as part of a presidential campaign.
  • While Democratic delegates are better educated and wealthier than their party's voters (something that has likely been true as long as there have been conventions), delegates are also more likely than their voters to be members of labor unions. 25% of delegates, but just 15% of Democratic voters, say they belong to a labor union.
  • These Democratic delegates are like their voters in many other ways -- about the same proportion (14% for delegates, 18% for voters) have served in the U.S. military. The Party requires that there be an equal number of men and women delegates, and 7% of Democratic delegates are under the age of 30.
  • About the same percentage of delegates and voters once thought of themselves as Republicans: 14% for Democratic delegates, 18% for Democratic voters.
  • Looking back at the 2000 election: more than nine in 10 delegates say George W. Bush did not win the 2000 election legitimately. The delegates also overwhelmingly oppose several Bush administration initiatives -- 89% would repeal most if not all of the Bush tax cuts, and just 7% say the U.S. did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq. What it comes to the doctrine of preemption, something that even John Kerry thinks might be necessary sometimes, only 17% of delegates said the U.S. should be able to attack any country it thinks might attack the U.S.
  • Democratic delegates are hopeful for this election -- seven in 10 say Democrats have a good chance of taking over the Senate this fall, and 88% say they are enthusiastically supporting John Kerry.
  • As for the convention process, it brought many new delegates into the hall -- 57% of our sample had never attended a convention as a delegate or alternate before. But they average more than 20 years of activity in party politics.
  • The delegates clearly believe in the process: 91% say the political conventions are still needed. But 27% say they are at least somewhat worried about a possible terrorist attack in Boston during their convention. They seem satisfied being in Boston. 75% say it was a good idea to go there.
  • Delegates would certainly accept help in this campaign from the last Democratic administration. 88% say it would be better for the Democratic Party if Bill Clinton actively campaigned for Democratic candidates in 2004 than if he refrained from campaigning actively, and 68% say it would be better for the party if Al Gore campaigned.
  • As for voters overall, the Democratic Party gets an edge on most issues. They are seen as the party most likely to ensure a strong economy, provide affordable prescription drugs, create jobs and help people achieve the American dream. The Republican Party continues to be the choice when in comes to dealing with terrorism. However, on two other items where the Republicans might be thought to have an advantage, the public divides nearly evenly. Who is best to make the right decisions on Iraq? 45% say the Democrats, 43% say the Republicans. Who shares the country's moral values? 46% say the Republicans the Democrats, 45% say the Democrats.
  • However, voters clearly have questions about both parties. Just 43% say the Republicans have a clear plan for the country and even fewer, 36%, say the Democrats do.

The vast majority of delegates (73%) are not worried about a terrorist attack in the city or at the convention.

As they head off to Boston, most delegates appear to be focused on party business and not a site-seeing agenda; 42% say there is nothing in particular they want to see or do in Boston outside the convention. 10% say they'd like to visit some historical sites, and 8% are planning a pilgrimage to the John F. Kennedy library. 7% would like to take in a Red Sox game at Fenway Park.

Nor are the delegates focused much on gathering souvenirs – half have nothing in particular they're aiming to bring back from Boston. 9% plan to collect campaign buttons, 4% want some Red Sox team gear, and 4% would like to bring back a photo or autograph from the nominee, John Kerry.

Most delegates headed to the convention have been to Boston before; 71% say they have. And an overwhelming majority – 75% - says it was a good idea for the party to hold its convention in Beantown.

The rivalry between Democrats and Republicans won't be the only one on display as the delegates get into town. Those Red Sox will be at Fenway hosting their own nemesis, the New York Yankees – who happen to hail from the GOP's convention city. If they had to choose, 49% of Democratic delegates would root for the Red Sox in that matchup; 34% would pull for the Yankees.

Delegates' take on another classic Boston-New York rivalry is more clear-cut. 66% prefer New England Clam Chowder over Manhattan Clam Chowder; only 13% favor the latter. 12% like neither.