THE politicians and editorial writers clamoring for Tom Eagleton's exit from the Democratic ticket do not appear to reflect the views of the public. According to a nationwide telephone sampling of 1,015 eligible voters conducted for TIME last week by Crossley Surveys Inc., the American people are more sympathetic to Eagleton than the headlines suggest. The questions:
What effect did the news that Eagleton had undergone psychiatric treatment for nervous exhaustion have on your choice for President?
No effect: 76.7%
Switched from McGovern to Nixon: 2.6%
Switched from neutral to Nixon: 2.6%
More likely to vote for McGovern: 3.8%
Don't know: 13%
May not vote: 1.3%
In a close election, the 5.2% switch to Nixon could be decisive. But that could be partially canceled out by the 3.8% of the sampling who said they would probably vote for McGovern. It is not likely that they changed their minds because of Eagleton's troubles; rather, they were tending to favor McGovern anyway. Or their reaction may have been capriciousthe opposite of the one expected by the interviewer. Still, their switch would shave the McGovern-Eagleton ticket's net loss of voters to 1.4% of the total sample.
Is Senator Eagleton qualified to be Vice President?
No opinion: 27.8%
Not surprisingly, Democrats were more willing to keep Eagleton on the ticket than Republicans were. Of the Democrats polled, 60% believed him to be qualified; only 13.3% thought he was not. In the case of the Republicans, 46.3% considered him qualified; 25.4% did not. Youth was more favorable to Eagleton. In the 18-29 age group, 61.8% believed him to be qualified; 12.6% felt the opposite. In the 30-49 age group, Eagleton was approved by 53.3% and rejected by 20.4%. Probably because of the furor over his medical history, Eagleton was better known by the public than a vice-presidential candidate usually is at this stage in the campaign: 70.5% knew his name.
If you think Eagleton is unqualified, why?
Because he has undergone psychiatric treatment: 50%
Because he did not tell McGovern his medical problems: 33.5%
Other or unstated reasons: 16.5%
If the election were held today, for whom would you vote?
Others or undecided: 15.9%