The Mood of the Voter

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Though Carter and Reagan are even up in the race, the poll discloses areas of serious slippage for Reagan in important areas. For one thing, 59% of those preferring Carter claim they do so out of a positive feeling for him: they like his "experience," and consider him "safer" in foreign affairs. Only 45% of Reagan's followers feel a similar sense of confidence in their choice's ability to get things done and to answer the need for a change. At the same time, Reagan's rating on abilities regarded as important by voters has declined. In TIME'S last survey in May, 49% of those sampled agreed that Reagan was a leader "you can trust," while 42% believe that now. Reagan was then considered "acceptable" as a President by 64%; the current figure is 54%. Voter confidence in Reagan's ability to handle the economy has dropped from an impressive 75% to 66%, and his perceived competency in foreign affairs has slipped from 72% to 63%. The Californian still worries voters on a basic level: 54% of those surveyed feel that he often does not get his facts straight, and 48% fret that he may be "trigger happy."

Despite these declines, Reagan still scores higher than Carter in such voter-valued categories as "standing up to the Soviets," "keeping our defenses strong," "getting the hostages out of Iran" and "making Americans feel good about themselves." On other matters, voters cannot see a major difference between Carter and Reagan on such matters as who could find more jobs for the unemployed, provide "moral leadership," cut back U.S. dependence on foreign oil, or avoid making too many campaign promises.

Geographically, there has been a significant shift in Carter's 1980 popularity in the South. Among white Southern Protestants, Reagan leads by 48% to 39%, indicating he has made inroads among the potentially influential evangelical and fundamentalist voters who supported Carter in 1976. This leaves Carter with a statistically insignificant 1% lead in his home territory. Reagan commands a 10% margin in the West, while Carter barely stays a step ahead in the Northeast and Midwest.

This time the survey was deepened to poll more thoroughly in the nation's key industrial states (Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York). The aim was to detect any notable shifts in the blue-collar vote. Large-scale defections from the Democratic Party helped both Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon win the presidency and today seem vital to Reagan's prospects. So far, no real switch has been found. Carter leads by 10 percentage points among blue-collar workers, setting these states up as some of the key battlegrounds between now and November.

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