WATERGATE: The Public: Disillusioned

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A nationwide TIME-Yankelovich survey conducted by telephone last Wednesday and Thursday found that Nixon has lost an important weapon in his fight against impeachment: the previously prevailing fear felt by a majority of Americans that impeachment would mean disaster for the country. While 61% of the people polled shared that fear last November, only 38% expressed such concern last week. According to the survey, only 38% of the American people wanted Nixon to remain in office. A majority, 53%, wanted him either to resign or be impeached. A Louis Harris poll, also conducted last week, found that 49% wanted Nixon impeached and removed from office, while 41% did not. In April, Harris showed a 42-42 standoff on that question.

TIME correspondents assessed reaction in various regions:


So strong has been their disillusionment with Nixon that New Englanders were probably less affected by the transcripts than were other Americans. In Massachusetts, bitterness over the closing of military bases and the energy shortages had already eroded much of the 45% of the vote that Nixon received there in 1972. A Boston Globe survey in the solidly Republican towns of Needham and Reading, which Nixon carried by 57 to 43 in 1972, found a remarkable 67% of the voters in favor of resignation or impeachment. Said Pollster Tubby Harrison: "It's really astounding. Only 30% want him to stay in office, and this is real Nixon territory."

In Maine, the jointly owned Portland Express and Press Herald swiveled around 180° from their previous support and called for impeachment. The small Central Maine Morning Sentinel in Waterville declared it was impossible to read the transcripts "without feeling like an embarrassed and unwitting voyeur."

Some New Englanders, of course, spoke up for the President. Bruce Callahan, an engineer from Lee, Mass., declared: "Nixon acted wisely in keeping the lid on the whole thing. If he had shot off his mouth when he first learned of it, he might have impaired the cases of a lot of people who were going to stand trial." But negative sentiment was stronger. Said Morgan James, a telephone worker in Boston: "If he was concerned with the country, he would do what Willy Brandt did in Germany and resign for the good of the U.S."


Here, as elsewhere, a majority believes the President is guilty, perhaps impeachably so. But a battered, steadfast minority refuses to budge from its conviction that Nixon has done nothing wrong, and each side reads the tapes to buttress its view. Typical of the supporters is Bernard Shanley, a G.O.P. national committeeman from New Jersey. Said he: "The tapes have proved Nixon is not responsible for a crime, and no matter what people think of the transcripts, they do not have evidence that he committed a crime." Some Nixon supporters, Republicans, independents and even Democrats, fear the possibly cataclysmic effect of an impeachment trial. Attorney Samuel Fallk, of Scranton, Pa., was never "a Nixon fan," but he wants the President to stay in office because, in the words of Brutus after Caesar's death: "Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more."

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