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Politics: Trial Heats for 1972

1 minute read

A Louis Harris poll, taken immediately after mid-term elections and released this week, set up a hypothetical race among Nixon, Maine’s Senator Edmund Muskie and Alabama’s George Wallace. For the first time in the periodic sampling, Nixon ran well behind Muskie—by 40% to 46%. Wallace got 10%. In the previous heat in September, Nixon and Muskie each received 43%. It was also the first time in the poll that Nixon fell below 43.3%, the actual vote that he won in 1968.

The poll showed Nixon defeating Edward Kennedy by 45-39, Hubert Humphrey by 46-39, and New York’s John Lindsay, a possible apostate from the Republicans, by 45-37.

Presidents midway through their first term sometimes find their popularity skidding. Harry Truman entered the White House at F.D.R.’s death with a favorable Gallup poll rating of 87%. By October, 1946, the figure dropped to 32%, but Truman won two years later anyway. Particularly interesting in the current Harris poll, however, is the extent of disaffection with Nixon’s conduct in this fall’s campaigns. Among those polled, 6% rated his campaign performance as “excellent,” 29% as “pretty good,” 25% as “only fair,” and 30% as “poor.”

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