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LAST UPDATE: Tuesday February 10, 2015 01:10PM EST
- July 16, 1984
- Vol. 22
- No. 3
America Sends a Message
As the Political Conventions Approach, Our Readers Reveal Their Feelings About Their Leaders, American Life...and Celebs
Good news for the Democrats: 31% of our readers say they are Democrats, while 28% call themselves independents and only 20% see themselves as Republicans. The much-ballyhooed gender gap seems to be in evidence here: 35% of women consider themselves Democrats while only 25% of men do.
Are you extremely interested in the upcoming presidential election? Fairly interested? Couldn't care less?
Voting, a fall pastime that seemed to be going the way of the hayride, may make a comeback this year. Forty-three percent of our readers say they are extremely interested in the presidential election; another 44% are fairly interested.
For whom would you vote in the following presidential matchups: Reagan vs. Mondale...Hart...Jackson...Kennedy?
Reagan wins each of these matchups, beating Mondale by 53% to 39%, Hart and Kennedy 52-41 and Jackson 68-23. Cheer up, Democrats. It's a long time until November.
Which candidates do you trust the most? The least?
Ronald Reagan finishes No. 1 in trust (44% trust him most), but for the first time in three years the incumbent didn't take the "least" honors as well. That dubious distinction went to Jesse Jackson, trusted the least by 31% compared with Reagan's 26%. Mondale is trusted most by just 21%, and Jesse Jackson by only 8%.
Will there be a black President in the next 12 years?
It was close: 52% said no, 45% yes, 3% don't know. A majority of Democrats (51%) and women (51%) expect to see a black person in the White House by 1996. Republicans (63%) and men 63%) do not.
Will there be a female President in the next 12 years?
Women stand less of a chance than blacks, say PEOPLE readers; 58% don't expect to see a woman President that soon; 40% do. Not surprisingly, women say yes (44%) more often than men (34%). Interestingly, 49% of readers over the age of 55 expect a woman President by 1996, compared with only 39% of those between 18 and 34.
Should the Democrats select a woman vice-presidential candidate this year?
Listen, Fritz: A clear majority (59%) of our readers answered yes, while only 34% said no. Women (64%) support the idea more strongly than men (50%), and our women are also more likely to be registered to vote (81% vs. 77%).
Would it matter to you if a presidential candidate were unmarried?
Jerry Brown, take heart: 90% say they don't care.
Would it matter to you if a candidate were divorced?
Only 20 years after divorce scuttled Nelson Rockefeller's presidential bid, 83% of our readers say it doesn't make a difference. Has Ronald Reagan caused—or just benefited from—the change of heart?
Compared with 10 years ago, are you more politically liberal? More conservative? About the same?
Most of you (52%) have remained at the same spot on the political spectrum, while 23% became more liberal and 24% more conservative. The gender gap is evident again: Women were more likely to have become more liberal, while men were likely to have become more conservative. An interesting aside: Among those who changed, the youngest (18 to 24) and oldest (55 plus) groups moved left while those 25 to 34 and the middle-aged (45-54) moved right.
Whom do you consider the smarter President—Reagan or Carter? Reagan or Nixon?
Believe it or not, the President who has had to endure more intellectual put-downs than anyone since Truman beats them both. Reagan topped Carter 65% to 31% and beat Nixon 61-34. Democrats are less impressed with Reagan's IQ than Republicans. They think Carter is smarter. Interestingly, Democrats also think Nixon is smarter than Republicans do.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how seriously would you take the endorsement of a candidate by celebrities?
Not very. Only the still avuncular, nonpartisan Walter Cronkite, with an average score of 5.93, finished over the halfway point. Second was conservative comedian Bob Hope, with 4.35. Richard Nixon (4.13) edged Phil Donahue (3.97) for third. Liberal activists did not fare well: Jane Fonda scored only 3.35, and Robert Redford only 3.28. CBS newscaster and former Nixon aide Diane Sawyer scored 3.17, and Michael Jackson—who doesn't talk about anything, much less politics—got 2.45. Bringing up the rear (2.32) was Debra Winger. Is that bad news for her boyfriend, Nebraska Gov. Robert Kerrey?
Who was the last great President?
John F. Kennedy, say 48% of our readers. A distant second was Truman (10%). Third was FDR, with 9%. The first Republican finisher was Nixon (5%), followed closely by Reagan (4%). Carter, Ford and Abraham Lincoln tied for fifth, with 3% each. A couple of curious wrinkles: Nixon placed second with the youngest respondents; Truman beat Nixon even among Republicans.
Who is the most overrated living American politician?
Oh, you wild, fickle, unpredictable PEOPLE readers. You picked him as most trusted, you picked him to beat his rivals, and now you pick Ronald Reagan as the most overrated too. Among the also-rans: Nixon, Kennedy, Carter, Mondale and Tip O'Neill.
What is the single most important problem facing the U.S. today?
One in four readers named unemployment. Crime came in second (14%), followed by the arms race (12%), the high cost of living and the federal deficit (11%). Foreign policy issues finished far down the list: The Middle East received 9% of the votes, as did relations with Russia. The situation in Central America was picked by only 3%.
Is U.S. foreign policy too forceful, too soft or about right?
Another three-way split here: 37% feel our policy is too soft, 35% feel it is about right, and 25% feel it is too forceful. The gender gap appears again: More men than women think foreign policy is too soft.
Is it ever okay for the CIA to help overthrow another country's government?
A majority of our readers (53%) believe that it is sometimes okay to topple an unfriendly government, while 34% believe that it is never permissible to do it and 11% think it is always permissible.
Are you in favor of sending U.S. troops to Central America?
No, say 8 out of 10 readers. Opposition is strongest among Democrats (84%), women (83%) and those who are over 55 (83%). Republicans (64%) also oppose intervention but not as much.
Do you feel patriotic stirrings when The Star-Spangled Banner is played?
A huge majority (87%) get misty-eyed at the national anthem, while 12% stand unmoved. Patriotic feelings apparently increase with age, but interestingly the Midwest heartland of the country feels less stirrings than other regions.
Are children receiving a better education now than 20 years ago? Worse?
Our schools are flunking, say readers: 43% believe schools are worse, 22% feel they are about the same and 34% think they are improving. The group with the most firsthand knowledge of today's public schools—the 18-to 24-year-olds—are the most likely to cite improvement.
Do you favor the death penalty for premeditated murder?
Fry 'em! say three out of four readers. Men (83%), married people (81%) and Republicans (80%) most strongly favor capital punishment.
Do you regularly pray at home?
Seven out of 10 readers do. Women (79%) are more likely to pray than men (58%); marrieds (74%) are more likely than singles (68%). However, Republicans (76%) and Democrats (75%) are about even.
Do you favor organized, spoken prayer in public schools?
Two-thirds of our readers favor such prayer, a slightly smaller figure than the 71% who pray at home.
In the last 10 years has the influence of religion on you increased, decreased or remained the same?
Hallelujah! For 45% of our readers, religious influence has increased. Only 13% say it has decreased. More than half (54%) had attended religious services in the past week.
Do day-care centers and baby-sitters provide a safe and nurturing environment for kids of working mothers?
Three out of four of our readers endorsed such care. Men and women agreed. Day care's strongest proponents were under-25s (80%), singles (78%) and Westerners (83%).
Do you think high school students should be disciplined more? Less? The same?
Bring back the ruler on the knuckles, say more than three-quarters of our readers. This opinion increases as respondents age beyond their high school years, and it is strongest in what is supposed to be a bastion of liberalism—the Northeast.
What is the ideal number of children for a family?
Stop at two, say half of our readers. Another 30%) see three as the ideal number, while 10% prefer four. Surprisingly only 3% advocate having one child. And 1% say the ideal number is zero.
If scientists could create a machine as smart as a human being, should we make it our slave or set it free?
Seven out of 10 PEOPLE readers want a little R2D2 as their personal slave, while 23% are inclined to tell Pharaoh, "Let my robots go." The tendency toward slavery is greatest among men (73%), Westerners (77%) and the married (71%).
Would you think less of a pregnant woman if she were not married?
Ingrid Bergman was born too soon: 84% of you say that it makes no difference. That's good news for new parents Jerry Hall and Mick Jagger—not to mention Nastassja Kinski. Men (18%) are more likely than women (12%) to look askance at an unwed mother.
Do you think your bank will fail in your lifetime?
Despite the world debt crisis, 82% of PEOPLE readers are willing to bank on their bank.
Which is worse for kids to see in the movies—graphic sex or graphic violence?
Nearly two-thirds of our readers thought that graphic violence was worse. Generally the older the respondent, the more likely he was to believe cinematic sex more harmful than onscreen violence.
Is Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom too violent for kids?
About 17% of readers polled had seen Indiana Jones. Slightly over half of those thought that it was nor too violent for children.
Elizabeth Taylor has been married seven times. For you, what number of marriages is too many?
Two is too many for nearly half of our readers (47%). Three is too many for 26%. A tolerant 6% feel any number of marriages is hunky-dory, while 9% feel that even one "I do" is one too many.
What percentage of married men do you think have had an affair? What percentage of married women?
PEOPLE readers believe that half of married men and 40% of married women have been unfaithful. Midwesterners gave the lowest percentages for both sexes; Westerners gave the highest.
Should divorce laws be made tougher, easier or kept the same?
Over half of our readers (54%) feel that divorce laws are just about right the way they are now. Of those desiring change, 32% would make it tougher to untie the knot, while only 13% would make it easier. Women are more interested in making divorces harder, while more men than women would like to make them easier.
Will the Soviet withdrawal from the Olympics affect your viewing of the Games?
No, say an overwhelming 85%. Ten percent predict that they'll watch less, and a Russophobic 5% admit they'll watch more now that Ivan ain't around.
Should the Olympics be open to both professional and amateur athletes?
Avery Brundage smiles in amateur heaven: 53% of you want to continue to bar pros from the Games.
Mariel Hemingway has had implants to enlarge her breasts. Do you approve?
Over half (52%) approved of actress Mariel's restructuring, while 41% disapproved. Men were readier to approve than women, and readers over 54 years old voiced the most disapproval (54%).
Have music videos had a positive effect, a negative effect or no effect on kids?
Four in 10 readers feel that MTV has had little or no effect. Among those who see an effect, 33% believe it is negative and only 24% see it as positive.
Has Boy George been a good influence, a bad influence or no influence at all?
As with MTV, the biggest percentage (41%) sees no real influence by Boy George. Among the others, the negatives outweighed the positives, 32% to 19%. Men (37%) are more likely than women (30%) to see a negative influence. Even with readers most apt to be his fans, those 18 to 24, opinion is evenly split between the good and bad Boy.
Who would you rather have as a houseguest—Boy George, John De Lore an, Joan Rivers or Konstantin Chernenko?
Nearly half of you (49%) picked the acid-tongued Miss Rivers (heck, as Johnny Carson's substitute on The Tonight Show she's nearly a houseguest already). Soviet boss Chernenko (16%) bested gorgeous Boy George (12%), while only 11% preferred the driven De Lorean. When asked who would be the least favorite guest, nearly half (48%) agreed with Princess Margaret: Get that Boy outta here!
Should surgery have been performed on Baby Jane Doe, born deformed and retarded, if it would have lengthened her life but not cured her ailments?
Fifty percent felt the child should not have the surgery while 45% felt she should. Women (51%) were more opposed to the surgery than men (47%). The South was the only region in favor of operating.
If Baby Jane Doe's parents decided against the surgery, should the federal government be allowed to overrule them?
A resounding no to any federal interference. The decision belongs only to the parents, say 80% of our readers.
If a public figure were revealed to be a homosexual, would you admire him less?
Sorry, Anita, a majority of our readers (51%) say they would not admire him less. Women (57%) are considerably more tolerant than men (40%) on the issue of gays in public life.
At what age is it all right for a male to lose his virginity? For a female?
Readers think a man should lose his virginity at 19 but women ought to forbear for another year. Men, those devils, gave consistently lower ages than women.
Which factor is most important in considering anew job—being paid well, finding interesting work or having time with your family?
Our readers choose interesting work (44%) and time with family (36%) over such crass considerations as filthy lucre (19%).
Would you approve of a female college graduate who opts for a career over motherhood?
You've come a long way, baby: The overwhelming majority of those polled approve (85%), while only 7% disapprove, and another 7% say it would depend on circumstances. Approval rates are highest among the young and decline among those over 44.
Should teenage boys aged 14 to 17 be permitted to buy contraceptives without parental permission? What about teenage girls?
Surprisingly, 65% of our readers think boys should be allowed to buy contraceptives, and 62% say the same for teenage girls. Support for this position decreases directly with age.
Is it all right for kids to spend more time on computers than on the more traditional childhood activities?
Drop that joystick and pick up a baseball, say 52% of our readers. A gender gap is seen here too: While 57% of men approve of kids whiling away their hours with computers, only 39% of women do.
Have men become more vain?
Yes, say 69% of our readers. Women were more apt to answer this question in the affirmative than men, who may have been too preoccupied blow-drying their hair to give the query full attention.
Have Americans gotten too soft?
Back to boot camp, quiche eaters. Nearly two-thirds of our readers (63%) think we're going to seed. Men (67%), Republicans (72%) and Westerners (69%) are more inclined to believe that the backbone of America is turning to marshmallow.
What is your favorite way to spend an evening?
Dining out was the No. 1 choice (27%), while reading (17%) edged watching TV (16%) for second place. (Take that, McLuhanites.) Tied at 12% were going to movies, theater or a sporting event.
Have you modified your diet during the past year because of health concerns?
Those life insurance actuarial tables may be right. Women (64%) were much more likely to have changed their eating habits than men (50%). Of those who have done so, 42% lowered their consumption of salt, 39% cut sugar, 35% eschewed caffeine, 32% trimmed bacon and 27% dropped eggs.
Are you satisfied with the quality of life in your community?
Three out of four say they are satisfied with things. And married people (80%) are even happier than singles (70%).
Who do you think is the most overrated person in show business?
Incredibly, 21% of you said "beat it" to Michael Jackson. It wasn't even close. His closest rival was Johnny Carson (6%), followed by Boy George (5%) and Joan Collins (5%). And that is one measure of fame.
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