Bush, Kerry neck and neck; same-sex marriage a small factor

BY admin

March 17 2004 12:00 AM ET

George Bush and John Kerry enter the general election at a time of growing concern among Americans that the nation is veering in the wrong direction, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. Bush faces unrest over his management of the economy, while the public has doubts about Kerry's political convictions. The two men are effectively tied, with 46% of voters saying they support Bush and 43% backing Kerry.

One question asked in the survey dealt with the issue of same-sex marriage in the presidential campaign. The poll reflected the clear unease among Americans over marriages, or civil unions, for same-sex couples. But nearly two thirds of respondents said they believed the issue did not merit being part of a presidential campaign. "It seems like a waste of time and energy when we should be thinking more about figuring out how we're going to have Social Security," said Ronald Sharp, 44, a Republican and retired mental health care aide from Detroit who took part in the survey.

After a month in which Bush called for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, he is viewed in sharply ideological terms, with more than 50% of voters describing him as conservative, as high as it has been during his presidency. The finding suggests the risks Bush faces as he tries to build up his standing with conservative members of his party and the challenge he faces as he seeks to expand his support. By 59% to 35%, respondents said they supported a constitutional amendment that would "allow marriage only between a man and a woman." But 56% said that they did not view the issue as important enough to merit changing the nation's constitution. Twenty-two percent of respondents said they support allowing gays and lesbian to marry, while another 33% said they support permitting gay couples to form civil unions.

In related news, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Democratic presidential hopeful the Reverend Al Sharpton joined the "anybody but Bush" movement on Monday when he dropped out of the race and threw his support behind Kerry. "It would be bad strategically and bad for the country to engage in continuing to attack or in any way differentiate with [Kerry] during the primaries remaining," Sharpton said. "It would only help George Bush." Sharpton, who made his announcement after a meeting with the Massachusetts senator, said he intends to continue promoting his "urban agenda" through the remaining primaries and the national convention.

In a debate in Los Angeles before the March 2 Super Tuesday primaries, Sharpton criticized the president's support for the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. "The issue is not who you go to bed with," Sharpton said. "The issue is whether either of you have a job when you get up in the morning."

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