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Globe poll: Delegates, Kerry differ on key issues

They are united in their dislike of President Bush, and overwhelmingly confident that their candidate will defeat him in November.

But delegates to this week's Democratic National Convention differ with the presumptive nominee, John F. Kerry, in some key ways. Unlike Kerry, who opposes same-sex marriage, 62 percent of the delegates say gay and lesbian marriages should be allowed by law. And only 26 percent of delegates share the view expressed by Kerry -- a supporter of abortion rights -- that life begins at conception.

The delegates are also deeply critical of the war in Iraq. Kerry initially supported the war, but now questions the Bush administration's handling of it.

Eighty percent of those polled said they opposed the decision to go to war against Iraq at the time it began, and 95 percent say they now oppose the war. A majority of 63 percent want US troops out within two years; only one in four say the United States should stay as long as it takes to achieve administration goals.

''I don't like Saddam Hussein any better than anybody else, but we are wasting our money to get rid of one dictator, when our needs are in the war on terrorism," said delegate Llewellyn Howell, 63, an emeritus professor of international studies at Thunderbird, The Garvin School of International Management, in Glendale, Ariz. ''This was nothing but a personal diversion that had to do with George Bush personally, his family's linkage with the bin Laden family and the Saudis, and much of Bush's effort here was to rectify his father's reputation.

''If it weren't for oil, this invasion would not have occurred."

The Boston Globe poll of 400 delegates was taken July 16-21 by KRC/Communications Research. It has a margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points.

Among delegates, 28 percent listed the economy as a bigger issue than any other, including the war.

''I live in rural southwest Virginia, and we had a lot of textile jobs here at plants which have all closed," said a delegate, Kay Horney, 56, a retired legislative aide from Speedwell, Va. ''Unemployment is higher than the figures show, because a lot of people have exhausted their benefits. And I think Kerry's got some good ideas on jobs."

The delegates voiced enthusiasm about Kerry and his vice presidential selection, John Edwards, and a whopping 97 percent said they expect Kerry to win the presidential election on Nov. 2. And 70 percent of them voiced an unfavorable view of Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate, a onetime hero to the left who has become an object of criticism among Democrats who say his independent candidacies for president siphon votes from Democratic nominees.

The delegates voiced unwillingness to concede weaknesses in their nominee, although they did not appear to view his home state as much of an asset. Although Republicans have often derided Kerry as a flip-flopper, 53 percent of Democratic delegates polled said his ''consistency on issues" is an asset. And although reporters often describe Kerry as lacking in charisma, 49 percent of the delegates said his personality is another asset.

Kerry would be the first Roman Catholic presidential nominee from a major party since his hero, John F. Kennedy, was nominated in 1960, but his religion is not an issue to delegates; 76 percent said they believe Kerry's Catholicism will not be a factor.

Asked which living Democrat they most admired, a plurality, 31 percent, chose President Bill Clinton, followed by Kerry with 14 percent, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton with 13 percent, and President Jimmy Carter with 11 percent.

''Our country was the best it was in years when Bill Clinton was president," said a delegate, Sara Sweat, 25, a high school history teacher in Ida, Mich. ''The economy was good, foreign relations was good, work was good, and he was a great public speaker and a real people person."

As they prepare for four days of partying, much of it paid for by large corporations, 57 percent of delegates polled said they believe corporations should play less of a role in political conventions. But 80 percent said they viewed conventions as playing an important role in the campaign, and only 14 percent said the events should be scaled back or eliminated.

The delegates appeared to be eager to take on Bush, whom 97 percent viewed unfavorably. Sixty-four percent of those polled said Kerry should directly criticize Bush for his lack of military service and his absence from National Guard training sessions, although 51 percent also said they want Kerry to refrain from negative advertising.

Among those polled, 86 percent of the delegates said the United States is not winning the war on terror, and 51 percent said they felt less safe than they did before Sept. 11. A large majority, 81 percent, said they are very concerned or somewhat concerned about a future terrorist attack, and 47 percent said they are very or somewhat concerned about such an attack during the convention in Boston.

The delegates also expressed strong support for gun control; 89 percent said they support laws to restrict the availability of certain kinds of guns.

The delegates also voiced strong labor support; 42 percent said they or a member of their immediate family are in a union, 87 percent said they are aware that some Boston unions had said they might picket or try to disrupt convention-related parties, and 53 percent said they would have skipped an event picketed by a union.

Despite months of publicity about labor woes, traffic headaches, and security concerns, delegates said they think quite highly of Boston. Forty percent said they have an extremely favorable opinion of the city, while 39 percent said they have a favorable opinion; only 2 percent said they view the city unfavorably.

''I've never been to Boston before, but I've heard good things about it," said a delegate, Megan Simpson, 19, a college student from Dubuque, Iowa. ''I'm just hoping to have a good time and see all the historical sites."

Michael Paulson can be reached at mpaulson@globe.com.

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