The Carter administration's own soundings show that President Carter's outspokenness on human rights, as well as his symbolic action to get closer to the public, have been big popularity plusses for him, a White House aide said yesterday.
Mark Siegel, deputy assistant to the President for policy analysis, said Carter's much-discussed symbolic acts, such as his radio call-in show and his twon meeting in Clinton, Mass., are really substantive because they restore a trust and faith in government that was eroded by Vietnam and Watergate.
That trust and faith had to be restored before Carter could expect people to make the sacrifices and the changes in lifestyle that some of his programs will require, Siegel said.
Readings taken by private pollster Pat Caddell for Carter show the President's popularity rating was 10 percentage points higher two weeks ago than it was when he first took office, Siegel said.
That is twice the increase found by the Gallup Poll, which gave Carter a 66 per cent approval rating Feb. 4-7, and a 71 per cent approval Feb. 18-21.
"The people are reacting positively to the symbolism and also to the substance," Siegel said.
Siegel defined his job as "trying to isolate and analyze the political implications and effects" of various administration policy options on different constituent groups, including those that make up Carter's political base, and those that form the Democratic Party coalition.
Siegal said his analyses show that Carter's actions as President have solidified his support among lower income and blue-collar Americans. His human rights proclamations have brought heavily favorable reactions from Jews in particular, Siegel said, which "is very important because they are concentrated in a number of key states."
Black support for the President has held at about 90 per cent, he said. He said it would be hard to tell what women, or labor, though of Carter because those groups are not as politically cohesive.
Other issues touched on by Siegel included:
The role of Carter's top aide, Hamilton Jordan: "He's like the Jesuit definition of God, all places, no place." Jordan is one of the aides who "always" gets to see policy memoranda before they go to Carter.
Carter's feelings about human rights: "No one on Carter's staff instructs him on his own morality."
The hiring by federal agencies of former Carter campaign and transition team staffers: "There have been some problem agencies, but the State Department is not one of them."