George Bush brings strength to the Republican ticket where Ronald Reagan is potentially weakest, according to polling data provided Reagan before he made his vice presidential selection.
Bush is particularly well-regarded by voters with post-graduate educations and does well with voters inclined to vote for independent candidate John B. Anderson. These are subgroups unfavorable to Reagan. Bush also runs strongly with conservative ticket-splitters, a target group of voters for the Reagan presidential campaign.
These findings emerged from survey data compiled for Reagan by his pollester-strategist, Richard B. Wirthlin. The poll findings were made available to The Washington Post after Reagan announced that he had chosen Bush as his running mate.
Wirthlin and his California-based polling organization, Decision Making Information, surveyed 1,515 voters in 48 states between May 28 and June 10.
These were some of the highlights of the survey:
Former President Ford, whom Reagan tried unsuccessfully to lure onto the ticket, met the characteristics that a large majority of voters said they wanted in a vice president. These included "aggressiveness," "independence" and the capacity to take over as president.
Bush was a clear second to Ford, as he was at the Republican national convention, and he is widely known among voters. Only four Republicans besides Reagan have high national name recognition-Ford, 96 percent; John Connally, 87; Bush, 84; and Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr., 60. The other serious contenders on the list of 21 Republicans included in the survey were relative unknowns. Twelve percent of the voters could identify rep. Jack F. Kemp of New York and former secretary of defense Donald H. Rumsfeld. Nine percent knew the name of Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar. Only 6 percent could identify Nevada Sen. Paul Laxalt, the Reagan chairman, and Michigan Rep. Guy A. Vander Jagt, the convention keynoter.
When voters were asked an open-ended question -- "Whom would you like to see Ronald Reagan choose as his running mate?" -- Bush led the list. He was first choice with 20 percent of the voters, compared to 14 percent for Baker and 13 percent for Ford. Anderson had 4 percent, Kemp and Sen. Barry Goldwater 2 percent each. No other person was chosen by more than 1 percent.
A surprisingly large number of voters acknowledged that their choice in the presidential election might be affected favorably by a vice presidential candidate from their region. This was especially true in the three regions where Bush runs strongly. Thirty-one of the voters in New England and in the South and 25 percent of the voters in the Middle Atlantic states said that a regional running mate would influence their choice.
Wirthlin ranked the prospective vice presidential candidates in 120 subgroups of voters. Bush's strengths were particularly impressive when matched with Reagan's, who runs strongly among low-income and less-educated voters.
Bush also does well with high-church Protestants and relatively well with Catholic voters, another target of the Reagan campaign.
Wirthlin said that Bush matched up well on the criteria Reagan had laid down for a vice president: an ability to help the ticket and to take over as president if necessary. Reagan and his staff also wanted an experienced campaigner, which most of all applied to Bush, Reagan's most stubborn challenger in the primaries.
Bush also was perceived as a candidate who would bring strength in three key states -- Michigan, Illinois and Pennsylvania -- all of which have moderate governors who favor Bush. In the primaries, Bush carried Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Agreeing with these findings, Laxalt said today: "When you look at the field of possibilities, Bush clearly brings to the ticket the ingredients we need most."