President Reagan's pollster, Richard B. Wirthlin, said yesterday that the issues of abortion, busing and school prayer pressed by conservatives are "no-win issues" as far as the administration and the Republican Party are concerned.
Wirthlin told reporters that "it is important in terms of his consistency" that Reagan reiterate his views on those questions. But in terms of the president's and the GOP's overall goals, these issues "diffuse the focus, they complicate the agenda and they dichotomize the support" for Reagan's economic program, whose importance "overrides everything else," Wirthlin said.
The pollster made his comments in the wake of a series of meetings of conservative activists, pressing the president to give stronger leadership and higher priority to social issues than he did in 1981. Senate Majority Leader Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.) said Sunday he would schedule Senate debate on some of those issues early this year, even though it would mean "very tumultuous and disorderly" debate.
Wirthlin said the conservative pressure that pushed these issues onto the agenda "is not helpful to the president." But, for the most part, he gave an upbeat appraisal of Reagan's political position on the basis of a poll completed last week.
He said 69 percent of those interviewed believe it will be another year before the Reagan economic program can be judged a success or failure, and 57 percent believe that more than half the Reagan program still has not passed Congress.