MIAMI -- Vice President Bush apparently has survived a spirited attempt by former television evangelist Pat Robertson to undermine Bush's support among Cuban Americans and has virtually locked up that important voting group in Tuesday's Florida primary, according to a poll of Hispanic voters.
Meanwhile, Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, who speaks fluent Spanish, and Jesse L. Jackson are in a battle for support of Mexican-American voters in Texas, a critical group for both in the Democratic primary there, the poll found.
Dukakis held a 2-to-1 lead over Jackson and the rest of the Democratic field among 437 Texas Hispanic Americans polled. But almost one-third of those polled said they were undecided, and Jackson appeared positioned to win as much as one-fourth of the state's Hispanic vote.
The poll was commissioned by two sister Spanish-language televison stations, WLTV-TV in Miami and KWEX-TV in San Antonio, to measure the Hispanic vote in the two largest states holding primaries on "Super Tuesday." It was conducted by Bendixen and Law, a political consulting and polling firm with extensive experience in surveying Spanish-speaking voters.
Hispanics are critical voting groups in both states. Cuban Americans, who are more conservative than most other Hispanics, comprise about 10 percent of GOP primary voters in Florida and are expected to influence the outcome in four Miami-area congressional districts. Mexican Americans comprise between 20 percent and 25 percent of the Democratic vote in Texas.
Bush has inherited President Reagan's overwhelming popularity among Cuban Americans and leads his closest GOP rival, Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) by a 16-to-1 ratio among 400 Florida Hispanics surveyed last week.
In recent months, Robertson has told Cuban Americans that he would support their "right to belligerency" against Cuban President Fidel Castro, and he has claimed repeatedly that Soviet nuclear missiles are in Cuba.
But he has apparently run into a brick wall of support for Bush, whose son, Florida Commerce Secretary Jeb Bush, is exceedingly popular among Cuban Americans. The younger Bush, married to a Mexican American, is a former chairman of the Dade County Republican Party and speaks fluent Spanish.
Bush was the choice of 81 percent of those polled. Dole was favored by 5 percent, Robertson 3 percent and Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) 2 percent. Ninety-one percent of those polled had a favorable opinion of Bush, 34 percent of Dole, 20 percent of Robertson and 15 percent of Kemp.
"If there was a conservative group beyond the evangelical Christians that Pat Robertson could hope to expand his base into, it should be Cuban Americans, but he's failed miserably," pollster Sergio Bendixen said.
"I think Cuban Americans aren't willing to mix politics and religion, plus the fact that Ronald Reagan is a political god among Cuban Americans. They regard Bush as the heir to the Reagan legacy," he said.
In Texas, Dukakis was favored by 28 percent of those polled, Jackson 14 percent, former Colorado senator Gary Hart 12 percent, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) 7 percent, Sen. Albert Gore Jr. (D-Tenn.) 5 percent, Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) 2 percent and others one percent. Thirty-one percent were undecided.
Bendixen said he expects support for Hart to drop off by Tuesday, while support for Jackson increases.
Jackson was viewed most favorably among undecided voters. Dukakis' greatest strength came in San Antonio and the Rio Grande River Valley, where he is supported by many Hispanic political leaders.
The margin of error of the poll in both states was 4 percent. It was conducted Feb. 19-26 in Florida and Feb. 27-29 in Texas.