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And then there were two.

That most U.S. CEOs support George Bush and believe he will be re-elected president will not shock anyone. What's surprising is that only 3 percent prefer Clinton and only 5 percent think the Arkansas governor will be elected in November. Ross Perot, on the other hand, is preferred by almost a third of top business chiefs, and, before he suddenly withdrew his non-candidacy, 18 percent thought he would get to the White House.

Chief Executive asked readers to rank seven political contenders according to capabilities and perceived characteristics. The poll is similar to those used to gauge CEO sentiment in each of the national elections since 1980. The nationwide survey of readers tallied 2,722 CEOs and presidents. About 42 percent represent chiefs of small firms below $50 million in sales or assets; 42 percent in midsize companies between $50 and $500 million; with the rest representing large companies over $500 million (including 3 percent representing corporations over $3 billion.) The larger the company the more likely the CEO favors Bush. Perot is strongest relatively among small company chiefs, but even with this group Bush commands 47 points to Perot's 37.

Clinton, to put it charitably, hasn't caught the imagination of the business community. CEOs don't think him particularly honest, capable or strong, and he leads the pack as the most (ouch!) unscrupulous. It's worth noting that in 1988 CEOs gave Michael Dukakis higher ratings relative to the 1988 contenders in each of these areas. Even those who rate taxation for fairness (as opposed to taxation for growth), the environment, or health care as top issues tend to disfavor Clinton by wide margins. (Among the 2 percent who think the environment is the most critical national priority, for example, Perot leads Bush, but both cream Clinton as a presidential preference.)

Tsongas, on the other hand, appears to be the CEOs' favorite Democrat, scoring best among his party members as honest and likable. Ross Perot is much preferred over Clinton but not over Bush, despite readers' perception--by two to one--that Perot best understands the problems of business and is strong in character. (Bush dominated these categories in CE's 1988 poll.) Jerry Brown captures top honors as the most naive contender (followed by Perot), a distinction held by Jesse Jackson in 1988, Gary Hart in 1984 and Ted Kennedy in 1980. (Way to go, Jerry!)

CEOs again rank the budget deficit and education as the most critical domestic issues facing the country. The most critical international issues are seen to be U.S. indebtedness and aid to Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Bush is still viewed as the foreign policy champ as he widened his score from the 1988 poll.

There are few differences in presidential preferences according to issues except that Perot did slightly better with corporate chiefs among those who placed education at the top of national priorities.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:View from the Top; CEOs preferred candidates for US presidency
Publication:Chief Executive (U.S.)
Date:Sep 1, 1992
Words:481
Previous Article:Forging a market-based environmental policy.
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