Change, but Not Too Much Change

WE know that, on Nov. 3, Americans elected Democrat Bill Clinton their 42nd president and kept the partisan balance relatively unchanged in Congress. But what more did they signal about their political outlook and expectations? Data from the massive national and state surveys taken on election day by Voter Research and Surveys (VRS), the consortium formed by CBS, ABC, NBC, and CNN, help us explore that question.

Sixty-two percent of whose who went to the polls voted either for Mr. Clinton or independent candidate Ross Perot - against the continued tenure in office of George Bush. In a sense, that's obviously a call for change.

But the scope of desired change was limited - extending really only to "Do something to get the economy moving!" The VRS surveys show this in a number of ways.

For example, Mr. Perot's backers were distressed about the performance of the economy, but in their general view of the government's role they closely resembled Bush supporters. On the other hand, Perot voters weren't as occupied with social issues as Bush backers.

In general, 1992 was a quiet election in terms of underlying party alignment. While the Democrats did better in presidential balloting relative to the Republicans than they had in other recent elections, social-group alignments held steady. For example, gender was again an important element, with an especially large gender gap between highly educated men and women.

African-Americans were again the Democrats' best group, as they have been since 1964. On the Republican side, the realignment of white southerners - which has been proceeding over the last three decades or so - was completed in 1992. This year they were the Republican's best group.

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