WHERE THE CANDIDATES STAND ON SOCIAL ISSUES. The political battle for America's middle class is being waged in large measure over such concerns as child care, equity for women, abortion, and civil rights. Last in a series on the issues of '88. BUSH

GEORGE BUSH says his social policies are shaped from an understanding of mainstream America - an America, he says, with which his opponent is out of touch. A Bush administration will be ``sensitive to all,'' the vice-president claims, because he shares the ``values, hope, and aspirations'' of average Americans. Mr. Bush has made the following proposals on key social issues:

Child care. Bush has proposed a day-care plan aimed, he says, at helping parents rather than creating a bloated bureaucracy. He places the responsibility for meeting day-care needs on states and the private sector, but would offer tax relief to families.

Specifically, he advocates a $2.2 billion plan of refundable tax credits (of up to $1,000 per child under the age of four) for child care. He also proposes that the existing dependent-care tax credit be refundable, extending its benefits to low-income people. He would expand the federal Head Start (preschool) program.

Civil rights. Most civil rights activists are highly critical of the Reagan administration. They point to its general opposition to affirmative action plans (which many conservatives call ``reverse discrimination''), its support of tax deductions for private schools that discriminate, and its fight against expansion of civil rights laws after the Supreme Court's Grove City College ruling.

But Norman Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, thinks Bush is a little more pro-civil rights than President Reagan, based on the vice-president's ``body language'' when he publicly supported Mr. Reagan's veto of the Civil Rights Restoration Act. (That act, which was passed over the President's veto, reversed the Supreme Court's Grove City decision). Bush ``was holding his nose. He was greatly discomfited by the Reagan veto,'' Dr. Ornstein says.

The Bush campaign says there were 55 criminal civil rights prosecutions in the first six years of the Reagan administration, compared with 22 cases under the Carter administration. Further, it cites 58 such prosecutions in 1987, along with 15 racial violence cases, and a record 29 employment discrimination cases.

Women's issues. Bush says he is committed to equal rights for women. He does not support the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, though, asserting the current antidiscrimination laws afford adequate remedies.

Bush does back a constitutional amendment to reverse the high court's 1973 decision legalizing abortion. He supports abortion only in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother's life is at risk.

With regard to women in the work force, Bush says, ``We've had enough excuses. It's time we had equal pay for equal work.'' He does not support a federal mandate for a ``comparable worth'' pay scale, however.

AIDS. The vice-president backs the current expenditure of $1 billion for education and research on the disease, and he projects that the nation may have to spend more. He favors routine, random testing at drug-abuse clinics, prisons, and marriage-license bureaus.

School prayer. Bush believes that schools should help teach values, and he favors prayer in public schools.

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