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North Carolinians pessimistic about national economy, support in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, Elon University Poll finds

North Carolinians have gotten more pessimistic about long-term prospects for the national economy, according to the latest Elon University Poll.

Nearly a third of those surveyed, 32 percent, said they expect the national economy to get worse over the next 12 months, compared to 17 percent in September 2004. Twenty-four percent predicted the economy would get better in the next 12 months, compared to 42 percent last September. Nearly 43 percent said the economy would stay the same.

Pessimism about the economy also translated into a lower approval rating for President George W. Bush in the latest poll, conducted April 18-26.

Thirty-six percent strongly approved or approved of the job the president is doing handling the economy, compared to 40 percent last September. The four-point drop was larger than the 3.38 percent margin of sampling error for the April poll. The random telephone sample consisted of 842 adults.

Although survey respondents were concerned about the national economy, those concerns did not extend to their own financial position. Forty-four percent said they expect their personal financial position to improve in the next 12 months, virtually unchanged from the September poll. Forty-six percent predicted their financial situation would stay the same.

"While people are not linking their assessments of the economy to their own pocketbooks, there is some unease out there about the national picture," said Tim Vercellotti, director of the Elon University Poll. "And that unease is translating into somewhat lower poll numbers for President Bush."

While approval of the president's handling of the economy declined, his overall job approval rating remained steady at 45 percent, down only slightly, and within the margin of error, from 46 percent in February.

The president's job approval in terms of his handling of Social Security also was virtually unchanged from February at 28 percent. Fifty percent disapproved of the job the president is doing in that area, up nearly 4 points from February.

Public opinion about the state of Social Security changed only slightly from February, with 12 percent describing the system as being in "a state of crisis." A majority, 54 percent, said the system "has major problems."

"Public opinion seems to be solidifying around the idea that Social Security has serious problems and requires attention," Vercellotti said. "But a large number of North Carolinians do not approve of the way the president is addressing the situation."

The poll also found that nearly half of those surveyed support a state legislative proposal that would allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at state universities and community colleges.

A bill pending in the state House of Representatives would allow illegal immigrants to pay the lower in-state tuition rate provided they had attended a North Carolina high school for four years and graduated, and provided that they seek legal immigration status.

Of those surveyed, 49 percent said they strongly support or support the measure. Forty-one percent were opposed or strongly opposed. Statistically significant differences of opinion also emerged along the lines of gender, age, race, and political ideology. Women were more likely than men to support the idea, as were younger adults ages 18 to 34, nonwhite respondents, and people who described themselves as politically moderate or liberal.

"While the overall numbers may be encouraging for supporters of the bill, there are clear differences of opinion that break along some very interesting lines," Vercellotti said.

This poll is the 30th conducted by the Elon Institute for Politics and Public Affairs since it was established in September 2000. The non-partisan Elon Poll conducts frequent statewide scientific telephone polls on issues of importance to North Carolinians. The poll results are shared with media, citizens and researchers to facilitate representative democracy and public policy making through the better understanding of the opinions and needs of North Carolina citizens.

The Elon Poll is conducted by students who work under the direction of faculty members in the political science department. A computerized polling center located on campus is equipped with sophisticated statistical software and 38 telephone polling stations.