Elon Poll shows citizen confidence after attacks

More than 70 percent of North Carolinians are very confident in President Bush’s ability to appropriately respond to the recent terrorist attacks, but they have mixed views about limiting civil liberties to combat terrorism.

Those are among the findings of a new Elon Poll, conducted Oct. 1-4 by the Elon Institute for Politics and Public Affairs. The poll sampled the opinions of 623 adults in the state and has a margin of error of ± 4 percent.

The latest poll shows 74 percent of North Carolinians express confidence in the Bush administration’s ability to develop a response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Other questions about terrorism found:

  • 38 percent of North Carolinians favor military strikes and 43 percent favor the capture and trial of those responsible for last month’s attacks
  • 95 percent of those polled favor full baggage searches for airline travel, but only 51 percent would support a change in laws to make it easier for police officers to obtain warrants to search their homes
  • 41 percent would support increased wire tapping of personal phone calls
  • 77 percent have demonstrated their support and patriotism through the display of flags, red, white and blue ribbons, and symbols on their homes and cars

The poll shows citizen support remains constant for a statewide lottery. Sixty-three percent indicated that they support a lottery, a figure almost identical to Elon Polls conducted in February (61 percent), March (60 percent) and April (62 percent). An overwhelming 87 percent said they would like the state legislature to step aside and allow a statewide referendum on the issue.

“Citizens remain far more supportive of a statewide lottery than elected officials in the state,” says Sharon Spray, assistant professor of political science and director of the Elon Poll. “The disconnect between legislators and citizens on this issue is not important enough for this to become a campaign issue down the road, but legislators are clearly not responding to public support for a lottery.”

The poll also examined the upcoming race to fill the U.S. Senate seat that will open following Jesse Helms’ retirement, with citizens being asked to give their opinion of the candidates they recognized. Fifty-eight percent had a favorable opinion of Elizabeth Dole, followed by 50 percent for former governor Jim Hunt and 20 percent for Richard Vinroot, the Republican candidate for governor in 2000. Several potential candidates had a low recognition rating, including Elaine Marshall (28 percent), Dan Blue (27 percent) and Ray Warren (12 percent).

“It is still far too early to make any predictions about the outcome of the race for Jesse Helms’ Senate seat, but clearly it will be an interesting race,” says Spray. “Many of the candidates have a lot of work ahead of them to build name recognition. Elizabeth Dole currently stands out as the frontrunner with the best name recognition and opinion rating of any of the current and potential candidates.”

On other state issues:

  • 44 percent of citizens are in favor of toll roads in the state, up from just 28 percent in April
  • 38 percent of citizens believe the state economy will decline before the end of the year, while only 21 percent thought it would improve the economy
  • Opinion about the economy has not changed citizens’ decisions about making major purchases. Seventy-five percent said they had not delayed making such a purchase because of the economy.

This poll is the seventh 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 27 telephone polling stations.