Elon Poll examines terrorism, U.S. Senate race

Less than half of North Carolinians are worried about coming in contact with anthrax, while U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Dole’s residency could become an issue for citizens in the upcoming race. Those are among the findings of a new Elon University Poll, conducted Oct. 22-25 by the Elon Institute for Politics and Public Affairs. The poll sampled the opinions of 491 adults in the state and has a margin of error of ± 4.5 percent.

The latest poll shows only 42 percent of North Carolinians are worried or somewhat worried about the possibility of anthrax exposure. Fifty-six percent of those polled indicated they were not very worried or not worried at all. Other questions about terrorism found:

  • 41 percent indicated they are confident the government can prevent the spread of anthrax, and 32 percent are somewhat confident, while 22 percent expressed a lack of confidence in the government’s ability to prevent further anthrax outbreaks
  • 78 percent are satisfied with the level of government information they are receiving about possible terrorist attacks

The poll also asked several questions related to the race to fill the seat of retiring U.S. Senator Jesse Helms. While Elizabeth Dole enjoys broad recognition among voters, it remains unclear whether the fact that she has not lived in North Carolina for 40 years will have an impact on her candidacy. Although 44 percent of those polled said the residency issue would not play a role in their decision, 31 percent indicated the issue would be very important or important. “Although the Elon University Poll in early October indicated that Dole, by far, had the best name recognition and favorability ratings of any declared candidate, she will have to address the residency issue,” says Sharon Spray, assistant professor of political science and director of the Elon University Poll. “Twenty-one percent of those showing concern over the residency issue were Republicans.”

The poll also revealed that 75 percent of North Carolinians would support limits on the amount of money Senate candidates can spend on their campaigns. “With a Senate in Washington split nearly 50-50, and Dole and Erskine Bowles both in the race, this campaign has the potential to be one of the most expensive Senate races in the state’s history,” says Spray. “Although campaign finance reform has been shelved in Washington, citizens of North Carolina appear concerned about the role of big money in politics.”

Meanwhile, current U.S. Senator John Edwards is getting lukewarm ratings from North Carolina citizens. Only 11 percent strongly approve of the job he is doing, while 46 percent approve, 12 percent disapprove and 31 percent had no opinion on Edwards’ performance.

The poll also asked citizens about the state of North Carolina’s economy:

  • 60 percent believe the state’s economy will stay the same or get better over the next six months
  • 30 percent indicated they were planning to spend less money on gifts for the upcoming holiday season than they spent last year, while 57 percent said they would spend about the same amount

This poll is the eighth 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.