Dole enjoys early edge in U.S. Senate race

Elizabeth Dole retains strong support over all Democratic challengers for next year’s U.S. Senate race in North Carolina, with a 4-1 lead over her nearest challenger, Erskine Bowles.

Those are among the findings of a new Elon University Poll, conducted Dec. 3-6 by the Elon Institute for Politics and Public Affairs. The poll sampled the opinions of 611 adults in the state and has a margin of error of ± 4 percent.

Registered voters were asked to choose between Dole and several Democratic challengers in potential match-ups for the seat which will be vacated by Jesse Helms’ retirement. In all three scenarios, Dole enjoyed a sizable percentage lead:

Among registered Republicans, 62 percent pledged their support to Dole while 31 percent of Republicans remain undecided. No other declared Republican candidate received more than 2 percent support.

No candidate enjoys strong name recognition in the Democratic primary, where 60 percent of registered Democrats remain undecided. Only 13 percent of respondents indicated they would vote for Bowles, 7 percent supported Marshall and 5 percent would vote for Blue.

“There is still no one in the field of candidates who poses a serious threat to Elizabeth Dole’s bid to win the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat,” says Sharon Spray, assistant professor of political science and director of the Elon University Poll. “The Democratic primary race will likely be far more interesting. Bowles still has weak name recognition in the state and more than half the Democratic voters are undecided.”

The poll also asked citizens which issues were most important for candidates to address in the campaign. The following chart illustrates the response:

“An October Elon University Poll indicated that 69 percent of the voters want the newly elected senator from our state to focus on state issues,” says Spray. “Therefore, it is not surprising that education and environment are ranked high among very important campaign issues.”

On other issues, the poll found:

  • 57 percent favor human cloning research if it is used for medical purposes that will not produce a human life. 34 percent believe it should be outlawed altogether, while only 5 percent believe it should be unrestricted
  • 44 percent would support a tax increase to support Governor Easley’s proposed $1.9 million initiative to fund jobs, equipment and other needs to address terrorist threats in the state, while 21 percent gave conditional support. 31 percent would not support a tax increase for this purpose
  • 90 percent approve or strongly approve of the Bush administration’s handling of the war in Afghanistan.

This poll is the ninth conducted by the Elon Institute for Politics and Public Affairs since it was established in September 2000. The non-partisan Elon University 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 University 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.