Edwards’ support slips in latest Elon University Poll

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Less than half of North Carolinians approve of the job U.S. Senator John Edwards is doing on Capitol Hill, while a majority of citizens are paying little attention to the upcoming Senate race to replace Jesse Helms.

Those are among the findings of a new Elon University Poll, conducted April 15-18 by the Elon Institute for Politics and Public Affairs. The poll sampled the opinions of 648 adults in the state and has a margin of error of ± 3.9 percent.

Only 43 percent of North Carolinians approve of the job Edwards is doing in the Senate, down significantly from a February Elon Poll which measured his approval rating at 53 percent, and an October Elon Poll which gave him a 57 percent approval rating. Enthusiasm was also low for a potential White House bid by Edwards, with just 41 percent of citizens indicating their support.

“The lack of support Edwards is receiving in his home state for a possible presidential nomination is somewhat surprising,” says Sharon Spray, assistant professor of political science and director of the Elon University Poll. “But Edwards has not received a lot of publicity at home for his accomplishments in Washington. He has received a great deal of attention recently indicating he spends a lot of time outside Washington. People may think that he is not spending enough time doing what they expect him to do as a senator,” says Spray.

The poll also found many North Carolinians are paying little or no attention to the race to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Jesse Helms. Sixty-one percent are not following the race closely six weeks after the end of the official filing period.

“Although a number of campaigns have recently published polling data indicating who they believe is leading the race for the U.S. Senate seat, the majority of North Carolinians are simply not following the race closely enough for anyone to reliably predict the outcome of the primary or general election,” says Spray. “There is still considerable potential for people to shift their preferences before either election.”

On state issues, the poll found:

  • 68 percent of citizens favor a state lottery, up from 61 percent in a February Elon Poll.
  • 27 percent of North Carolinians have purchased a lottery ticket in 2002. Of those, 63 percent bought a ticket in Virginia.
  • If North Carolina created a lottery, 61 percent would want the profits spent on education. Another 10 percent said health care should receive lottery proceeds.
  • In spite of the state’s budget difficulties, Governor Mike Easley’s approval rating of 49 percent is down only slightly from 53 percent in March.

This poll is the twelfth 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.