Elon University Poll finds that prescription drugs for seniors, creation of new jobs are top issues in upcoming Senate election

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The latest Elon University Poll finds prescription drug benefits for senior citizens and the creation of new jobs are the top issues for North Carolinians in the Nov. 5 U.S. Senate election.

Those are among the findings of a new Elon University Poll, conducted Oct. 21-24 by the Elon Institute for Politics and Public Affairs. The poll sampled the opinions of 734 adults in the state and has a margin of error of ± 3.7 percent.

Ninety percent of the registered voters polled said the creation of new jobs was the most important issue in the Senate race, while 82 percent said prescription drug benefits for seniors played an important role in their choice.

The poll also found more than half of registered votes said they saw or heard at least one of the recent debates between Erskine Bowles and Elizabeth Dole. But more than 75 percent of those said the debates did not change their minds about whom to support or their status as undecided voters.

“Given all the jockeying the campaigns engaged in as they set up the debates, the debates did very little to move public opinion,” says Sharon Spray, director of the Elon University Poll.

The issue of Dole’s residency also appears to be important to registered voters. Thirty-five percent said the fact Dole had not lived in North Carolina full-time for the last 40 years was important or very important. Sixty-eight percent of those said the information was a negative factor in their opinion.

Voters were also asked about Bowles’ previous job as White House chief of staff in the Clinton administration. Forty-four percent said the matter was important or very important to them. Of these voters, 45 percent said the issue was a negative factor in their opinion.

“Neither the issue of Dole’s residency nor Bowles’ connection to the Clinton administration will likely have a considerable impact on the election. But the Clinton issue seems to be less of a burden for Bowles than the residency issue for Dole,” says Spray.

The poll also found that overall support for a U.S. military strike against Iraq has dropped from a September 2002 poll. Sixty-two percent said they would support the use of military force to remove Saddam Hussein from office, compared to 70 percent in September. Seventy-four percent of citizens said they would support an attack if the U.S. were able to assemble a coalition of allies, including Arab nations, that supported the attack.

“North Carolinians are less supportive of military action in Iraq than they were a month ago,” says Tim Vercellotti, associate director of the Elon University Poll. “This could reflect a growing awareness of the potential costs, both in human and economic terms. But we need to interpret these results with caution, because they show that opinion about Iraq does not represent a simple ‘either/or’ proposition.”

North Carolina citizens are still wary when it comes to the state’s economy, the poll found. Forty-nine percent of those polled indicate they are planning to spend less money on gifts this holiday season than they did last year. Thirty-four percent said they have postponed making a major purchase because of the economy, up from 20 percent in October 2001.

This poll is the fourteenth 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.