North Carolinians becoming impatient with United Nations, Elon University Poll finds

Half of North Carolinians favor U.S. military in Iraq without the backing of the United Nations Security Council, while a majority of residents favor a state lottery and an increase in the cigarette tax.

Those are among the findings of a new Elon University Poll, conducted March 10-13 by the Elon Institute for Politics and Public Affairs. The poll sampled the opinions of 713 adults in the state and has a margin of error of ± 3.7 percent.

Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed indicated they support military force to remove Saddam Hussein, consistent with a February 2003 Elon University Poll. Fifty-one percent said they would support an attack that does not have the backing of the U.N. Security Council, up from 42 percent last month.

“A swing in public opinion of this magnitude in such a short period of time suggests that North Carolinians are getting weary of the diplomatic maneuvering that is occurring at the United Nations and elsewhere,” said Tim Vercellotti, associate director of the Elon University Poll.

Forty-three percent said weapons inspections in Iraq should last no longer than another week before the United States decides to take military action, and 61 percent said the Bush administration has made a convincing case for using military force in Iraq. “It appears that North Carolinians are bracing for war with Iraq,” Vercellotti said. The following chart illustrates citizen opinion on the time frame for inspections:

The poll also asked citizens about issues related to a state lottery and the state budget. Sixty-seven percent support a state lottery, nearly identical to 64 percent in a November 2002 Elon University Poll. Eighty-seven percent said state lawmakers should allow citizens to vote on a lottery, and 36 percent said they had purchased a lottery ticket in another state in the last 12 months.

“Clearly, the voters support Governor Mike Easley’s effort to create a lottery in North Carolina,” said Sharon Spray, director of the Elon University Poll. “But up to this point, legislators have not suffered at the polls for their opposition to a lottery. Because of this, it is unlikely that we will see the legislature move on this proposal even with the current state budget crisis.”

Fifty-seven percent of citizens said they approve or strongly approve of an increase in the cigarette tax as a way to balance the state budget. Forty percent of those who endorsed an increase supported a hike of 10 cents per pack, an increase far below those of 35 cents and 70 cents that were recently proposed in bills introduced in the N.C. General Assembly.

Governor Easley’s proposal to delay a half-cent reduction in the state sales tax for two years as a way to balance the budget was supported by 61 percent of citizens. Twenty-seven percent opposed a delay in the reduction.

The poll found citizens are divided on delaying a tax cut for the wealthiest North Carolinians. Forty-six percent of those who answered supported or strongly supported delaying a cut in state income taxes for people in the top tax bracket for two years, while 44 percent opposed or strongly opposed such a delay.

The survey also measured name recognition for potential candidates for the U.S. Senate seat now held by John Edwards. Edwards, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2004 and has not indicated whether he will also run for re-election to his Senate seat next year, was recognized by 81.2 percent of those surveyed.

Among potential Democratic candidates for the Senate, Erskine Bowles, who lost to Republican Elizabeth Dole in the 2002 Senate race, was recognized by 87 percent of respondents. Fifty-four percent recognized U.S. representative Bob Etheridge’s name.

On the Republican side, U.S. representative Richard Burr, who has announced he will seek the Senate seat next year, was recognized by 36 percent of survey respondents.

“The White House has encouraged Burr to run for the Senate in hopes of a repeat of the Republican victory by Elizabeth Dole in 2002,” said Spray. “But Burr clearly enters this race with far less advantage than Dole, who began her campaign in the state with very high name recognition among voters.”

This poll is the seventeenth 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.