Elon University Poll finds residents believe U.N. should lead rebuilding effort in Iraq

North Carolinians expressed strong opinions on the war in Iraq in the latest Elon University Poll, indicating that it is important for the U.S. to find weapons of mass destruction and that the U.N. Security Council should take the lead in rebuilding the country.

Those are among the findings of the new poll, conducted April 28-May 1 by the Elon Institute for Politics and Public Affairs. The poll sampled the opinions of 551 adults in the state and has a margin of error of 4.2 percent.

Eighty-four percent of those surveyed said it is at least somewhat important for the U.S. to find evidence that the Iraqi regime possessed weapons of mass destruction, while 13 percent said it is not important at all. Eighty percent said it was at least somewhat important for the U.S. to prove it has either captured or killed Saddam Hussein.

“A large number of North Carolinians think the United States still has unfinished business in Iraq,” said Tim Vercellotti, associate director of the poll.

The poll also found 53 percent of residents believe the U.N. Security Council should take the lead in rebuilding Iraq, while 40 percent believe the U.S. should take the primary role.

Residents were largely split on whether the results of war have reduced the risk of future terrorist attacks on the U.S., as the chart below illustrates:

Citizens were also asked if they would support military action to remove the leaders of Iran, Syria and North Korea, based on the outcome of the Iraqi war. Forty-nine percent opposed military force in Iran, with 36 percent in favor; 51 percent opposed action in Syria, while 32 percent supported it; and 48 percent are opposed to military force in North Korea, while 38 percent are in favor.

“People do not seem convinced yet that military might is the best way to respond to perceived threats from these other nations,” Vercellotti said.

Nearly three-quarters of North Carolinians said the U.S. was right to use military force in Iraq. The chart below illustrates citizen opinion about the use of force:

North Carolinians gave their U.S. Senators nearly identical approval ratings. Forty-eight percent approve or strongly approve of the job Elizabeth Dole is doing in the Senate, while 44 percent gave their approval of John Edwards’ work in the Senate. Edwards’ approval rating was up slightly from 39 percent in a February Elon University Poll.

The poll also found support of Edwards’ pursuit for the presidency to be similar to that of the February poll. Thirty-seven percent said they support his bid for the Democratic nomination, compared with 36 percent in February. Edwards has more support for a re-election bid for the Senate than his presidential candidacy. Thirty-seven percent said they prefer he run only for the Senate, 18 percent said they prefer he run for president, and 12 percent said they think he should pursue both.

“It is a mistake to assume that because less than half the residents in the state support his bid for the presidency that Edwards would not win a majority of votes as the presidential nominee,” said Sharon Spray, director of the Elon University Poll. “The basis for people’s support and non-support for Edwards’ candidacy is complicated. At least some of the people who do not want Edwards to seek the Democratic nomination oppose his bid because they are happy with the job that he is doing as senator, and would, indeed, vote for him if he was the Democratic nominee.”

On other issues, the poll found:

  • 54 percent supported a bill that would have delayed the start of the public school year until after Labor Day. The bill was removed from consideration in the N.C. Senate on May 1
  • 48 percent support same day registration and voting on Election Day. Support for this proposal was strongest among Democrats at 52 percent, compared to 40 percent of Republicans
  • 32 percent said they expect the state’s economy to improve in the next year, 22 percent expect it to get worse, and 42 percent believe it will stay about the same.

This poll is the eighteenth 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.