Bush’s approval on Iraq, economy lags in Elon Poll

North Carolinians are increasingly dissatisfied with the Bush administration’s handling of the war in Iraq and the economy, according to the latest Elon University Poll, conducted Sept. 22-25 by the Elon Institute for Politics and Public Affairs.

The poll sampled the opinions of 600 adults in the state and has a margin of error of ± 4.1 percent.

The poll found 52 percent of residents approve or strongly approve of the job President Bush is doing in handling the situation in Iraq, down from 75 percent in a May Elon University Poll. Seventy-four percent of those polled said it is important or very important to capture Saddam Hussein or prove he is dead, up from 64 percent in May. Also, 67 percent would like the U.N. Security Council to take the lead in rebuilding Iraq, up from 53 percent in May.

“North Carolinians seem increasingly eager to have the United States share the burden for rebuilding Iraq,” said Tim Vercellotti, director of the Elon University Poll. “The latest price tag seems to have elicited sticker shock among a significant number of people.”

The numbers on the economy also reflect increasing dissatisfaction with Bush. Thirty-five percent say they strongly approve or approve of the president’s handling of the economy, down from 48 percent in May. The percentage of those who said they expect the economy to get worse rose to 28 percent from 22 percent in May. Forty percent expected no change.

“The economy is a concern for some North Carolinians, and these trends mirror national data,” said Vercellotti. “Still, it is far too early to tell whether the numbers portend problems for the president’s re-election campaign next year.”

Meantime, Democrats Erskine Bowles and Bob Etheridge enjoy better name recognition than the leading Republican, Richard Burr, as possible candidates for John Edwards’ U.S. Senate seat.

Bowles, the 2002 Democratic nominee for the Senate seat now held by Elizabeth Dole, had 78 percent name recognition, down from 87 percent in March. U.S. Representative Etheridge had 52 percent recognition, similar to his numbers in March.

Burr, also a member of the House, had 34 percent name recognition, compared to 36 percent in March. Close behind Burr is Democrat Dan Blue, who had 33 percent name recognition, down from 37 percent in March.

“The name recognition that Bowles built during the 2002 campaign has worn off somewhat,” said Vercellotti.

The poll also reflected a decline in support for restrictions on civil liberties as part of the war on terror. Fourteen percent of those surveyed are willing to accept increased wire-tapping of personal phone calls, down from 30 percent in 2002 and 41 percent in 2001. Thirty-three percent support making it easier for police to get warrants to search homes, down from 41 percent in 2002 and 51 percent in 2001. Fear of future terrorist attacks is similar to last year, with 40 percent saying they are very worried or worried, but is lower than the 50 percent who expressed the same views in 2001.

On other issues, the poll found:

  • 66 percent said citizens should have the power to recall the governor
  • 63 percent said they would vote to keep Gov. Mike Easley in office in a hypothetical recall election
  • 33 percent said they support or strongly support John Edwards’ candidacy for the presidency, 30 percent oppose or strongly oppose his candidacy, and 28 percent neither support or oppose his candidacy.

This poll is the 19th 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.