Elon University Poll finds Iraq, economy key issues for Bush, Easley in second terms

The war in Iraq and the economy are the issues that deserve immediate attention when elected officials begin second terms in office in January, according to the latest Elon University Poll.

The survey of 559 registered voters in , conducted Nov. 15-18, found that 40 percent want President Bush to focus on the war in Iraq as his top priority when he is sworn in for a second term. The economy and jobs were second at 20 percent, followed by terrorism and national security (15 percent).

In North Carolina, 38 percent of respondents want Gov. Mike Easley to concentrate on the economy and jobs when he is sworn in for a second term. Education and health care were second on the list of issues at 22 percent.

“Voters were quite clear about what they think the top priorities should be for President Bush and Governor Easley,” said Tim Vercellotti, assistant professor of political science and director of the Elon University Poll. “Iraq and the economy continue to be voters’ main concerns.”

The poll also found:

  • President Bush’s job approval rating remained steady, with 51 percent of voters strongly approving or approving, compared to 49 percent in September. The difference was well within the poll’s margin of sampling error, which was plus or minus 4.1 percentage points
  • Voters are skeptical about whether the two major political parties can cooperate to address the nation’s problems. Nearly 80 percent of those surveyed said they were only somewhat confident or not confident at all that Republicans and Democrats could work together
  • Forty-one percent of voters support Sen. John Edwards seeking the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2008, while support is slightly less for a presidential bid by Sen. Elizabeth Dole (36 percent) and significantly less for Easley (29 percent).
  • Eleven percent of voters volunteered on behalf of a candidate, party, or political action organization in the fall election. Nineteen percent donated money to candidates’ campaigns, parties, and political action organizations, and nearly 54 percent encouraged others to vote for a specific candidate.

Poll results reflected the after-effects of the November election. Voters expressed doubts as to whether the two major political parties could work together in Washington, to address national issues.

Breaking down the data by party registration showed that Democrats and unaffiliated and third-party voters were the most pessimistic, while Republicans were more likely to express confidence that the parties can work together.

“The poll results suggest that voters doubt the parties can put their differences behind them so soon after the election,” Vercellotti said.

While national news media have already begun to speculate about potential presidential candidates for 2008, North Carolina voters are divided over whether a native son or daughter should enter the presidential arena.

Forty-one percent of voters said they strongly supported or supported Edwards making another run for the White House, while 42 percent were opposed. Easley, whose name has surfaced in national media reports about the 2008 election, won support from 29 percent of voters, with 34 percent opposed. Dole, who briefly sought the presidency in the 2000 campaign, received support from 36 percent of voters, with 42 percent opposed.

“Obviously it’s quite early to begin speculating about 2008,” Vercellotti said. “But it is interesting to note that opinion is fairly evenly split for Edwards, and opposition exceeds support for Dole and Easley. It may be that North Carolina voters are not eager to see the 2008 campaign begin just yet.”

This poll is the 27th 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 . 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 38 telephone polling stations.