Elon University Poll of Southeastern states shows Clinton, Giuliani have early edge in 2008 presidential field

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A new Elon University Poll of five Southeastern states shows Sen. Hillary Clinton and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani have the early advantage in the 2008 presidential race among citizens who identified themselves as either Democrats or Republicans, but a sizable number said they don’t know who they will support or that it is too early to tell.

The poll, conducted Feb. 18-22 by the Elon University Institute for Politics and Public Affairs, surveyed 719 residents in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percent. The sample is of the population in general and does not restrict respondents by their voter eligibility or their likelihood of voting in an election. Sub-samples of respondents who said they would likely support the Democratic or Republican Party in the 2008 presidential election were used to assess respective presidential nomination leaders for each party. In the sub-sample, respondents were asked an open ended question about which candidate they would support. The Democratic sub-sample total is 302 with a margin of error of plus or minus 5.75 percent, and the Republican sub-sample total is 226 with a margin of error of plus or minus 6.65 percent.

Thirty percent of respondents who said they would support the Democratic Party in the 2008 presidential election said they were planning to support Clinton at this time, followed by Illinois Sen. Barack Obama (14 percent) and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (8 percent). Twenty-four percent said it was too early to tell and 22 percent said they don’t know.

Among those who said they would support the Republican Party in the presidential election, 21 percent said they plan to support Giuliani, followed by Arizona Sen. John McCain (16 percent) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (3 percent). Thirty-one percent said it was too early to tell and 25 percent said they don’t know.

“While the number of people who aren’t sure who they will support in the upcoming election shows that we’re very early in the process, it is somewhat unexpected to see Hillary Clinton, a New York senator, doing so well in the south,” said Hunter Bacot, director of the Elon University Poll. “It is particularly unexpected with a viable southerner, John Edwards, in the race. If these findings hold over time, the race for the Democratic nomination may be over before it starts.” Bacot said the Republican race “appears to be more wide open, since none of the candidates has a commanding lead.”

The poll also surveyed opinion on the quality of the nation’s health care system. Forty-nine percent of respondents said they are dissatisfied or strongly dissatisfied with the quality of health care, while 47 percent are satisfied or strongly satisfied. Seventy-seven percent said they have some form of private health insurance or private health care coverage; 22 percent do not.

Fifty-seven percent said they would support or strongly support a national insurance plan paid for by the federal government that would pay all medical and hospital costs for all citizens. Thirty-four percent oppose or strongly oppose such a plan.

“Strong support for national health care in the south is surprising,” said Bacot. “This initiative was very unpopular 10 years ago when it was proposed by the Clinton administration. Given the support we now see, this could possibly be the deciding issue for the Democrats in the 2008 elections.”

The survey also asked citizens about immigration, which was defined as “the undocumented immigration of Hispanic or Latino populations into the United States.” Sixty-two percent said immigration is a very important issue, 32 percent said it is somewhat important, while 6 percent said it is not important at all.

Fifty-seven percent said the immigration of Hispanics and Latinos has been bad in recent years for the United States, 19 percent said it has been good and 13 percent said it hasn’t made much of a difference.

Sixty-three percent disagree or strongly disagree with proposals that would allow undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. for several years as long as they have a job. Thirty-two percent agree or strongly agree with such proposals.

“Southerners continue to have strong feelings against illegal immigration, which is consistent with the rest of the nation,” Bacot said. “This is likely be an issue the Republicans will push hard over the next two years.”

The Elon University Poll has conducted several polls annually since 2000. The non-partisan Elon University Poll conducts frequent scientific telephone polls on issues of importance citizens. 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 citizens in the state and region.