Economy remains top concern in primary elections

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North Carolina residents identify the economy as the most important issue facing the state and a majority of respondents in the most recent Elon University Poll say that the country has “gotten off on the wrong track.”

The poll, conducted April 14-17, 2008, by the Elon University Institute for Politics and Public Affairs, surveyed 543 North Carolina residents.  The poll has a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points.  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.

Respondents said the following issues are the most important facing the state:

  • Economy: 35 percent, up six percentage points from February
  • Gas Prices: 9 percent, up seven percentage points from February
  • Elementary & Secondary Education: 9 percent, down three percentage points from February

Slightly more than half (51%) of the respondents said that the country has “strongly gotten off on the wrong track.”

The principle issues influencing their votes in the upcoming primary election were the following:

  • Economy: 88 percent
  • Health care: 81 percent
  • Iraq war: 80 percent

When asked to compare the major political parties, poll respondents indicated that Democrats were better equipped to handle most issues, including health care, education, the economy and the war in Iraq. The one policy area where Republicans were evaluated better than Democrats was immigration.

Yet there were stark contrasts across presidential candidates deemed best able to handle these issues. Republican Sen. John McCain was named the top candidate overall to handle issues involving immigration, the Iraq war, family values, and taxes.

Poll respondents named New York Sen. Hillary Clinton the best presidential candidate overall to handle health care and education.  Her rival for the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama, was not selected as best overall to handle any of these issues.

“Interesting in these results are the obvious contrasts expressed by citizens,” said Hunter Bacot, director of the Elon University Poll.  “On the one hand they differ between favored party and favored candidate, but, on the other, they are quite resolute about where things stand and why. We should not be surprised by these results as it is this very incongruity that epitomizes North Carolina politics.”

For the North Carolina gubernatorial election, education and the economy were identified as influential issues at 53 and 51 percent, respectively. The economy (47%) was identified as the most influential issue in the U.S. Senate race.