Local Politics

Poll: Economy Could Tip State, National Voting

Posted February 22, 2008 11:12 a.m. EST

— North Carolina residents say the economy is the most important issue facing the state and will likely play a key role in state and national elections in November, according to an Elon University Poll.

Almost 30 percent of the 764 residents surveyed this week by the Elon University Institute for Politics and Public Affairs cited the economy as the most important issue in North Carolina. About 12 percent said education was most important, followed by the drought and other energy and environmental issues at 10 percent.

“Seeing the economy become so pronounced in such a short time indicates true concern among citizens about their personal financial well-being,” Hunter Bacot, director of the Elon University Poll, said in a statement. “As people begin to feel the direct effects of the poor economy, pocketbook issues may become their primary concern in the voting booth.”

More than four of every five respondents said the economy would influence their voting in the May primaries and November general election. Taxes, the Iraq War and health care costs were other issues that will influence the votes of at least three-fourths of North Carolina residents, according to the poll.

Some issues have a more pronounced effect on a national level than they do on a state level. For example, while 53 percent said the economy would influence their vote for governor, 70 percent said it would affect how they vote in the presidential election.

On the other hand, transportation and education have a larger impact on the vote for governor than they do for presidential choices, according to the poll.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama holds a double-digit lead over New York Sen. Hilary Clinton among those surveyed, 45 to 31 percent, in the May 6 Democratic presidential primary. Twenty-two percent of the respondents remain undecided.

On the Republican side, North Carolina residents are clearly behind Arizona Sen. John McCain. He garnered 62 percent support in the poll, compared with 24 percent for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

In the race for governor, the poll shows Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue and Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory hold commanding leads.

Perdue was favored by 40 percent of respondents for the Democratic nomination, compared with 28 percent for State Treasurer Richard Moore. Almost a third of voters remain undecided.

McCrory's 28 percent response in the poll was more than double his closest competitor for the GOP nomination. State Sen. Fred Smith was favored by 12 percent of those polled, followed by Salisbury lawyer Bill Graham at 10 percent and former state Supreme Court Justice Robert Orr at 6 percent. Forty-four percent of voters are still undecided.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percent, and respondents weren't limited by their voter eligibility or their likelihood of voting in an election.