An intriguing poll of our Southern brethren.
The Iraq war is the most important issue facing the United States, according to 45 percent of the 719 residents of Florida, Georgia, Virginia and the Carolinas who were surveyed this week.
The response was especially telling because it was an open-ended query made at the beginning of the poll, before surveyors mentioned Iraq or any other issue, Bacot said. “It’s just off the top of their heads,” he added.
The related issue of terrorism and security came in second, cited by 12 percent of respondents. The economy came in third, at 8 percent.
Sixty-four percent of respondents disapproved or strongly disapproved of Bush’s handling of the Iraq war – up from 57 percent last year – while 31 percent approved or strongly approved of it, a decrease from 38.5 percent last year.
“The war is his boondoggle and it’s going to be his legacy,” Bacot said.
Approval or strong approval of Bush’s overall performance dropped from 43 percent last February, when Elon conducted its first regional poll, to 38 percent this week. Disapproval went from 52 percent last year to 58 percent this year.
It’s understandable that the war is of major interest in the five polled states because they contain 13 percent to 14 percent of the nation’s military installations, Bacot said.
What’s changing is that the states, which typically vote Republican in national elections, are coming more and more into line with Bush’s approval rating nationwide, he said.
More than 48 percent of respondents said they trust Congressional Democrats “to do a better job coping with the main issues the nation faces over the next few years,” while just under 35 percent chose Bush.
To handle Iraq specifically, 44 percent of respondents said they trust Congressional Democrats, while 38 percent trust President Bush. Schorr Johnson, spokesman for the North Carolina Democratic Party, said the poll “confirms what voters said loudly in November – people in the South are dissatisfied with the direction in which Bush and the Republicans have led our country, both at home and in Iraq.”
The poll showed opinion evenly split over whether the United States should be in Iraq “at this point,” but 55 percent said the war with Iraq was not worth fighting – up from nearly 51 percent last year, and compared to more than 39 percent who said it was worth it.
Respondents who were military veterans, retirees, reservists and active duty were vastly more in favor of U.S. involvement in Iraq – but surprisingly, Bacot said, only if Bush’s name was not raised.
Almost 61 percent of military respondents said the United States should be in Iraq now, but 53 percent strongly disapproved or disapproved of Bush’s handling of the war, compared to 42 percent who approved or strongly approved.
They were nearly split on support for Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq, with 49 percent in favor and 45 percent opposed. Non-military respondents were 35 percent in favor and 61 percent opposed.
“This has held just about every time we asked it. When Bush is in the equation, (military respondents) don’t like it. But when you take Bush out, they’re very supportive of their brothers in arms,” Bacot said. “The issue’s with the commander in chief, not with the war itself.”