Terrorism Tops List of Key 2004 Election Issues

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Education, Iraq, and economy also prominent

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- A recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll finds terrorism at the top of the list when Americans are asked to rate the importance of several issues to their vote for president next year. Education, Iraq, and the economy are also among the issues Americans say will be most critical to their vote. Despite the increased publicity focused on gay and lesbian issues, relatively few Americans say these will affect their vote.

The poll was conducted Dec. 5-7 and asked Americans to indicate how important the candidates' positions on each of nine issues would be to their vote in 2004.

IMPORTANCE OF ISSUES TO VOTE

 

2003 Dec 5-7
(sorted by "extremely important")

Extremely important

Very important

Extremely/
Very important

%

%

%

Terrorism

48

40

88

Education

43

43

86

The situation with Iraq

42

42

84

The economy

40

47

87

Social Security

34

45

79

The federal budget deficit

32

43

75

Controlling federal spending

31

47

78

Medicare

31

43

74

Policies toward gays and lesbians

12

18

30

Nearly half, 48%, say terrorism will be extremely important to their vote, and an additional 40% say it will be very important.

At least 4 in 10 Americans also say education (43%), Iraq (42%), and the economy (40%) will be extremely important issues to their vote. At least eighty-four percent rate these three issues as extremely or very important, similar to the 88% rating for terrorism. However, the poll was conducted before the capture of Saddam Hussein, so it is unclear what effect -- if any -- that may have on the rated importance of Iraq.

Fewer Americans say Social Security (34%), the federal budget deficit (32%), controlling federal spending (31%), and Medicare (31%) will be extremely important in helping determine their vote, but 7 in 10 say these issues will be extremely or very important.

The one issue set apart from the rest is policies toward gays and lesbians, rated as extremely or very important by just 30% of Americans.

Fewer Americans are citing the economy as an extremely important election issue now than was the case earlier this fall, when 49% rated it as extremely important. This could be due to generally positive news about the economy in recent weeks. The only other issue that has shown as much change since September is the federal budget deficit. The percentage saying the deficit will be an extremely important issue to their vote has dropped from 39% to 32%.

Recent ratings of President Bush on these issues show his handling of terrorism as an area of strength, while he is rated much less favorably for his handling of the deficit and spending. His ratings on the economy had been more middling, though those may improve in response to recent events.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,083 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Dec. 5-7, 2003. This includes an oversample of 252 Americans aged 65 and older, consisting of 173 done as part of the random national sample and 79 interviews with Americans aged 65 and older who had previously participated in national Gallup Polls in 2003 and who agreed to be re-contacted by Gallup for future polls. The data from the national sample and oversample are combined and weighted to be demographically representative of the national adult population in the United States and to reflect the proportion of Americans aged 65 and older in the overall population. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

8. Now I am going to read a list of some of the issues that will probably be discussed in next year's presidential election campaigns. As I read each one, please tell me how important the candidates' positions on that issue will be in influencing your vote for president -- extremely important, very important, somewhat important, or not important. How about -- [random order]?

A. The economy

 

Extremely important

Very important

Somewhat important

Not important

No
opin-
ion

%

%

%

%

%

2003 Dec 5-7

40

47

10

2

1

2003 Sep 19-21

49

42

9

*

*

2000 Aug 4-5

41

44

13

2

*

2000 Jul 25-26

35

51

12

2

*

2000 Apr 3-9

30

47

21

2

*

* Less than 0.5%

B. Social Security

 

Extremely important

Very important

Somewhat important

Not important

No
opin-
ion

%

%

%

%

%

2003 Dec 5-7

34

45

18

3

*

2003 Sep 19-21

36

43

18

3

*

2000 Aug 4-5

43

40

14

3

*

2000 Jul 25-26

37

45

15

3

*

2000 Apr 3-9

37

43

17

3

*

* Less than 0.5%

C. Medicare

 

Extremely important

Very important

Somewhat important

Not important

No
opin-
ion

%

%

%

%

%

2003 Dec 5-7

31

43

23

3

*

2003 Sep 19-21

36

40

21

3

*

2000 Aug 4-5

37

39

21

3

*

2000 Jul 25-26

34

44

19

3

*

* Less than 0.5%

D. Education

 

Extremely important

Very important

Somewhat important

Not important

No
opin-
ion

%

%

%

%

%

2003 Dec 5-7

43

43

12

2

*

2003 Sep 19-21

45

43

11

1

*

2000 Aug 4-5

50

41

7

2

*

2000 Jul 25-26

43

46

9

2

*

2000 Apr 3-9

46

43

9

2

*

* Less than 0.5%

E. Terrorism

 

Extremely important

Very important

Somewhat important

Not important

No
opin-
ion

%

%

%

%

%

2003 Dec 5-7

48

40

10

2

*

2003 Sep 19-21

49

38

11

2

*

* Less than 0.5%

F. Policies toward gays and lesbians

 

Extremely important

Very important

Somewhat important

Not important

No
opin-
ion

%

%

%

%

%

2003 Dec 5-7

12

18

32

36

2

2003 Sep 19-21

12

16

31

39

2

G. The federal budget deficit

 

Extremely important

Very important

Somewhat important

Not important

No
opin-
ion

%

%

%

%

%

2003 Dec 5-7

32

43

23

2

*

2003 Sep 19-21

39

35

23

2

1

* Less than 0.5%

H. The situation with Iraq

 

Extremely important

Very important

Somewhat important

Not important

No
opin-
ion

%

%

%

%

%

2003 Dec 5-7

42

42

14

2

*

2003 Sep 19-21

46

36

14

4

*

* Less than 0.5%

I. Controlling federal spending

 

Extremely important

Very important

Somewhat important

Not important

No
opin-
ion

%

%

%

%

%

2003 Dec 5-7

31

47

20

1

1

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