Terrorism, Economy Rank as Top Election Issues

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Iraq a close third

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- With the election less than a week away, terrorism and the economy loom as the two major issues in this year's presidential contest. The Iraq war is a close third. Voters' partisanship strongly influences their ratings of issue importance -- Democrats see the economy as the top issue and Republicans see terrorism as the No. 1 concern. Among likely voters, George W. Bush continues to hold a wide lead over John Kerry on terrorism, while Kerry and Bush tie on the economy. More generally, likely voters are slightly more inclined to say they agree with Bush, rather than Kerry, on the issues they care most about.

In the Oct. 22-24 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, likely voters were given a list of issues and asked to rate how important each will be to their votes for president. At least 85% say terrorism, Iraq, and the economy will be very important. However, 46% say terrorism will be extremely important, compared with 41% who say this about Iraq and 39% who say this about the economy.

Rating of Issues as Important to Vote
among likely voters

 

 

 

 

 

Issue
(sorted by "extremely important")

Extremely important

Very important

Somewhat important

Total: Extremely/Very important

 

%

%

%

%

Terrorism

46

39

14

85

Iraq

41

46

12

87

Economy

39

48

12

87

Moral values

36

37

22

73

Healthcare

31

46

20

77

Social Security

31

36

28

67

Education

29

51

17

80

Medicare

23

42

30

65

Environment

21

37

37

58

Same-sex marriage

18

21

26

39

A second tier of issues includes moral values, education, healthcare, and Social Security. Eighty percent of likely voters say education is important, but only 29% say it is extremely important. Meanwhile, 73% say moral values are important, though 36% say extremely important, ranking fourth on the list by that criterion.

The third tier of issues includes Medicare, the environment, and same-sex marriage. Medicare and the environment have lower rankings because there are wide disparities in their rated importance by age. Medicare is an important concern for older Americans, but relatively few younger Americans expect it to influence their votes. The opposite is true of the environment, a top concern among younger voters but not older voters. And it appears that same-sex marriage, which is on ballot proposals in many states, will not influence a significant number of votes for president.

The variation in issue importance to a large degree reflects differences in the way Republicans, Democrats, and independents perceive the issues. Democratic likely voters are most inclined to say the economy is extremely important to their votes, followed by healthcare, Social Security, Iraq, education, Medicare, and terrorism. For Republicans, the paramount issues are terrorism and moral values, while Iraq is a distant third. Independents also put terrorism atop the list, followed by Iraq and the economy.

Rating of Issues as "Extremely Important" to Presidential Vote, by Party Affiliation
among likely voters

 

 

 

 

Issue

Democrats

Independents

Republicans

 

%

%

%

Terrorism

39

46

53

Iraq

43

43

38

Economy

52

42

26

Moral values

29

29

49

Healthcare

45

33

17

Social Security

45

31

17

Education

42

22

22

Medicare

40

17

13

Environment

31

22

11

Same-sex marriage

11

11

30

Throughout the campaign, Gallup has asked likely voters to choose among four issues -- Iraq, the economy, healthcare, and terrorism -- as the single most important to their votes. In the latest poll, 31% of likely voters choose terrorism, 30% the economy, 25% Iraq, and 13% healthcare. That has been the pattern for the better part of the campaign, though Iraq temporarily increased in importance after the first presidential debate, which focused to a large degree on U.S. involvement in that country.

Again, these "forced choice" results vary dramatically by party. A majority of Republican likely voters, 51%, say terrorism is their primary concern this election. Twenty-three percent say Iraq, 19% the economy, and just 6% healthcare. Among Democratic likely voters, the economy (42%) is the most commonly chosen issue. Twenty-eight percent choose Iraq, 19% healthcare, and only 9% terrorism. Independents' responses are similar to those among the total sample of likely voters.

Rating the Candidates on the Issues

It may be more than just coincidence that Republicans choose terrorism as the most important issue, since that clearly is Bush's best issue. In the latest poll, 59% of likely voters say Bush will better handle the terrorism issue, while 37% say Kerry. These results are typical of what Gallup has found over the entire campaign.

Bush also has an edge on Iraq, 56% to 42% over Kerry, suggesting that Kerry has not yet convinced the electorate that Bush's policies in Iraq are not working, or alternatively, that his policies would work better.

Kerry has typically performed better on domestic issues. But the poll finds the candidates essentially even on the economy among likely voters, with 49% saying Bush would better handle it and 48% Kerry. Among the larger pool of registered voters, Kerry has an advantage on the economy, 52% to 45%. Kerry continues to hold an advantage on healthcare, even among likely voters.

Generally speaking, voters are more inclined to say they agree with Bush, rather than Kerry, on the issues that matter most to them. Fifty-two percent of likely voters say they agree with Bush on these issues, while 47% say they disagree with him. Meanwhile, 47% say they agree with Kerry, while 51% say they disagree with him.

Forty-nine percent of likely voters say a candidate's leadership skills and vision are more important to their votes, compared with 39% who say the candidate's issue positions are.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews, conducted Oct. 22-24, 2004, with a randomly selected national sample of 1,195 national adults, aged 18 and older, who are deemed most likely to vote in the 2004 presidential election. 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.

11. Please tell me whether you agree or disagree with -- [ROTATED: George W. Bush/John Kerry] -- on the issues that matter most to you.

A. George W. Bush

 

Agree

Disagree

No opinion

 

%

%

%

Likely voters

 

 

 

2004 Oct 22-24

52

47

1

2004 Oct 1-3

48

51

1

 

 

 

 

Registered voters

 

 

 

2004 Oct 22-24

50

48

2

2004 Oct 1-3

49

49

2

 

 

 

 

National adults

 

 

 

2004 Oct 22-24

49

49

2

2004 Oct 1-3

50

49

1

2004 Sep 3-5

50

48

2

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1

48

51

1

2004 Jul 19-21

47

50

3

2004 Mar 5-7

48

49

3

2004 Jan 9-11

55

44

1

2003 Sep 19-21

46

51

3

2003 Jun 27-29

53

46

1

2002 Jan 25-27

71

25

4

2001 Aug 10-12

52

42

6

2001 Jun 8-10

49

47

4

 

 

 

 

2001-JAN. 2004 WORDING: Please tell me whether you agree or disagree with George W. Bush on the issues that matter most to you.

            B. John Kerry

 

Agree

Disagree

No opinion

 

%

%

%

Likely voters

 

 

 

2004 Oct 22-24

47

51

2

2004 Oct 1-3

50

48

2

 

 

 

 

Registered voters

 

 

 

2004 Oct 22-24

49

49

2

2004 Oct 1-3

49

48

3

 

 

 

 

National adults

 

 

 

2004 Oct 22-24

49

48

3

2004 Oct 1-3

48

48

4

2004 Sep 3-5

48

47

5

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1

52

43

5

2004 Jul 19-21

49

42

9

2004 Mar 5-7

46

39

15

Next,

12. If you had to choose, which of the following issues will be most important to your vote for president this year -- [ROTATED: the economy, terrorism, the situation in Iraq, (or) healthcare]?

 

Economy

Terrorism

Iraq

Healthcare

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

%

Likely voters

 

 

 

 

 

2004 Oct 22-24

30

31

25

13

1

2004 Oct 14-16

30

32

22

14

2

2004 Oct 9-10

28

28

25

16

3

2004 Oct 1-3

27

30

27

14

2

2004 Sep 24-26

31

35

19

12

3

2004 Sep 3-5

31

31

20

15

3

2004 Jul 19-21 ^

31

26

27

15

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Registered voters

 

 

 

 

 

2004 Oct 22-24

30

27

26

15

2

2004 Oct 14-16

33

28

23

14

2

2004 Oct 9-10

28

28

23

18

3

2004 Oct 1-3

28

29

27

14

2

2004 Sep 24-26

34

33

17

13

3

2004 Sep 3-5

32

28

21

16

3

2004 Jul 19-21 ^

33

22

27

19

*

 

 

 

 

 

 

National adults

 

 

 

 

 

2004 Oct 22-24

32

26

25

15

2

2004 Oct 14-16

32

29

22

15

2

2004 Oct 9-10

29

26

22

21

2

2004 Oct 1-3

30

29

25

14

2

2004 Sep 24-26

35

32

17

14

2

2004 Sep 3-5

33

26

20

17

4

2004 Jul 19-21 ^

34

21

26

18

1

 

 

 

 

 

 

^ Re-calculated figures, removing volunteered "all" and "none" responses.

* Less than 0.5%

13. Now I am going to read a list of some of the issues that will probably be discussed in this 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
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

%

Likely voters

         

2004 Oct 22-24

39

48

12

1

*

           

Registered voters

         

2004 Oct 22-24

39

49

11

1

*

           

National adults

         

2004 Oct 22-24

39

49

11

1

*

2004 Feb 6-8

38

48

12

1

1

2003 Dec 5-7

40

47

10

2

1

2003 Sep 19-21

49

42

9

*

*

* Less than 0.5%

B. Terrorism

 

 

Extremely important

Very important

Somewhat important

Not important

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

%

Likely voters

         

2004 Oct 22-24

46

39

14

1

*

           

Registered voters

         

2004 Oct 22-24

45

40

13

2

*

           

National adults

         

2004 Oct 22-24

45

40

13

2

*

2004 Feb 6-8

43

42

11

3

1

2003 Dec 5-7

48

40

10

2

*

2003 Sep 19-21

49

38

11

2

*

* Less than 0.5%

C. The situation in Iraq

 

 

Extremely important

Very important

Somewhat important

Not important

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

%

Likely voters

         

2004 Oct 22-24

41

46

12

1

*

           

Registered voters

         

2004 Oct 22-24

40

45

13

1

1

           

National adults

         

2004 Oct 22-24

40

45

13

1

1

2004 Feb 6-8

39

41

16

4

*

2003 Dec 5-7

42

42

14

2

*

2003 Sep 19-21

46

36

14

4

*

* Less than 0.5%

D. Healthcare

 

 

Extremely important

Very important

Somewhat important

Not important

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

%

Likely voters

         

2004 Oct 22-24

31

46

20

3

*

           

Registered voters

         

2004 Oct 22-24

32

47

18

3

*

           

National adults

         

2004 Oct 22-24

33

47

18

2

*

2004 Feb 6-8

38

44

16

2

*

2003 Sep 19-21

43

42

13

2

*

* Less than 0.5%

E. Education

BASED ON 776 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

 

 

Extremely important

Very important

Somewhat important

Not important

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

%

Likely voters

         

2004 Oct 22-24 ^

29

51

17

3

--

           

Registered voters

         

2004 Oct 22-24 ^

31

52

15

2

--

           

National adults

         

2004 Oct 22-24 ^

32

52

14

2

--

2004 Feb 6-8

41

45

12

2

*

2003 Dec 5-7

43

43

12

2

*

2003 Sep 19-21

45

43

11

1

*

           

^ Asked of a half sample

* Less than 0.5%

13. (continued)

Now I am going to read a list of some of the issues that will probably be discussed in this 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]?

F. Medicare

BASED ON 776 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

 

 

Extremely important

Very important

Somewhat important

Not important

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

%

Likely voters

         

2004 Oct 22-24 ^

23

42

30

5

--

           

Registered voters

         

2004 Oct 22-24 ^

25

43

27

5

--

           

National adults

         

2004 Oct 22-24 ^

25

43

27

5

*

2003 Dec 5-7

31

43

23

3

*

2003 Sep 19-21

36

40

21

3

*

           

^ Asked of a half sample

* Less than 0.5%

G. Same-sex marriage

BASED ON 776 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

 

 

Extremely important

Very important

Somewhat important

Not important

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

%

Likely voters

         

2004 Oct 22-24

18

21

26

34

1

           

Registered voters

         

2004 Oct 22-24

19

20

25

35

1

           

National adults

         

2004 Oct 22-24 ^

18

20

25

36

1

2004 Feb 6-8

22

22

23

31

2

           

^ Asked of a half sample

H. Moral values

BASED ON 762 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

 

 

Extremely important

Very important

Somewhat important

Not important

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

%

Likely voters

         

2004 Oct 22-24

36

37

22

5

*

           

Registered voters

         

2004 Oct 22-24

35

38

22

5

*

           

National adults

         

2004 Oct 22-24 ^

34

39

22

5

*

           

^Asked of a half sample

* Less than 0.5%

I. Social Security

BASED ON 762 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

 

 

Extremely important

Very important

Somewhat important

Not important

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

%

Likely voters

         

2004 Oct 22-24

31

36

28

5

*

           

Registered voters

         

2004 Oct 22-24

32

37

26

5

*

           

National adults

         

2004 Oct 22-24 ^

32

38

25

5

*

2003 Dec 5-7

34

45

18

3

*

2003 Sep 19-21

36

43

18

3

*

           

^ Asked of a half sample

* Less than 0.5%

J. The environment

BASED ON 762 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

 

 

Extremely important

Very important

Somewhat important

Not important

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

%

Likely voters

         

2004 Oct 22-24

21

37

37

5

*

           

Registered voters

         

2004 Oct 22-24

21

38

36

5

*

           

National adults

         

2004 Oct 22-24 ^

22

38

35

5

*

2004 Feb 6-8

25

37

32

5

1

2003 Sep 19-21

30

40

27

3

*

           

^ Asked of a half sample

* Less than 0.5%

14. Next, regardless of which presidential candidate you support, please tell me if you think John Kerry or George W. Bush would better handle each of the following issues. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

A. The economy

 

 

Kerry

Bush

SAME (vol.)

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

Likely voters

       

2004 Oct 22-24

48

49

1

2

2004 Oct 14-16

49

48

1

2

2004 Oct 9-10

51

45

1

3

2004 Oct 1-3

52

44

1

3

         

Registered voters

       

2004 Oct 22-24

52

45

1

2

2004 Oct 14-16

50

46

1

3

2004 Oct 9-10

48

46

2

4

2004 Oct 1-3

52

43

1

4

         

National adults

       

2004 Oct 22-24

52

44

1

3

2004 Oct 14-16

51

45

1

3

2004 Oct 9-10

49

45

2

4

2004 Oct 1-3

51

44

1

4

2004 Sep 24-26

45

51

1

3

2004 Sep 3-5

49

46

2

3

2004 Aug 23-25 ^

49

43

1

7

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1

53

43

1

3

2004 Jul 19-21

51

43

1

5

2004 Jun 21-23 ^

53

40

1

6

2004 May 7-9 ^

54

40

1

5

2004 Mar 5-7

50

42

2

6

^ Asked of half sample

(vol.) Volunteered response

B. The situation in Iraq

 

 

Kerry

Bush

SAME (vol.)

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

Likely voters

       

2004 Oct 22-24

42

56

1

1

2004 Oct 14-16

42

54

1

3

2004 Oct 9-10

46

50

1

3

2004 Oct 1-3

47

51

1

1

         

Registered voters

       

2004 Oct 22-24

43

54

1

2

2004 Oct 14-16

45

51

1

3

2004 Oct 9-10

44

52

1

3

2004 Oct 1-3

45

51

1

3

         

National adults

       

2004 Oct 22-24

44

53

1

2

2004 Oct 14-16

45

51

1

3

2004 Oct 9-10

44

51

1

4

2004 Oct 1-3

44

51

1

4

2004 Sep 24-26

41

55

1

3

2004 Sep 3-5

41

54

1

4

2004 Aug 23-25 ^

43

49

1

7

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1

48

47

2

3

2004 Jul 19-21

44

49

1

6

2004 Jun 21-23 ^

46

47

1

6

2004 May 7-9 ^

45

48

1

6

2004 Mar 5-7

39

54

2

5

^ Asked of half sample

(vol.) Volunteered response

C. Terrorism

 

 

Kerry

Bush

SAME (vol.)

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

Likely voters

       

2004 Oct 22-24

37

59

2

2

2004 Oct 14-16

36

61

2

1

2004 Oct 9-10

41

55

2

2

2004 Oct 1-3

43

54

1

2

         

Registered voters

       

2004 Oct 22-24

38

57

2

3

2004 Oct 14-16

37

59

2

2

2004 Oct 9-10

39

56

2

3

2004 Oct 1-3

40

55

2

3

         

National adults

       

2004 Oct 22-24

39

57

1

3

2004 Oct 14-16

37

59

2

2

2004 Oct 9-10

39

56

2

3

2004 Oct 1-3

39

56

2

3

2004 Sep 24-26

34

61

1

4

2004 Sep 3-5

34

61

1

4

2004 Aug 23-25 ^

37

54

2

7

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1

41

54

2

3

2004 Jul 19-21

38

56

1

5

2004 Jun 21-23 ^

40

54

1

5

2004 May 7-9 ^

38

55

1

6

2004 Mar 5-7

33

60

2

5

^ Asked of half sample

(vol.) Volunteered response

D. Healthcare

 

 

Kerry

Bush

SAME (vol.)

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

Likely voters

       

2004 Oct 22-24

52

45

1

2

2004 Oct 14-16

51

45

1

3

2004 Oct 9-10

56

39

1

4

         

Registered voters

       

2004 Oct 22-24

55

41

1

3

2004 Oct 14-16

51

44

1

4

2004 Oct 9-10

55

39

1

5

         

National adults

       

2004 Oct 22-24

55

41

1

3

2004 Oct 14-16

52

43

1

4

2004 Oct 9-10

56

37

1

6

2004 Sep 24-26

49

46

1

4

2004 Sep 3-5

53

40

1

6

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1

57

36

2

5

2004 Jul 19-21

54

37

2

7

2004 Mar 5-7

55

36

2

7

         

(vol.) Volunteered response

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