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Poll Could Be a Warning to Republicans
Support for War on Terror May Have Little Bearing on Elections

audio icon Listen to Mara Liasson's report.

more iconSee the complete poll results (Adobe Acrobat reader needed)

May 20, 2002 -- Even though voters say the most important issues facing the country are terrorism and national security, when it comes to this year's congressional elections, domestic issues such as the economy, Social Security, health care and education will determine how people vote, according to a poll of likely voters conducted for NPR.

As Mara Liasson reports for Morning Edition, these findings come in the latest of a series of surveys conducted for NPR by two pollsters -- Democrat Stan Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Republican Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies. From time to time this election year, the bipartisan pair will survey the nation's electorate to see how issues will affect votes.

"The message is very clear -- it's education and prescription drugs."

Republican pollster Bill McInturff

Among voters responding to the poll, 33 percent cited terrorism and national security as the most important issue facing the United States. Other issues such as the economy, education and health care drawing drew only single-digit percentages.

But those opinions seem to have little impact on planned voting behavior. On another question, the respondents were asked to choose between international issues (including the war on terrorism) and domestic issues as to which is more important in terms of the congressional elections. More than two-thirds -- 69 percent -- cited domestic issues, while 27 percent chose international issues.

Greenberg says the results show that Republicans running for Congress can't count on President Bush's popularity helping them much. "The Republican attempt to create coattails is likely to be trumped by a Democratic intention to wrap themselves in the war on terrorism -- which they've supported from the beginning -- and their determination to turn home to domestic issues," he says.

As to which party voters prefer, the result was even -- 42 percent for Republicans, 42 percent for Democrats. But the poll also showed that when asked which party's domestic priorities they preferred, respondents chose the Democrats' positions by 50 percent to 42 percent.

McInturff has been telling Republican House members that they'll have to campaign on more than taxes and terrorism to get re-elected. "The message is very clear -- it's education and prescription drugs," he says.

Other Resources

more iconSee the first poll in the series.

more iconSee a text version of the survey (Adobe Acrobat reader needed).

more iconGreenberg Quinlan Rosner Research

more iconPublic Opinion Strategies