'Marketplace' Report: Economy in Focus

67 percent of people think the economy is an extremely important issue — up from 46 percent in November, according to a new poll. Despite the findings, economic woes don't seem to be changing voters' minds about the candidates.


From NPR News, this is Day to Day. The struggling economy has soared past the Iraq war as the top worry of American voters. That's according to a poll just released by the Associated Press and Yahoo!. It does not seem to be giving an edge to any particular presidential candidate, though. Marketplace's Bob Moon is here with more. Hi, Bob. And how dramatic is this shift in concern about the economy?

BOB MOON: Hi, Madeleine. You know, you can go back and remember the good old days, way back to, oh say, November of last year, and the same poll found just 46 percent of those American's surveyed calling the economy an extremely important issue. Well, now that number has really jumped all the way up to 67 percent, and there's also another related worry that surpassed the war in Iraq.

Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed say they see gasoline prices as an extremely important issue now. And Iraq, which has been the dominant issue for several years, well, that's mentioned by 48 percent of those surveyed now. This concern over the economy, by the way, is raised about equally between those who make under 100,000 dollars a year and those who earn more than that.

BRAND: So it's a big worry, but voters don't seem to be giving one presidential candidate over another a preference in terms of dealing with this issue.

MOON: Not so far. The AP pollsters put it this way, they say, those who have become extremely concerned about the economy since last fall show no significant difference from everyone else in backing a presidential candidate. And the survey finds that, whatever their feelings about the economy, the voters are breaking about evenly, either between John McCain and Barack Obama or John McCain and Hillary Clinton. This AP, Yahoo! survey also finds that, in general, voters are a bit more likely to back McCain now than they were to favor a Republican candidate last November, and that also applies to those who expressed the most concern about their personal financial situations. So the partisan divide doesn't seem to be changed much either way.

By the way, there's also a CBS News MTV poll out today, and it shows the economy has topped the Iraq war as the top concern among younger voters, 18 to 29. About half those young adults say they think the presidential hopefuls are paying the right amount of attention to the economy. On the other hand, 65 percent say the issue of job opportunities for younger workers hasn't been getting enough attention.

BRAND: And so how are the candidates dealing with these issues?

MOON: Well, this kind of hearkens back to past campaigns, where the battle cry was "it's the economy, stupid." The candidates do seem to be focusing more on trying to connect with voters on this issue. During their debate in Pennsylvania last week, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both pledged that they'd oppose tax increases on those making under 200,000 dollars a year. At the same time, they've been supporting letting the Bush tax cuts expire in a couple of years.

John McCain, on the other hand, he plans to make those tax cuts permanent. And we mention the concern over growing gasoline prices. Well, something else McCain has suggested is a gas tax holiday from the federal gas tax. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton agreed in their most recent debate that they'd support that idea, too.

BRAND: Thank you, Bob. That's Bob Moon of public radio's daily business how, Marketplace. Stay with us. NPR's Day to Day continues.

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