President Bush losing points in N.C., Elon poll says

Staff WriterSeptember 29, 2003 

The latest Elon University poll says that President Bush's support in North Carolina is taking a hit as the war continues in Iraq and the economy fails to pick up.

If the election were held today, the poll says, Bush would carry North Carolina, but not resoundingly, with 56 percent of those polled saying they either support or strongly support the president.

Polls conducted for The News & Observer show that the president's approval rating had dropped from 67 percent in January to 56 percent this month.

"The economy is a concern for some North Carolinians, and these trends mirror national data," said Tim Vercellotti, director of the poll. "Still, it is far too early to tell whether the numbers portend problems for the president's re-election campaign next year."

The university surveyed 600 people last week for the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

The most notable drop in the poll is in how people felt about Bush's handling of the war. His support dropped 23 percentage points, from 75 percent in May to 52 percent. Vercellotti said the president's recent request for another $87 billion to continue military and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan may be the cause.

"North Carolinians seem increasingly eager to have the United States share the burden for rebuilding Iraq," Vercellotti said. "The latest price tag seems to have elicited sticker shock among a significant number of people."

Sixty-seven percent of those polled want the United Nations Security Council to take the lead in rebuilding Iraq, up from 53 percent in May.

Bush's support on the economy is also eroding -- from 48 percent in May to 35 percent last week. The percentage of those who think the economy will get worse rose from 22 percent to 28 percent.

In other poll findings:

* Democrats Erskine Bowles and U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge of Lillington have better name recognition than the leading Republican, U.S. Rep. Richard Burr of Winston-Salem, as possible candidates for U.S. Sen. John Edwards' seat. But Bowles has lost some stature -- from 87 percent in March to 78 percent last week -- since his losing bid to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms last year. Elizabeth Dole won that race.

Bowles formally announced his campaign last week. Etheridge said last week that he would not run for Senate.

* Support for restrictions on civil liberties to help fight the war on terror is declining. For example, 14 percent of those surveyed would accept increased wiretapping of personal phone calls, down from 20 percent last year and 41 percent in 2001 shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.

* With a wild recall election campaign taking place in California, the university asked if North Carolinians would support having the power to give their governor the boot. Sixty-six percent said they would. But Gov. Mike Easley shouldn't be too worried -- 63 percent said they would vote to keep him in office in a hypothetical recall election.

Industry expertise

Gov. Mike Easley has tapped the head of a Denver, N.C., manufactured housing company to serve on the N.C. Manufactured Housing Board.

Dennis Jones, president and CEO of R-Anell Housing Group , will serve a three-year term on the nine-member board. He is one of the governor's two appointees to the board, which tackles quality and safety defects in manufactured housing.

Jones is vice chairman of the N.C. Manufactured Housing Institute, chairman of the Modular Housing Committee and a board member of the Manufactured Housing Research Alliance. He has also served on the Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Consensus Committee.

By staff writer Dan Kane, who can be reached at 829-4861 or dkane@newsobserver.com.

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