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Majority of Americans Pleased With Presidential Field; Iraq still dominant issue in voters' minds.

Byline: Jeffrey M. Jones

Synopsis: A majority of Americans are pleased with the field of candidates running for president, but the public is not much more satisfied than it was four years ago. Democrats are much more pleased now than four years ago and Republicans much less so. The poll also finds that the Iraq war rates as Americans' top issue.

PRINCETON, NJ -- The presidential election is just a year away, though the candidates have been campaigning in earnest for some time. Just over half of Americans say they are pleased with the field of candidates running for president, similar to what Gallup found four years ago, in advance of the 2004 election. However, the overall stability of this measure hides the fact that Democrats are much more pleased now than they were in 2003 and Republicans are much less pleased. The poll also finds that the Iraq war rates as the top issue for Americans by a significant margin over healthcare and the economy.

Evaluation of 2008 Crop

According to an Oct. 12-14 USA Today/Gallup poll, 56% of Americans say they are "generally pleased with the field of candidates running for president," while 36% "wish someone else was running."

Gallup's measurement prior to the 2004 election -- taken in October 2003 -- showed nearly the same result, with 52% of Americans expressing satisfaction with the field of candidates and 39% expressing displeasure. At that time, George W. Bush was seeking a second term in office, and a large field of Democratic candidates lacking the star power of the current field was seeking to run against him.

The relative stability in the overall measure of candidate satisfaction belies significant change beneath the surface. Compared with 2003, Democrats are now much more likely to express satisfaction with the crop of presidential candidates. Republicans' enthusiasm is down somewhat, while independents' perceptions are similar now to what they were in 2003.

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Other Gallup polling this year has found similar gaps in Republican versus Democratic enthusiasm when asking each party's supporters specifically about their level of satisfaction with the candidates running for their party's presidential nomination.

Important Election Issues

The recent poll also asked the subsample of registered voters which issues will be most important to them when deciding whom to vote for next year. Thirty-eight percent mention Iraq, easily the top issue. Healthcare and the economy are next, mentioned by 18% and 15% of registered voters, respectively. No other issue reaches double digits, including terrorism-related concerns.

Looking ahead to next year's presidential election, what will be the most important issues that you will take into account when deciding whom to vote for? (OPEN-ENDED)

BASED ON REGISTERED VOTERS

Iraq is the top issue among Democrats, independents, and Republicans, but Democrats are most likely to mention it. Democrats are also significantly more likely than Republicans to mention healthcare.

Gallup asked the same question in April of this year. The only substantial change since then has been an increase in the percentage of registered voters mentioning healthcare, at 18% today, up from 10%.

The Iraq war likely will be the dominant issue in the 2008 election, more so than it was in 2004. Heading into that election, the economy rated as the top concern. Iraq was second, but was mentioned by only about half as many as now. (The full trend for this question is shown in the tables following the article.)

These results further bolster the notion that the Democratic Party is heading into the 2008 election year with a distinct advantage. First, rank-and-file Democrats are much more enthusiastic about the candidates running than are Republicans, which should encourage Democrats to turn out on Election Day. Second, the three dominant issues -- Iraq, healthcare, and the economy -- are all issues that the public currently views the Democrats as better able to handle than the Republicans, according to other recent polling. The Republicans are certainly not doomed -- the political winds can shift and a year is a long time in politics -- but the GOP faces an uphill climb.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,009 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 12-14, 2007. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is [+ or -]3 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 926 registered voters, the maximum margin of sampling error is [+ or -]4 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 304 Democrats, the maximum margin of sampling error is [+ or -]6 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 423 independents, the maximum margin of sampling error is [+ or -]5 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 272 Republicans, the maximum margin of sampling error is [+ or -]7 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.

2. Looking ahead to next year's presidential election, what will be the most important issues that you will take into account when deciding whom to vote for? (OPEN-ENDED)

RESULTS BASED ON REGISTERED VOTERS

Still thinking about next year's presidential election,

3. Are you generally pleased with the field of candidates running for president, or do you wish someone else was running for president?
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Article Details
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Author:Jones, Jeffrey M.
Publication:Gallup Poll News Service
Article Type:Survey
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 5, 2007
Words:896
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