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CNN Today

Gallup Poll: Americans Believe Economy Still an Important Election Year Issue

Aired March 7, 2000 - 1:34 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: You'll hear your share of poll numbers before this day is over. But before they dissect voting patterns, the folks at Gallup want to talk about issues.

Frank Newport joins us now from the Gallup studio in Princeton, New Jersey with a look at what Americans care about most.

Hi, Frank.

FRANK NEWPORT, GALLUP POLL EDITOR IN CHIEF: Well, Donna, I think that's the pocketbook is what Americans care about most. If the Dow keeps falling like it is and we have a $1.80 for gasoline per gallon this summer, I think the economy's really going to be important in this race. But, actually, our analysis would suggest that the economy's going to be important regardless of what happens.

Let's go back to '92. It's a good baseline because we all know that was the "economy, stupid" race. And back then in '92 when Gallup asked people, how important are these issues in your vote? you can see the economy was number one and unemployment number three. That was no shock.

But look here. Here's a fever graph that shows Americans' rating of the economy from '92 all the way to the current situation. Look how low it was in those two takings in '92. By '96, it had gone up. But as we started this campaign year, 71 percent of Americans rated the economy positively, which would makes us think the economy won't be an issue this year.

But we don't think so based on our analysis. For example, look here. This is in our benchmark study a month or two ago when we asked Americans: Looking to the race this year, how important will these issues be? A little different scale than in 1992, but notice although education and Social Security and Medicare at the top, notice that economy not that far behind -- almost tied with them statistically. So that suggests that even before the recent burps in the stock market and what have you, Americans were still telling us that the economy is going to be important this year in their vote -- kind of a necessary but not necessarily sufficient issue.

Now, the question will be, which candidate can take better advantage of the economy? You might think it would be Al Gore because he's with the Clinton administration where we've had the good times. But when we asked this last month, you can see across the four candidates, particularly between Gore and Bush, the front-runners, really no difference. Americans rated Gore over there and Bush right here about the same in terms of being able to keep the economy strong.

So I think we start this race now with, A, the economy being a factor, maybe more of factor than we thought, B, no one has a real advantage at this point. That's where we stand. Back to you in Atlanta.

KELLEY: All right, Frank, thank you.

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