CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Election 2002: The Iraq Factor
Aired November 4, 2002 - 12:38 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: By this time tomorrow, voting will be underway across the United States. Poll workers are making the final preparations as the candidates make their 11th hour appeals to voters. How does the Iraq issue factor into tomorrow's elections? Let's ask Gallup poll editor-in-chief Frank Newport.
Well, what's the answer to that question, Frank?
FRANK NEWPORT, GALLUP POLL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Well, it's a good question. Wolf, there's no question in general that Iraq is a very important issue to Americans. How important it will actually be in voting behavior tomorrow is the one we've been trying to isolate.
Here's one way we've got at it. We've simply given voters a list of six different issues, including the possibility of war with Iraq, and asked them which of these will be most important in your vote. I've listed the top three here. Notice on the right-hand side, that was about a month ago, and Iraq was actually tied with the economy. Many voters chose it as chose the economy. In the poll we've yesterday, Wolf, it slipped down some. Economy is up there, but Iraq at 18 percent. Clearly it's not the dominant issue, and my second point is, it's actually a little less important now, from what voters tell us, than a month ago.
BLITZER: What about those voters who deeply care about Iraq? Are they more likely to vote Democrat or Republican?
NEWPORT: That's a fascinating thing that we found from looking at the date. Republicans in general are getting more credit for doing a better job handling Iraq than Democrats. Naturally, it's a Republican administration. Bush has been pushing it, but those voters, that 18 percent I just showed you, who really care deeply about it, actually, Wolf, are just as likely to be voting Democratic as Republican. You can see actually a 2-point margin for the Democrats.
What's happening here is that the voters who care most deeply about it, that 18 percent, are those who are less sympathetic to the whole idea, less in favor of military action, and therefore, more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate. So there's a potential for a kind of protest vote there, but it's simply not large enough to have a material impact on the outcome tomorrow.
BLITZER: What about, Frank, some of the more contentious states, some of the states where the races are really, really tight, is Iraq likely to be a significant issue tomorrow? NEWPORT: Well, what I've been showing you is kind of the national sentiment, but when we bore down on a state-by-state basis, Wolf, it becomes actually somewhat less important. Let me show you a couple of the interesting states, and I'll show you what I'm talking about. First off, I think Missouri, we all know the Senate race there is very close. Jean Carnahan trying to get re-elected on her own. We gave voters there a list of six different things, how important will they be? And you notice that Iraq is just 12 percent. The voters in Missouri choose it, the candidate's experience, that's one of the issues with Carnahan. She's only been in office for two years. That's important there, and you can see actually Social Security and the economy are more important.
Let's zoom in on Arkansas for a minute, another very, very close race there, and incumbent Republican Tim Hutchinson trying to get re- elected, but there's been a focus on character. He got divorced and remarried. That's come up in that state. And look here, the candidate's character actually is as important as the economy there. That's a classic local-specific issue to Arkansas, and there, Wolf, at the bottom, just 13 percent of voters in Arkansas choose Iraq as the most important issue.
So on a state-by-state basis, what's interesting is, I think that the local issues are overshadowing Iraq to some degree.
Bottom line here, Wolf, I just don't think that the possibility of war with Iraq, although critically important to the U.S. and the world, is going to be a major factor on many of these races, on which voters are going to be voting tomorrow.
BLITZER: Except if the race is decided by a few hundred, or less than a thousand or so votes, any issue potentially could make the decision, isn't that right, Frank?
NEWPORT: Well, that's true. Give another example, like abortion is not a major issue to most voters, but for that critical core that care about it, in a very tight race, it could swing the election. So I would have to concede you that point. If it really is close in some of these states, or nationally, that small group who really care about Iraq could tip it one way or the other.
BLITZER: All right, we'll be watching all those numbers tomorrow, real numbers, that will be coming out. Frank Newport, Gallup editor in chief, thanks very much. We always learn something from you as well.
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