As the 2014 midterm elections draw near, American voters are still hungry for economic progress and unhappy with Congress — though North Carolinians are taking a sharp interest in foreign policy.
A poll released Oct. 2 by the Associated Press and German research firm GfK Group showed that economic recovery topped the list of issues for Americans this election season, followed closely by national security.
Fifteen percent of poll respondents said that economic recovery was the most important issue facing the nation, with 9 percent saying national security and terrorism. Congressional approval is still low, standing at 12 percent among all respondents and sagging to just 7 percent with likely voters.
These results might seem to make sense, representing more of the same.
People have been worried about the economy as the recession’s effects have lingered, and with the chilling videos of American and British hostages being beheaded in the Middle East by ISIS forces and the launch of airstrikes in Syria against the extremist militant group, there is good reason for terrorism and foreign affairs to be priorities in the public's mind.
But a recent Elon University poll demonstrates that public opinion in North Carolina has shifted in the past year.
In November 2013, 24 percent of respondents named the Affordable Care Act as the most important issue facing America, but that opinion of the law, known as Obamacare, dropped to 14 percent in April, and by September just 8 percent believed the ACA was the nation’s chief problem.
The economy, often on the tip of voters’ tongues, was mentioned by 21 percent of respondents in 2013, and then by 15 percent in the most recent poll. Even if Americans as a whole remain distressed about the economy, North Carolinians seem to be seeing at least some improvement.
The most sudden jump in popularity is the issue of international affairs. Of the respondents to the Elon poll, 17.4 percent said in September that foreign policy was their primary concern, a jump from 3 percent in November 2013 — edging the economy out of the number one spot.
This issue has been low on North Carolinians’ ranking of issues for years, last topping the list in 2007.
The August employment figures released by the N.C. Department of Commerce indicate unemployment actually increasing in 74 of the state’s 100 counties and only decreasing in 12.
But a positive national jobs report showing unemployment at 5.9 percent — a low since 2008 — as well as other signs of economic well-being may be helping N.C. voters to worry less about the economy and more about foreign affairs such as U.S. military involvement overseas.
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