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Behind the Numbers
Posted at 01:44 PM ET, 04/25/2008

A Democratic Edge on Top Issues

The economy and the situation in Iraq have long been the public's top two priorities for this year's presidential election, and on both, more Americans said they think a Democratic president would do a better job handling the issue than a Republican.

By nearly 20-point margins, Americans would choose an unnamed Democrat over a generic Republican president to handle the nation's economy and resolve the situation in Iraq, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. Nearly six in 10 preferred a Democrat on the economy and a narrow majority chose a Democrat on Iraq.

The Democratic advantage on the economy appears to run deeper than their edge on Iraq, providing a possible boon for the party's eventual nominee as economic issues grow in prominence.

Swing voter groups such as independents (Democrat by 25 points) and white Catholics (Democrat by 19 points) preferred a Democratic president over a Republican to handle the economy -- by wider margins than on Iraq (18 points and 6 points, respectively).

And even some typically Republican groups were more apt to defect to the Democrats on handling the nation's financial future than managing the situation in Iraq. GOP women gave a hypothetical president from their own party a 64-point edge on Iraq, but that drops to 48 points on the economy. White evangelical Protestants prefer a GOPer over a Democrat on Iraq by a 27-point margin the gap is 11 points on the economy. And white voters without a college degree were about evenly split between the two on Iraq, but gave Democrats a 10-point advantage on the economy.

Republicans themselves were more likely to defect than were Democrats on both issues. On the economy, 18 percent of GOPers said they'd prefer a president of the other party, while 7 percent of Democrats expressed a preference across party lines. On Iraq, 15 percent of Republicans went for the Democrat and 7 percent of Democrats chose the Republican.

It is important to note that while these issues have dominated the presidential campaign, hypothetical match-ups pitting Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama against John McCain are much closer, as each candidate would bring a different set of assets and liabilities to the general election table.

Q: Thinking ahead to the next presidential election, do you think a Democratic or a Republican president would do a better job...

...Handling the economy?

                  Democratic   Republican
All                   55           34

Democrats             89            7
Independents          55           30
Republicans           18           71

Whites                50           38
Blacks                85            6

White evangelical
Protestants           40           51
White Catholics       55           36

White non-college     49           39
White college grad    52           35

Top issue:
Economy               62           26
Iraq                  65           28

National economy:
Excellent/Good        23           71
Not so good           46           41
Poor                  68           20

...Resolving the situation in Iraq?

                  Democratic   Republican
All                   52           35

Democrats             89            7
Independents          51           33
Republicans           15           73

Whites                47           40
Blacks                85            7

White evangelical
Protestants           30           57
White Catholics       48           42

White non-college     45           42
White college grad    50           38

Top issue:
Iraq                  63           31
Economy               61           28

Iraq worth fighting:
Strong/somewhat yes   16           73
Somewhat no           51           35
Strongly no           77           11

Full question wording and more methodological information from the Post-ABC poll can be found at

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  01:44 PM ET, 04/25/2008

Categories:  Post Polls

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