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 washingtonpost.com/polls.