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Economy, Health Care Top Poll          10/31 06:05

   As a season of campaigning enters its intense final weekend, a new 
Associated Press-GfK poll illustrates the challenge ahead for candidates and 
their allies trying to rally voters around traditional wedge issues such as 
abortion and gay marriage. This fall, voters just have other matters on their 
minds.

   DENVER (AP) -- As a season of campaigning enters its intense final weekend, 
a new Associated Press-GfK poll illustrates the challenge ahead for candidates 
and their allies trying to rally voters around traditional wedge issues such as 
abortion and gay marriage. This fall, voters just have other matters on their 
minds.

   Social issues are eclipsed by concerns about the economy, health care, the 
Islamic State group and Ebola, the poll finds. And hovering over each of these 
individual issues is a broad dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama and 
Republican leaders in Congress.

   Only 32 percent of likely voters called gay marriage an important issue, 
compared with 91 percent ranking the economy important, 78 percent with similar 
concerns about health care and 74 percent naming Ebola important. The issue 
that some Democrats have emphasized most of all --- abortion rights --- also 
has been a relatively low priority, with only 43 percent of likely voters in a 
September poll ranking it important.

   Yet women's health and reproductive rights have been at the center of 
campaigns for U.S. Senate in Alaska, Iowa, North Carolina and especially 
Colorado. There, half of the ads aired by Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and those 
backing his re-election have criticized his GOP opponent, Rep. Cory Gardner, on 
women's health issues. They include a contention that the 40-year-old 
congressman from eastern Colorado wants to ban some forms of birth control.

   "Democrats this year clearly think that all that you need is that silver 
bullet of social issues," said Katy Atkinson, a GOP political consultant in 
Denver. "It's not. You need more."

   Voters' views on domestic issues ahead of Tuesday's elections:

   ACCESS TO BIRTH CONTROL

   Gardner may have been able to parry the offensive by proposing that birth 
control pills be sold over the counter. After he began airing an ad on his 
proposal last month --- as security concerns rose amid U.S. military action 
against the Islamic State group in the Middle East and the West Africa outbreak 
of the Ebola virus --- Gardner moved ahead in public polls.

   Gardner isn't the only Republican to propose the sale of birth control 
without a prescription. So, too, have Republicans running for Senate in North 
Carolina, Virginia and Minnesota.

   The poll shows this birth control pill plan is more popular with Democrats 
than Republicans nationally. Overall, 50 percent of likely voters are in favor 
of allowing the sale of oral contraceptives over the counter, including 60 
percent of Democrats and just 42 percent of Republicans.

   At the same time, a narrow majority of all likely voters back the Affordable 
Care Act requirement that prescription contraception be fully covered by 
insurance. Notably, that latter provision means selling birth control pills 
without a prescription would actually raise the out-of-pocket costs for 
consumers.

   ___

   HEALTH OVERHAUL

   One domestic issue that remains a priority for Americans is health care. 
Only 3 in 10 say they support the overhaul passed in 2010, while nearly half 
(48 percent) oppose it.

   More Americans overall trust the Democratic Party (33 percent) than the 
Republican Party (24 percent) to handle the issue, but among likely voters the 
Democratic advantage narrows to 4 points, 36 percent to 32 percent.

   If forced to choose a fate for the law, more voters say it should be 
repealed completely rather than implemented as written, 58 percent to 40 
percent. On the other hand, most believe the law will go into effect in 
something close to its current form: 16 percent think the law will be 
implemented as passed and 47 percent expect only minor changes. Just a third 
expect major changes or a complete repeal.

   Even among those who expect Republicans to control both the House and Senate 
after this year's election, 51 percent expect at most minor changes to the law.

   ___

   SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

   Earlier this month, the Supreme Court allowed same-sex marriages to proceed 
in five states where federal judges had overturned state-level bans. The issue 
remains a low priority for voters.

   A majority of likely voters (56 percent) say they think such rulings are 
inappropriate and 59 percent say laws about same-sex marriage ought to be the 
responsibility of state governments. Voters are divided on same-sex marriage in 
their own state, however, with 44 percent in favor and 45 percent opposed, 
while 10 percent are neutral.

   Still, most see the fight over gay marriage as one that's largely decided. 
Nearly two-thirds say same-sex marriage is likely to be legal nationwide in the 
next five years.

   ___

   IMMIGRATION

   The poll suggests immigration is fading from voters' minds as campaigns and 
the government in Washington have focused elsewhere.

   Sixty-five percent of likely voters and 57 percent of all Americans now call 
immigration an extremely or very important issue. The number among all 
Americans is down slightly from 62 percent in a July poll that was conducted 
amid news of a rising number of unaccompanied children attempting to cross the 
border.

   Six in 10 likely voters (61 percent) say illegal immigration is an extremely 
or very serious problem for the country, and the share of adults saying so has 
fallen 12 points since July, from 67 percent to 55 percent. Fifty-three percent 
favor providing a way for immigrants already in the United States illegally to 
become citizens.

   ___

   The AP-GfK Poll was conducted Oct. 16-20 using KnowledgePanel, GfK's 
probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. 
It involved online interviews with 1,608 adults and has a margin of sampling 
error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points for all respondents.

   Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods 
and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't 
otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to access 
the Internet at no cost to them.


(KA)


 
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