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The quality of public education ranked as the top priority in the 1996 presidential election for respondents in a recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll. The poll of 1,000 adults was conducted by telephone Jan. 5-7. It has a margin of error of plus/minus 3 percentage points. The respondents were to do the following: "I'm going to read a list which includes some national issues and some problems facing Americans today. For each one, please tell me how important a candidate's position on that issue is to you personally in deciding which candidate you will support for president."

Percent Issue
67% Quality of public education
66 Crime
64 Economy
63 (tie) Availability of good jobs
Availability of health coverage
Cost of health care
58 (tie) Federal budget deficit
Drug abuse
Financial security for retirees
55 (tie) Medicare
Moral values
51 (tie) Poverty
Federal taxes
49 Welfare
43 Cost of college
41 Size, role of federal government
34 U.S. role in world affairs

Demographic Differences The top issues varied by demographic group:

Women: 73% chose the quality of public education; 69% chose crime.

Men: 65% chose the economy; 64% chose the deficit.

Whites: 68% chose the quality of public education; 66% chose crime.

Blacks: 71% chose crime; 67% chose availability of good jobs.

Democrats: 75% chose availability of health coverage; 71% chose quality of public education.

Independents: 67% chose quality of public education; 65% chose crime.

Republicans: 66% chose the deficit; 66% chose the quality of public education.

Social Programs In the Polls

A December 1995 poll by Peter D. Hart Research Associates Inc., a Democratic polling firm, and the Coldwater Corporation, a Republican firm headed by consultant Robert Teeter, for NBC and The Wall Street Journal, asked 2,007 respondents the following by telephone:

What would you say are the two or three most important issues or problems facing the nation today that you personally would like to see the federal government in Washington do something about?

The table below shows the poll's responses, in percentages, for the category of social programs, as well as responses gathered in similar polls in January of 1993, 1994, and 1995. Education/schools was the top issue for 13 percent of respondents in January 1995; that percentage had increased to 24 percent by December 1995. Only crime and violence, at 33 percent, ranked higher. The margin of error is 2.2 percent.

Social Programs 12/95 1/95 1/94 1/93
Children/day care 2% 1% 1% 2%
Education/schools 24 13 14 14
Welfare reform 12 25 6 3
Homelessness/housing 5 9 13 13
Poverty, social services 5 5 4 3
AIDS 1 1 1 3
Social Security/senior citizens 7 6 2 3

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