By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Man or woman, rich or poor, Democrat or Republican, the economy is Ohio voters' top issue as they look ahead to the presidential election in November, according to the latest Ohio Poll.
Foreign policy and health care tied for a distant second in the state poll of 646 registered voters, released Friday. It was conducted Jan. 30-Feb. 10 by the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati.
"Consumers are concerned both about the money they see in their pocketbooks and concerned that their job might be threatened in the coming year," said Eric Rademacher, co-director of the Ohio Poll. "They're now looking at the nation, and they're wondering whether or not the deficits we're running are going to hamper the economy."
Economic issues were mentioned as the No. 1 issue 43 percent of the time, with 22 percent specifically citing the general economy, 16 percent citing jobs/unemployment and 3 percent citing taxes.
About 16 percent of voters polled were most concerned about foreign policy issues, 9 percent specifying the war in Iraq.
Another 16 percent focused on health, with 9 percent citing health care or health insurance generally and 6 percent targeting senior care and prescription drugs.
"Other" and "don't' know" combined polled higher than either health or foreign affairs at 21 percent. The poll has an error margin of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
Ohioans' economic fears are shaping the messages that Democrats John Kerry and John Edwards have hammered on in visits leading up to Tuesday's primary. The eventual nominee will want to start on the right foot here, Rademacher said.
"Right now, with Kerry in the lead, it would be a disaster for his campaign to win the nomination and not also be able to say he won Ohio," he said.
One-third of registered voters statewide and in Hamilton County are expected to turn out Tuesday, Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell said this week.
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