Sunday, October 30, 2005

[US Domestic Policy] Poll: Poverty should be country's top priority

By Peter Prengaman, Associated Press

Majority of blacks, plurality of whites favor pulling troops from Iraq, rebuilding New Orleans

LOS ANGELES — Eliminating poverty in America is more important than fighting terrorism, especially to blacks, U.S. troops should be pulled out of Iraq, and money saved on war should be used to rebuild hurricane-scarred New Orleans, according to a national poll released Thursday.

When asked, "What do you think should be the most important priority for the U.S.?" a majority of blacks, 58 percent, chose "eliminating poverty" over other answer choices "rebuilding our own cities," "fighting terrorism," and "establishing democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan." Pluralities of other ethnic groups — 43 percent of Hispanics, 40 percent of Asians and 36 percent of whites — also chose eliminating poverty as their top priority.

"I don't remember poverty ever finishing as the No. 1 priority on any kind of list," said Sergio Bendixen, whose firm Bendixen & Associates conducted the poll. "The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the images of poverty have clearly made a large impact on many Americans."

Hurricane Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast in September, killing more than 1,000 people and devastating New Orleans. President Bush and the Federal Emergency Management Agency were sharply criticized for sluggish response efforts as millions of television viewers watched thousands of New Orleans residents — many black—struggling to survive amid abject poverty. The survey was conducted by telephone Oct. 14-21 among 1,035 adults nationwide — 258 whites, 268 Hispanics, 259 blacks and 250 Asians.

Most were sampled using the "random digit dial" technique, to reach people with unlisted and listed phone numbers. Japanese, Asian-Indians and Filipinos — half the Asian subgroup — were sampled based on first and last names from phone listings and other public databases.

Interviews were conducted in six languages. The sampling error for each subgroup was plus or minus 6 percentage points except sampling error cannot be calculated for Asians not sampled using random digit dial. The poll found that a majority of blacks, Asians and Hispanics, and a plurality of whites believed U.S. troops should be pulled from Iraq to pay for rebuilding in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.