WASHINGTON – Most American voters say the decisive presidential election last week has given them renewed confidence about the nation's electoral system and they're hopeful about the next four years, an Associated Press Poll finds.
At the same time, they feel a sense of urgency about Iraq, their top priority for President Bush to tackle after his re-election, questioning disclosed. Iraq was followed by terrorism among voters' leading concerns.
Voters took comfort from an election that wasn't tied up in the courts as in 2000.
"Anytime you have to wait as long as it the election did in 2000, it leaves people with doubts and a bitter taste in their mouths," said Jim Seaman, a Republican businessman from Summerville, S.C.
The poll taken in the days following the election also found that voters want Bush to cut the deficit, which ballooned under his watch, rather than pushing for more tax cuts.
The voters' concerns stood in contrast to the priorities Bush cited after he defeated Democrat John Kerry (search). Bush pledged to aggressively pursue major changes in Social Security (search), tax laws and medical malpractice awards. Terrorism was a chief concern both for Bush and many voters in the poll.
"I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it," Bush said after becoming the first president in 68 years both to win re-election and gain seats in the House and Senate.
More than one-fourth of respondents, 27 percent, named Iraq as the top priority for Bush's second term, ahead of terrorism, the economy and health care. Only 2 percent named taxes as a priority in the poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos-Public Affairs.
By more than a 2-1 margin, voters said they preferred that the president balance the budget rather than reduce taxes further.
After a campaign dominated by discussion of Iraq and terrorism, national security issues were at the top of voters' concerns along with the economy. Voters were asked to pick from a list of issues in the AP poll that included Iraq, terrorism, the economy, unemployment, health care, education and taxes.
Many voters on Election Day indicated they are also concerned about "moral values" — a broader concern than specific issues such as health care and education.
Seven in 10 voters in the AP poll, including a majority of Democrats, would prefer that U.S. troops to stay in Iraq until the country is stable, instead of having them leave immediately.
U.S. troops are preparing for assaults on insurgent strongholds used as havens for those mounting increased attacks against coalition forces.
"There has got to be some kind of resolution in Iraq," said Erwin Neighbors, a Republican and a community college teacher from Moberly, Mo. "We can't fold our tent without accomplishing our goals."
On the domestic front, Bush says his plans to overhaul the tax laws would be "revenue-neutral" and would not cut taxes. Throughout the past year, however, he has urged Congress to make earlier tax cuts permanent despite estimates of a deficit that could top $2.3 trillion over the next 10 years.
Given the choice between balancing the budget and cutting taxes, voters chose balancing the budget by 66 percent to 31 percent. When the choice is between balancing the budget and spending more on education, health care and economic development, voters were divided.
On another domestic issue, six in 10 voters say they are comfortable the president will nominate the right kind of person to serve on the Supreme Court. Bush has sidestepped questions about who he would name if there were an opening, more likely with Chief Justice William Rehnquist's battle against cancer.
Asked whether Bush should appoint a justice who will uphold or overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that protected a woman's right to abortions, six in 10 said they want a justice who will uphold the landmark ruling.
Voters were generally accepting of the election results, Democrats were very likely to be in a gloomy mood.
"I was frustrated all the way around," said Duane Seymour, a semi-retired voter from Watertown, N.Y., who leans Democratic. "I was eager for something to change. Things have been spiraling downward."
The AP-Ipsos poll of 844 registered voters was taken Nov. 3-5 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.