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Public wants gas prices a top domestic priority

/ Source: The Associated Press

Americans are worried about fast-rising gasoline prices and want President Bush and Congress to make that their top domestic priority, according to an AP-Ipsos poll.

With gas prices soaring toward $4 a gallon and fuel supply lines crippled by Hurricane Katrina, 24 percent of those polled listed fuel prices as their chief concern, second only to the war in Iraq.

“The president’s got to step up to the plate” on the fuel issue, said carpenter Barry Whittington, who lives near Deale, Md., and voted for Bush. “This is killing me.”

About one-fourth of adults younger than 65 named gas prices as the top priority, while 14 percent of senior citizens felt that way. Residents of several states in the oil-rich region of the country, such as Texas and Oklahoma, were more likely than people in other regions to name gas prices as the top priority. The percentage of people who named gas prices as the top priority had increased by the final day of polling Wednesday.

Twenty-nine percent of Americans named the Iraq situation as the top priority for the nation’s political leaders. Other issues of concern were the economy and jobs, and terrorism.

The war in Iraq was the public’s top priority in January, followed by the economy and jobs. The price of gas, still comfortably under $2 a gallon at the beginning of the year, was not one of the choices in that survey about government priorities.

Gas prices rose by more than 50 cents a gallon Wednesday in Ohio, 40 cents in Georgia and 30 cents in Maine after Hurricane Katrina knocked out refineries and pipeline links along the Gulf Coast. Some cities reported long lines at gas stations.

The situation has echoes of the 1970s — with high gasoline prices and supply problems.

President Bush moved Wednesday to release oil from the government’s emergency stockpile and temporarily ease pollution standards on gasoline and diesel fuel to increase the supply. “Steps we’re taking will help address the problem of availability but it’s not going to solve it,” Bush said Thursday. “Don’t buy gas if you don’t need it.”

The poll of 1,000 adults was conducted Aug. 29-31 by Ipsos, an international polling firm, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The Associated Press-Ipsos poll on public attitudes about their worries about gas prices and other top priorities for President Bush and Congress is based on telephone interviews with 1,000 adults from most states except Alaska and Hawaii.

The interviews were conducted Aug. 29-31 by Ipsos, an international polling firm.

Because of Hurricane Katrina, Ipsos was unable to interview Floridians on some nights in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, some counties in the central part of the state and in the Panhandle. It was unable to interview respondents in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi on all nights.

Results were weighted to represent the population by demographic factors such as age, sex, region, race and income.

No more than one time in 20 should chance variations in the sample cause the results to vary by more than 3 percentage points from the answers that would be obtained if all Americans were polled.

There are other sources of potential error in polls, including the wording and order of questions. Results may not total 100 percent because of rounding. An asterisk indicates less than 1 percent.

The results
1. I’m going to read you a list of eight issues and I’m going to read the list twice. Please tell me which one issue should be the highest priority for President Bush in his second term?

(Comparative numbers from January poll that did NOT include energy and gas prices among the responses)

  • The situation in Iraq, 29 percent (31 percent)
  • Energy and gas prices, 24 percent (did not have energy and gas prices as an option in January)
  • The economy and jobs, 14 percent (23 percent)
  • Terrorism, 9 percent (15 percent)
  • Health care, 7 percent (11 percent)
  • Education, 5 percent (7 percent)
  • Social Security, 5 percent (9 percent)
  • Taxes, 3 percent (2 percent)
  • Other, 3 percent (1 percent)
  • Not sure, 1 percent (1 percent)

2. And when it comes to that highest priority issue, how confident are you that President Bush will be able to handle this issue effectively?

  • Very confident, 17 percent
  • Somewhat confident, 24 percent
  • Not too confident, 22 percent
  • Not at all confident, 36 percent
  • Not sure, 1 percent

3. And when it comes to the highest priority issue, how confident are you that the U.S. Congress will be able to handle this issue effectively?

  • Very confident, 6 percent
  • Somewhat confident, 39 percent
  • Not too confident, 35 percent
  • Not at all confident, 19 percent
  • Not sure, 1 percent