Poll finds economy top of voters' minds as Senate primary nears

As Kentucky voters gear up to head to the polls May 18, the economy is the single greatest issue that will impact their vote in the hotly contested U.S. Senate primaries.

The new Kentucky Poll sponsored by WKYT and The Herald-Leader found the economy is top of mind for 41 percent of likely voters. The other issues voters say will impact their votes include government spending, 21 percent; health care, 14 percent; national security, eight percent; immigration, five percent; moral values, four percent; and energy policy, three percent.

The poll of 600 likely voters found Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo leads his Democratic rivals in the battle to replace retiring Sen. Jim Bunning. Rand Paul, a Bowling Green ophthalmologist, is ahead of his fellow Republican challengers, according to the “Kentucky Poll.”

“On the air and in print, no other race in Kentucky is commanding the spotlight like the one to replace Sen. Jim Bunning in Washington,” said WKYT political editor Bill Bryant.

Of the issues influencing voters, both women and men ranked the economy highest (44 percent and 38 percent respectively). However, men (25 percent) ranked government spending second highest while women (20 percent) ranked health care second. The economy was also top of mind for both Republicans and Democrats.

Bunning, a 78-year-old sports icon, opted not to seek a third term. Bunning, who was considered politically vulnerable to potential Democratic challengers, blamed Sen. Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders with drying up his fundraising and forcing him out of a re-election bid.

As a fierce conservative, Bunning left his mark on Capitol Hill. His one-man filibuster over unemployment insurance made national headlines in February by delaying benefits for thousands of workers.

Now, five men are vying for the Republican nomination to replace him.

The Kentucky Poll found 44 percent said they want to see Paul on the GOP ticket in November. He was followed by Secretary of State Trey Grayson with 32 percent. Trailing Paul and Grayson were John Stephensen, Gurley Martin and Jon Scribner. Seventeen percent of those polled remain undecided.

Four men and a woman want to become Kentucky's first Democratic senator in 12 years. Leading the pack was Mongiardo, the top choice for 39 percent of those polled. Attorney General Jack Conway finished second, preferred by 32 percent. In the distance were Darlene Price, James Buckmaster, and Maurice Sweeney. Once again, 17 percent of likely voters still haven't decided who to vote for in the hotly contested race.

The Research 2000 Kentucky Poll was conducted from May 2 through May 4, 2010. A total of 600 likely voters who vote regularly in state elections were interviewed statewide by telephone.

Those interviewed were selected by the random variation of the last four digits of telephone numbers. A cross-section of exchanges was utilized in order to ensure an accurate reflection of the state. Quotas were assigned to reflect the voter registration of distribution by county.

The margin for error, according to standards customarily used by statisticians, is no more than plus or minus four percentage points. This means that there is a 95 percent probability that the “true” figure would fall within that range if the entire population were sampled. The margin for error is higher for any subgroup, such as for gender or party affiliation.

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