WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, one of America’s most powerful politicians, holds a narrow edge among likely voters in his re-election bid in recession-lashed Nevada, a Reuters-Ipsos poll said on Tuesday.
The struggling U.S. economy is paramount in voters’ minds as they look ahead to the November 2 election in Nevada, with 74 percent citing the economy as their top concern, the poll of 600 Nevada voters done July 30-August 1 found.
And Nevada’s high jobless rate of 14.2 percent and rising home foreclosures and bankruptcies appear to be taking their toll on Reid in his attempt for a fifth six-year term. Seventy-one percent of registered voters said the state is on the wrong track.
Among voters who said they are likely to vote, Reid held a 48-44 percent lead over Republican challenger Sharron Angle, much narrower than the 52-36 percent edge he had over her among registered voters.
Angle is a conservative darling of the Tea Party movement who has drawn criticism from Reid over earlier campaign promises to “phase-out” two popular government programs for the elderly and poor, Social Security and Medicare.
Reid, as Senate majority leader, is one of the top Democrats in the country and has been a strong backer of President Barack Obama’s agenda. Obama has been to Nevada twice this year to speak on Reid’s behalf.
“He (Reid) is well within her striking distance,” said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark. “I think this one will go down to the wire and it will absolutely depend on turnout.”
In the race to replace Jim Gibbons as governor of Nevada, Republican Brian Sandoval leads Democrat Rory Reid by 50 to 39 percent among likely voters.
More than half of those surveyed believed that Reid’s leadership position in the Senate is a “good thing” for Nevada.
Views on this were split along party lines, with 84 percent of Democrats and just 17 percent of Republicans thinking it is good for the state.
Voters also professed to be not particularly swayed one way or the other by Obama’s support of Reid. The poll found 65 percent of registered voters said it made no difference to them.
The poll showed the Tea Party has a sizable following in Nevada, with 25 percent of Republicans saying they were more inclined to support Angle because she is supported by the Tea Party compared to 7 percent who said they are less likely to support her for this reason.
Both parties are working to increase the likelihood of a strong voter turnout on November 2, the day when voters will choose 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 37 of the country’s 100 U.S. senators.
Republicans feel they have a chance at taking control of the House from the Democrats and challenging them in the Senate.
The poll found Republican enthusiasm in Nevada high, with 81 percent of Republicans reporting they are certain to vote on November 2 compared to 64 percent of Democrats.
Arizona’s tough immigration law is strongly supported in Nevada despite complaints from Hispanic groups that it could lead to racial discrimination and has been the subject of a court challenge by the Obama administration.
The poll said 63 percent supported Nevada adopting a law similar to Arizona’s with 34 percent opposing it. Among party loyalists, 42 percent of Democrats supported the idea of an Arizona-style immigration law in Nevada, while 88 percent of Republicans backed it.
Clark said she was surprised that so many Democrats supported the law. “That speaks to their concern about the economy and jobs. That’s what people equate generally to this law,” she said.
Many Nevadans seemed to be ready to say good-bye to gaffe-prone Governor Gibbons, who lost to Sandoval in his bid for the Republican nomination for a new term. The poll found 68 percent disapproved of the way he is handling his job.
The poll questioned 600 registered voters, including 462 considered to be likely voters. The margin of error for the broader sample was 4 percentage points. For likely voters it was 4.6 percentage points.
Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish and the data weighted to ensure that the sample’s composition reflected that of the actual U.S. population according to U.S. Census figures.
Editing by David Alexander and Cynthia Osterman