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A new poll has found that strong majorities of Americans have high
levels of interest and concern about a range of issues that are rarely
being discussed in the current political campaign. And on several key
issues where candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore basically agree--the
benefits of international trade and increased military spending relative to
other priorities, for instance--the public does not.

The poll, commissioned by The Nation magazine and the Institute for Policy
Studies, a Washington-based think tank, found that:

§ Despite the booming economy many Americans worry about the
disenfranchised: they show concern for the many Americans without health
insurance (91%) and the gaps between rich and poor (74%). An overwhelming
majority (81%) supports an increase in the minimum wage.

§ While both candidates express enthusiasm for the growth of international
trade, a huge majority of voters (83%) wants to see this growth moderated
by other goals--protecting workers, the environment and human rights--even if
this means slowing the growth of the economy.

§ While both candidates are speaking in favor of increases in defense
spending, a strong majority (63%) is interested in the possibility of
redirecting defense funds to education and other priorities.

§ A clear majority considers it "very important"
or "somewhat important" for the candidates to debate some of the foreign
policy issues that are rarely being discussed, such as the comprehensive
test ban treaty (80%) and contributing to international peacekeeping
operations (86%). An equally strong majority (81%) wants the United States
to work with other countries through the United Nations.

"These results suggest a disconnect between the rhetoric of the political
campaign and the reality of public concerns," says Katrina vanden Heuvel,
editor of The Nation.

The poll was conducted in late September by the Center on Public Attitudes
(COPA), an independent social science research center closely associated
with the University of Maryland. It asked questions that had been asked in
previous polls over the last several years by the Pew Research Center; ABC
News; the Center's own Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA, a
joint program with the Center on Strategicl and Internationa Studies at
the University of Maryland); Newsweek; and CBS News/New York Times.

These questions were asked again to see if the current political campaign
has made much difference in public attitudes. Surprisingly, The Nation/IPS
poll found that voter views and levels of interest on these issues are
generally about as strong as they were in mid-1999--even though many of the
issues tested received scant attention during the last 12 months of
intensive campaigning.

"Despite the assurances of politicians that times have never been better at
home and that globally we're in a new era of Pax Americana, we see that a
majority of voters are, in poll after poll, worried by unfettered free
trade, growing inequality at home and abroad, and U.S. unilateralism. They
are out ahead of one or both of candidates Bush and Gore in believing fair
trade is more important than free trade, supporting cuts in military
spending and reinvesting in other programs, and wanting the U.S. to play by
the rules through the United Nations," says John Cavanagh, Director of the
Institute for Policy Studies.

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On the eve of the first presidential debate, a new poll has found that strong majorities of Americans have high levels of interest and concern about a range of issues that are rarely being discussed in the current campaign. And on several key issues where candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore basically agree--the benefits of international trade and increased military spending relative to other priorities, for instance--the public does not. The poll, commissioned by The Nation and the Institute for Policy Studies, found that:

§ Americans are concerned about the disfranchised, including the many without health insurance (91 percent) and gaps between rich and poor (74 percent). A large majority (81 percent) supports an increase in the minimum wage.

§ Both candidates express enthusiasm for the growth of international trade, but 83 percent of the public wants trade combined with other goals--protecting workers, the environment and human rights--even if it means a slowing economy.

§ Both candidates favor increases in military spending, but a strong majority of the public (63 percent) is interested in redirecting some military funds to education and other needs.

§ A clear majority (80 percent) wants debate on foreign policy issues like the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; 81 percent say they want the United States to work with other countries through the United Nations.

Majority views and levels of interest on these issues are generally about as strong as they were in mid-1999, even though many of the issues tested have been out of the spotlight over the past twelve months of campaigning.

The poll was conducted by the Center on Policy Attitudes, an independent social science research center. For full results: www.thenation.com, www.foreignpolicy-infocus.org or www.ips-dc.org. Or call IPS: (202) 234-9382, ext. 258.

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As the first voting of the 2000 presidential election approaches, in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries, public disinterest is palpable.

These excerpts are from Jim Hightower's If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates (HarperCollins).

Research assistance was provided by the Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute and the Fund for Investigative Journalism.

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The Nation Institute's Investigative Fund provided research assistance.

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