Byline: DAVID DECAMP, The Times-Union
Southern voters support President Bush's re-election and Republicans on moral issues, but Democrats rank even or higher on economics, based on a poll released Tuesday.
Bush won 51 percent support to 42 percent for Democrat John Kerry, according to the poll Feb. 9-18 of 802 registered voters in 11 states by the University of North Florida.
"It is Bush territory, but there is an opening on economic issues for Democrats -- but probably only in a few states," said political science professor Matt Corrigan, who ran the poll.
The UNF poll's margin of error was 3.5 percentage points. The poll queried people who said they voted in 2000 and likely will vote this fall.
Recent national polls show the race tighter nationally, and some show Kerry beating Bush. But Bush swept the South in 2000.
"The fact that John Kerry is running in single digits at this point means George Bush is in serious trouble," Kerry adviser Michael Meehan said, noting the campaign has visited only a fraction of Southern voters.
The South, however, has increasingly turned Republican.
"His [Kerry's] own record shows he's on the wrong side of the economy and the war on terrorism, and his own rhetoric and shows the South's not that important to him on the first place," said Bush spokesman Reed Dickens, recalling Kerry's past statement that focusing too much on the South is a "mistake" for Democrats.
Much of the region -- 57 percent -- still supports Bush on the Iraq war. But voters also gave Republicans support in the poll on moral and cultural issues, and having leaders with strong character. Most strikingly, 69 percent opposed allowing same-sex couples the right to marry.
Bush announced his support for a constitutional amendment Tuesday.
Kerry said marriage should be between a man and woman but supported same-sex civil unions. The terms of marriage should be decided by each state, he said.
The poll fleshed out the nuances of each man's footing in the South. Of Bush's backers, 81 percent oppose same-sex marriage, Corrigan said. Of Kerry's, 51 percent oppose it and 38 percent support allowing same-sex marriage.
Voters narrowly identified Democrats with helping the middle class more, but 78 percent said Republicans helped the upper class more. …