CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowans likely to vote in 2012 presidential election say state and federal lawmakers should be doing more for children, including investing more tax money in the health, education and safety of children, according to a poll conducted for a child advocacy group.

However, the poll conducted for Every Child Matters also found that Republicans likely to participate in the precinct caucuses are less likely to support additional spending on those issues.

“This makes crystal clear that the most extreme conservative wing of the Republican Party has a sharply divergent view from the general electorate and the rest of the Republican Party,” Michael Petit of Every Child Matters said Thursday in Cedar Rapids.

The child advocacy group is meeting with sympathetic groups including educators, seniors and labor, and advertising in Iowa media to raise children’s issues, Petit said.

“That’s where the candidates are,” he said. “And we don’t want the nominee to get pushed so far to the right that the needs of children and families don’t come through.”

That seems unlikely to Republican Party of Iowa spokesman Casey Mills. 

“The empirical evidence” from the November 2010 election contradicts that notion, he said.

Republican Terry Branstad won the race for governor on a platform that included restoring Iowa’s position as the national leader in education, Mills said. His support came not only from Republicans “but independents and disenchanted Democrats who had seen our stature in education, relative to other states, falter in previous administrations.”

“So this idea that caucus-goers are going to support someone who doesn’t prioritize education, that’s simply not the case,” Mills said.

The poll also found GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney would beat President Barack Obama 42 percent to 39 percent. However, Obama would defeat Michele Bachmann 47 percent to 42 percent based on the survey.

Bachmann holds a statistically insignificant lead over Romney, 32 percent to 29 percent, with Tim Pawlenty a distant third at 7 percent in the poll.

Overall, likely general election voters hold negative views on the status and future of children. Likely GOP caucus-goers had a more positive outlook.

According to the poll of 629 Iowans — a random sample of 400 likely general election voters and an oversample of 229 likely GOP caucus-goers by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research — half said children’s lives have gotten worse over the last decade and 54 percent predicted children will be worse off when they grow up than people are now.

Among likely GOP caucus-goers, 27 percent saw a deterioration of children’s status and 67 percent said there has been no change.

Fight-eight percent of the general election voters didn’t believe leaders in Washington are doing enough to address the well-being of children. Seventy-five percent of caucus-goers disagreed.

Other findings included:

• General election voters and swing voters (41 percent) are more likely than Republican caucus goers (25 percent) to say that children’s issues will be their primary issue.

• Voters overall say they are more likely to support candidates for office who propose specific investments in children. Republican caucus-goers are most supportive of candidates wanting to address child abuse prevention and more affordable college.

• Sixty percent choose the economy and jobs as their first- or second-most important issue. Likely GOP caucus-goers favor deficit reduction over the economy, the opposite of general election swing voters.

• Two-thirds of voters said programs that promote and protect children should be protected from any cuts. Just 28 percent of likely caucus-goers agreed.

• Sixty-nine percent of all voters want tax cuts for the wealthy ended before cutting education and child health programs. Twenty-eight percent of caucus-goers agree.

- James Q. Lynch is a reporter for the Cedar Rapids Gazette.


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