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US Candidates Tap into Fears to Mobilize Voters

  • Cindy Saine

Recent opinion surveys reflect an undercurrent of unease among American voters ahead of the November 4 congressional, state and local elections. A Gallup poll says the Ebola virus and the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria are among the top 10 issues Americans consider the most important facing the country. Some Republican candidates are questioning how safe Americans are under Democratic President Barack Obama, and some Democrats are blaming Republicans for cutting funds for public health as Ebola worries surface.

Frightening news from overseas has come home for many Americans, with the first cases of Ebola in the United States and the beheadings of three American and British aid workers and journalists by Islamic State terrorists.
The perceived threat from Islamic State jihadists has become a campaign issue, according to Frank Newport of the Gallup Poll.

"The current military action that is taking place against the Islamic State is a factor when you remind Americans of it, that they say, ‘Hmm, that could be important.’ And some candidates at the Senate level are trying to take advantage of it, as of course politicians will do,” said Newport.

Republican supporters are using TV campaign ads to tie incumbent Democratic senators to President Obama and to accuse them of being weak on national security.

"While radical Islamists threaten to attack America, and millions cross our border undetected, President Obama and Senator Landrieu have done nothing,” says one ad.

Several ads from Republican-leaning groups against Democrats merge the separate issues of Islamic State terrorists and illegal immigration into one specter of gloom.

“Evil forces around the world want to harm Americans every day. Their entry into our country? Through Arizona’s backyard. Yet Ann Kirkpatrick consistently votes with her party against protecting Arizona,” one ad warns voters.

For their part, some Democratic supporters are using an Ebola ad on YouTube to try to attack Republican candidates for cutting government spending.

Asked if they are worried about Ebola, some tourists to the nation's capital told VOA they have mixed feelings.

“I’m not afraid that it’s going to become a huge thing - the disease is horrible but I am not afraid about our own medical system,” said Mary Huttar of Virginia

“I’m getting worried. I’m not scared yet -- I think we’ll get it all figured out,” said Frank Wyman of South Carolina.

Despite the scary ads, though, most Americans still say their top issues in this election are the economy, unemployment and dissatisfaction with the government.