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Economy Expected to Sway Voters in US Northeast

In New York and surrounding areas, where the effects of the September 2001 terrorist attacks are still felt, concern about the economy and uncertainty about the future are expected to influence how people in the region vote on Tuesday.

New Yorker Carlos Valez is determined to continue his job search on this bitter cold November day.

Mr. Valez was laid off prior to last year's terrorist attacks from a factory that manufactures plastic windows. Over the past year, he said, finding work has become increasingly difficult.

"This has been going on since before September 11, and you cannot blame the politicians for that," he said. "It is the economy. The economy was bad even before September 11, and after that it became even worse. It has just been hard for all New Yorkers."

Mr. Valez says, in this election, he is voting for incumbent Republican Governor George Pataki. Mr. Valez says, in these uncertain times, he seeks continuity.

According to recent polls, Mr. Pataki's leadership in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks has added to his overwhelming support among voters, including Democrats.

Lee Miringoff is the director of New York's Marist College Poll and says recent surveys reveal that the economic downturn, concern about the possibility of a war with Iraq and the repercussions from the World Trade Center disaster, have voters feeling unsettled.

"So, the mood characterizing the electorate this year, I think, is one of caution and uneasiness about how things are - both at home and abroad, really," he says.

Mr. Miringoff says the economic decline is expected to be the main issue influencing how people vote across the northeast.

"If you ask people what their number one priority is, whether it is jobs versus the war on terrorism, in the northeast, [the answer] is going to be more evenly weighted on the economy being a concern," he said. "And clearly, they look to the Democratic Party, as a region, to be more in touch with that."

Lee Miringoff's arguments are consistent with the findings of the most recent New York Times/CBS News polls about U.S. Congressional races across the nation, which finds that "Democrats were twice as likely as Republicans to say the economy was the primary issue that would determine their vote."

New York, in particular, and the northeast in general, tend to lean toward the Democratic Party.

May, a fifty-year-old New Yorker who did not want to disclose her last name, says she is worried about another terrorist attack and the possibility of a military operation in Iraq. But she says she is basing her decision in this year's statewide race on her immediate needs.

"I am thinking about health care for older people and for kids and for people who are unemployed now," she says. "I am thinking about the future of the economy and retirement benefits, social security and all that stuff."

But despite voters' concerns, pollsters say voter turnout is likely to be low, and with many races too close to call, that could also be a key factor in Tuesday's polls.