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Poll: Foley scandal ranks low among election issues

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Only about a quarter of Americans say the scandal over former Rep. Mark Foley will be "extremely important" in how they vote in November's congressional elections, according to a CNN poll released Tuesday.

That figure falls far below issues such as Iraq, terrorism and the economy.

The Foley scandal ranked fifth on a list of five topics in a poll conducted Friday through Sunday by Opinion Research Corp. (Read the complete poll results -- PDF)

Iraq and the threat of terrorism topped the list, with 43 percent of the 1,012 adults polled saying each would be extremely important to their November 7 vote, compared with 33 percent for the economy.

The issue of North Korea, which conducted its first nuclear test last week, was extremely important to 32 percent of those polled, while 27 percent cited the Foley scandal.

The survey had a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Twenty percent said they were angry over how lawmakers handled the Foley matter, while 57 percent said they were dissatisfied and 19 percent said they were satisfied.

Foley abruptly resigned September 29 as details emerged of sexually explicit instant messages he sent to teens who had served as congressional pages.

Questions about how GOP leaders handled previous concerns about the six-term Florida Republican have led to investigations by the House ethics committee and the Justice Department. (Watch GOP leaders having trouble staying on message -- 1:31 Video)

Tuesday's poll found that 57 percent of Americans believe Republican leaders in Congress deliberately covered up the earlier concerns -- up from 52 percent in a poll taken a week earlier -- while 39 percent believe the GOP was unaware of the serious nature of Foley's behavior.

But the latest survey finds more support for House Speaker Dennis Hastert in the wake of the controversy.

In the previous poll, conducted October 6-8, 52 percent said the Foley scandal should cost the Illinois Republican his leadership post. (Full story)

That figure dropped slightly, to 50 percent, while the number of people who believed Hastert should stay on as speaker grew from 31 percent last week to 39 percent this week.

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Former Rep. Mark Foley resigned as details emerged of his electronic contacts with pages.

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