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Most polls of likely voters show the environment ranking far below the economy as a prime campaign issue. Still, there is much interest in where the candidates stand, particularly since most major environmental issues have a strong economic component.

In a survey of 1,200 adults for the Times Mirror Magazines this summer, the Roper polling organization found that 63 percent said they believed environmental laws and regulations have not gone far enough and 64 percent would choose environmental protection over economic development if they had to choose between the two.

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At the same time, six out of 10 opposed increased taxes to pay for environmental programs, and about half said they believed the Endangered Species Act should be changed to consider cost, compared with 38 percent who said all species should be saved regardless of cost.

In the Times Mirror poll, 29 percent described themselves as active environmentalists and another 52 percent were sympathetic to environmental concerns. In past elections, 22 percent said they had voted for candidates on the basis of their environmental record.

A September Gallup survey of registered voters showed 58 percent saying there had been no improvement in air and water quality during the Bush administration.

A Louis Harris poll a month earlier found just 15 percent agreeing that Bush "can fairly call himself the environmental president." Even 69 percent of Republicans polled disagreed with the president's assertion.

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