Politics

Public Gives Clinton Best Odds of Being Elected President

by Jeffrey M. Jones

More than 8 in 10 say she has excellent or good chance of being elected

PRINCETON , NJ -- In Americans’ judgment, Sen. Hillary Clinton has the best odds of all the main contenders for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination of winning the general election next November. The percentage rating her chances of being elected as excellent or good are significantly higher than for any other candidate, and on a comparative basis, Americans say she has a better chance of being elected than Sen. Barack Obama, former Sen. John Edwards, and even former Vice President Al Gore. Democrats give Clinton better odds of winning than do Republicans and independents, but even a majority of Republicans believe she has a good chance of being elected and say she has a better chance than any of her major competitors.

These findings are based on the latest Gallup Panel survey, which was conducted Oct. 25-28. Clinton’s electability was a significant issue in an Oct. 30 debate involving the Democratic presidential candidates. It is unclear to what extent that debate and the ensuing media coverage of it might affect Americans’ views on the matter, but even before the debate it was clear that Americans widely believed Clinton to be a viable presidential candidate.

The poll asked Americans whether each of the top five announced Democratic candidates had an excellent, good, slim, or no chance of being elected president in 2008. The ordering of the candidates’ perceived electability generally follows their rank order in Gallup’s Democratic nomination trial heats -- Clinton is the clear leader, with Obama second and Edwards third.

More than 8 in 10 Americans say Clinton has an excellent or a good chance of being elected president next year. A majority of Americans also believe Obama has at least a good chance of being elected, even though he now faces a larger deficit to Clinton in national Democratic nomination trial heats than only a few months ago. Clinton, Obama, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani are the only candidates of either party whom most Americans view as having an excellent or good chance (the full Republican results will be released Friday on gallup.com).

Edwards falls just short of the 50% mark on this measure, and only about 1 in 10 Americans believe that Gov. Bill Richardson or Sen. Joe Biden have better than a slim chance of being elected.

Perceived Chances of Democratic Candidates Being Elected President,
Among All Americans

 

Excellent

Good

Slim

No chance

Excellent/
Good

%

%

%

%

%

Hillary Clinton

34

49

11

6

83

Barack Obama

13

52

25

9

65

John Edwards

4

42

39

15

46

Bill Richardson

*

11

47

35

11

Joe Biden

*

9

49

36

9

* Less than 0.5%

A February Gallup Panel survey asked the same question about each of these candidates. Since that time, Americans have grown more confident in Clinton’s chances while becoming less likely to believe each of the other Democratic candidates can win. Clinton and Obama were essentially even on this measure back in February, but Clinton now has an 18-point advantage.

Perceptions by Party

All three major party groups -- Democrats, independents, and Republicans -- perceive Clinton as having the best chance of winning the presidency. However, within that pattern, Democrats rate the leading Democratic candidates’ chances better than do Republicans. Presidential long shots Richardson and Biden are given about equally slim odds of winning by all partisan groups.

Currently, 90% of Democrats say Clinton has an excellent or good chance of being elected, the same percentage as in February. But now 46% of Democrats say she has an excellent chance, while in February a slightly smaller percentage, 37%, gave her the best odds. Democrats have downgraded Edwards’ chances since February, but Obama’s are holding steady.

Perceived Chances of Democratic Candidates Being Elected President,
February vs. October Results, Among Democrats 
 

Excellent

Good

Slim

No chance

Excellent/
Good

%

%

%

%

%

Hillary Clinton -- Feb

37

53

9

1

90

Hillary Clinton -- Oct

46

44

7

2

90

 

 

 

 

 

Barack Obama -- Feb

21

53

13

10

74

Barack Obama -- Oct

18

57

17

7

75

 

 

 

 

 

John Edwards -- Feb

9

55

30

6

64

John Edwards -- Oct

7

47

37

9

54

* Less than 0.5%

The increase in Clinton’s perceived odds observed from February to the present among all Americans, then, has come from Republicans (+15 since February) and independents (+14). The decrease in Obama’s chances has come more from Republicans (-13) than independents (-6). Republicans, like Democrats, are now less likely than they were in February to see Edwards as a good bet for the presidency (-11), while independents’ ratings of Edwards have changed little in the past eight months.

Head-to-Head Matchups

In addition to getting a read on each candidate’s perceived chances in isolation, the poll also tested Clinton’s perceived strength in a series of comparative measures pitting her against each of her strongest rivals for the Democratic nomination, including former Vice President Al Gore. Gore, who recently won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change, has maintained that he has no plans to run for president. Even so, there are organized efforts to urge him to do so, and he has yet to definitively rule out a run. Gore consistently receives double-digit support when included in Gallup’s national preference polls for the Democratic nomination, usually placing behind Obama but ahead of Edwards for third place.

Americans believe Clinton has a better chance of being elected president than each of her three leading competitors. The one who comes closest is Gore.

Since February, Clinton’s advantage over Obama and Edwards has increased, but she has lost some ground to Gore. Clinton and Obama were essentially tied in February, but she has now opened up a wide lead over him.

Who Has Better Chance of Being Elected President,
February vs. October Results, Among All Americans

 

February

October

%

%

Clinton

50

71

Obama

45

26

 

 

Clinton

63

73

Edwards

35

25

 

 

Clinton

72

59

Gore

27

37

In February, Republicans were more likely to say Obama had a better chance of being elected than Clinton, 52% to 46%. Now, Republicans have revised their thinking and believe Clinton has the better chance by a better than 2-to-1 margin, 64% to 31%. Democrats were the only party group that thought Clinton had the better chance than Obama in February (57% to 40%), and they still do, but by a much wider 76% to 22% margin.

Democrats, Republicans, and independents show an increased belief in Gore’s chances against Clinton, even though all three groups still rate Clinton’s chances as better.

Does Clinton or Gore Have the Better Chance of Being Elected President,
February vs. October Results, Results by Party Affiliation

 

February

October

%

%

Democrats

 

 

Clinton

75

60

Gore

25

39

 

 

Independents

 

 

Clinton

65

54

Gore

34

42

 

 

Republicans

 

 

Clinton

76

64

Gore

22

30

Implications   

Clinton‚Äôs lead in national preference polls has expanded since the summer, and that has helped foster the belief that her nomination as the Democratic candidate for president is likely if not almost certain. Indeed, there have been reports that she is already campaigning in ‚Äúgeneral election‚ÄĚ mode by trying to move toward the center of the ideological spectrum, whereas Democratic candidates usually try to position themselves more to the liberal end during the primary contests.

Obama and Edwards used Tuesday night’s debate to increase their attacks on Clinton in hopes of cutting into her lead. One of the issues raised was her electability. From this survey conducted before that debate, it is clear that Americans -- including Democrats and Republicans -- believe she is not only electable but has a better chance of winning than any other Democratic candidate running for president.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup Panel study are based on telephone interviews with 1,000 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 25-28, 2007. Gallup panel members are recruited through random selection methods. The panel is weighted so that it is demographically representative of the U.S. adult population. For results based on these samples, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ¬Ī4 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 342 Democrats, the maximum margin of sampling error is ¬Ī6 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 310 Republicans, the maximum margin of sampling error is ¬Ī7 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 348 independents, the maximum margin of sampling error is ¬Ī6 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Now, thinking about next year's presidential election,   

5. Please say whether you think each one of the following Democratic presidential candidates would have an excellent chance, a good chance, only a slim chance, or no chance at all of being elected president in November 2008. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

A. Joe Biden

 

Excellent

Good

Slim

No chance

No opinion

National adults

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Oct 25-28

*

9

49

36

6

2007 Feb 22-25

1

17

48

24

10

 

 

 

 

 

Republicans

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

--

7

50

36

6

2007 Feb 22-25

*

16

51

23

9

 

 

 

 

 

Independents

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

--

9

44

41

6

2007 Feb 22-25

1

16

46

23

15

 

 

 

 

 

Democrats

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

1

11

52

30

6

2007 Feb 22-25

2

17

49

26

5

 

 

 

 

 

* Less than 0.5%

February 2007 WORDING: Delaware Senator, Joe Biden

  B. Hillary Clinton

 

Excellent

Good

Slim

No chance

No opinion

National adults

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Oct 25-28

34

49

11

6

*

2007 Feb 22-25

24

50

16

11

*

 

 

 

 

 

Republicans

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

16

57

17

9

1

2007 Feb 22-25

15

43

25

17

*

 

 

 

 

 

Independents

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

36

47

10

6

*

2007 Feb 22-25

16

53

15

17

--

 

 

 

 

 

Democrats

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

46

44

7

2

*

2007 Feb 22-25

37

53

9

1

--

 

 

 

 

 

* Less than 0.5%

February 2007 WORDING: New York Senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton

  C. John Edwards   

 

Excellent

Good

Slim

No chance

No opinion

National adults

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Oct 25-28

4

42

39

15

1

2007 Feb 22-25

6

46

34

12

1

 

 

 

 

 

Republicans

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

*

30

47

21

1

2007 Feb 22-25

3

38

36

22

*

 

 

 

 

 

Independents

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

5

46

32

15

1

2007 Feb 22-25

6

42

38

11

3

 

 

 

 

 

Democrats

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

7

47

37

9

1

2007 Feb 22-25

9

55

30

6

*

 

 

 

 

 

* Less than 0.5%

February 2007 WORDING: Former North Carolina Senator, John Edwards

  D. Barack Obama  

 

Excellent

Good

Slim

No chance

No opinion

National adults

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Oct 25-28

13

52

25

9

1

2007 Feb 22-25

19

52

18

10

2

 

 

 

 

 

Republicans

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

5

48

34

12

1

2007 Feb 22-25

12

54

20

14

*

 

 

 

 

 

Independents

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

15

50

26

8

2

2007 Feb 22-25

22

49

21

6

2

 

 

 

 

 

Democrats

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

18

57

17

7

1

2007 Feb 22-25

21

53

13

10

3

 

 

 

 

 

* Less than 0.5%

February 2007 WORDING: Illinois Senator, Barack Obama

  E. Bill Richardson   

 

Excellent

Good

Slim

No chance

No opinion

National adults

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Oct 25-28

*

11

47

35

7

2007 Feb 22-25

1

18

51

20

10

 

 

 

 

 

Republicans

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

--

10

50

34

7

2007 Feb 22-25

1

12

53

20

14

 

 

 

 

 

Independents

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

1

11

40

41

7

2007 Feb 22-25

*

18

51

18

14

 

 

 

 

 

Democrats

 

 

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

*

12

50

31

7

2007 Feb 22-25

2

21

52

22

4

 

 

 

 

 

* Less than 0.5%

February 2007 WORDING: New Mexico Governor, Bill Richardson

Q.6-8 ROTATED

 

6. Who do you think would have the better chance of being elected president in November 2008 -- [ROTATED: Hillary Rodham Clinton, (or) Barack Obama]?

 

Clinton

Obama

No
opinion

National adults

%

%

%

2007 Oct 25-28

71

26

4

2007 Feb 22-25

50

45

4

 

 

 

Republicans

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

64

31

5

2007 Feb 22-25

46

52

2

 

 

 

Independents

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

70

25

4

2007 Feb 22-25

46

45

9

 

 

 

Democrats

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

76

22

2

2007 Feb 22-25

57

40

2

7. Who do you think would have the better chance of being elected president in November 2008 -- [ROTATED: Hillary Rodham Clinton, (or) John Edwards]?

 

Clinton


Edwards

No
opinion

National adults

%

%

%

2007 Oct 25-28

73

25

2

2007 Feb 22-25

63

35

1

 

 

 

Republicans

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

71

26

3

2007 Feb 22-25

52

46

2

 

 

 

Independents

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

68

30

2

2007 Feb 22-25

59

38

3

 

 

 

Democrats

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

80

20

*

2007 Feb 22-25

76

23

*

* Less than 0.5%

8. Who do you think would have the better chance of being elected president in November 2008 -- [ROTATED: Hillary Rodham Clinton, (or) Al Gore]?

 

Clinton

Gore

No
opinion

National adults

%

%

%

2007 Oct 25-28

59

37

4

2007 Feb 22-25

72

27

1

 

 

 

Republicans

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

64

30

5

2007 Feb 22-25

76

22

1

 

 

 

Independents

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

54

42

5

2007 Feb 22-25

65

34

1

 

 

 

Democrats

 

 

 

2007 Oct 25-28

60

39

1

2007 Feb 22-25

75

25

1

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