Politics

Giuliani Leads, Close Race for Second in GOP Race

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Giuliani has 16-point lead over McCain

PRINCETON, NJ -- The latest USA Today/Gallup update on national Republicans’ preferences for the party’s 2008 presidential nomination shows former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani maintaining a significant lead, with three candidates closely matched for second place. The Nov. 2-4 poll finds Giuliani the top choice of 34% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, followed by Arizona Sen. John McCain at 18%, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson at 17%, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 14%. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee registers 6% support, giving him a solid fifth-place showing, with all other active candidates at 1% or less of the vote.

At least 30% of Republicans have named Giuliani as their first choice for the nomination in all but one poll this year. He has led in every Gallup Poll since February, with an average lead of 14 percentage points. Thus, his current 16-point edge over McCain is in line with his usual standing.

Romney’s 14% showing in the current poll ties his best to date with readings from early June and following his victory in the Iowa Straw Poll in mid-August. But in both those instances, Romney failed to sustain positive momentum in the national polls. His support dropped to 8% in the next poll following his 14% reading from June, and to 10% following his 14% reading in August.

Meanwhile, Thompson’s support is below 20% for a second consecutive poll after being at or above 20% in all but one poll from mid-June to early October.

Views of the Candidates

Giuliani is well ahead of his competitors in terms of having the most positive overall image among Republicans. Seventy-four percent of Republicans and Republican leaners have a favorable opinion of Giuliani, and his net favorable rating of +57 (percentage favorable minus percentage unfavorable) is nearly 20 points better than that of McCain, who is the candidate rated second-most positively.

One-third or more of Republicans are still not familiar enough with Romney, Thompson, and Huckabee to have formed an opinion of them. But all three are viewed more positively than negatively by Republican partisans.

Favorable Ratings of Republican Presidential Candidates,
Among Republicans and Republican Leaners

 

Net favorable

% Favorable

% Unfavorable

% No opinion

pct. pts.

 

 

 

Giuliani

+57

74

17

9

McCain

+38

62

24

14

Thompson

+29

47

18

36

Romney

+28

47

19

34

Huckabee

+16

28

12

60

Among the general public, as a group, the leading Republican candidates’ ratings lag behind those of the leading Democrats. Each of the three leading Democrats has a net favorable rating in positive territory among all Americans, with Hillary Clinton at +7, Barack Obama at +23, and John Edwards at +19. Only Giuliani and McCain can claim this distinction among the leading Republicans. Thompson, Huckabee, and Romney -- though they are all still relative unknowns to Americans -- currently get about as many negative evaluations as positive ones.

Favorable Ratings of Presidential Candidates,
Among All Americans

 

 

Net favorable

% Favorable

% Unfavorable

% No opinion

 

pct. pts.

 

 

 

Giuliani (R)

+23

55

32

13

Obama (D)

+23

53

30

17

Edwards (D)

+19

50

31

19

McCain (R)

+13

47

34

19

Clinton (D)

+7

52

45

3

Thompson (R)

+1

29

28

43

Huckabee (R)

0

18

18

64

Romney (R)

-3

28

31

41

Notably, however, the Republican front-runner (Giuliani) is much more favorably reviewed by the general public than is the Democratic front-runner (Clinton). In fact, Giuliani ties with Obama as the most popular candidate currently.

In recent weeks, Thompson’s image has suffered greatly. When he officially entered the race in early September, his net favorable rating was +17 (36% favorable, 19% unfavorable) among all Americans and +41 (54% favorable, 13% unfavorable) among Republicans. Now, barely two months into his official campaign, his ratings have fallen to +1 (29% favorable, 28% unfavorable) and +29 (47% favorable, 18% unfavorable), respectively.

It is not uncommon for presidential candidates’ negatives to grow as they campaign for the presidency. But in the cases of Giuliani and Obama, though their negatives have grown over time, they are still rated positively on balance.

During this time, Thompson’s support for the GOP nomination has fallen slightly but perceptibly, from 22% to 17%.

Implications

With the Iowa caucuses less than two months away, the Republican field is showing some movement. Thompson has fallen back into a tie for second place with McCain, and Romney is nipping at their heels. Romney will attempt to sustain positive poll momentum for the first time during the campaign. He remains the leader in polls of Iowa and New Hampshire Republicans, and strong showings there will likely improve his national standing.

Giuliani, however, continues to lead the national polls, and remains well positioned from the standpoint that Republicans have traditionally selected the national front-runner as the party’s presidential nominee.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,024 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Nov 2-4, 2007. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 430 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 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.

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