Politics

Clinton, Giuliani, and Obama Tie on Presidential Leadership

by Lydia Saad

Majority believes each has the qualities needed to be president

PRINCETON, NJ -- Despite Sen. Hillary Clinton’s position as the dominant front-runner for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Americans rate Clinton and competitor Sen. Barack Obama roughly the same when asked about the candidates’ leadership qualities and about their agreement with the candidates on the issues, with former Sen. John Edwards not too far behind. This conceals the fact that Clinton is more positively evaluated by those in her own party than is Obama or Edwards, while she does worse than her competitors among Republicans.

On the other hand, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is the front-runner for the Republican Party’s nomination, does better than either former Gov. Mitt Romney or former Sen. Fred Thompson on both dimensions, maintaining his advantage among Republicans as well as Democrats.

These findings from the Nov. 2-4, 2007, USA Today/Gallup poll suggest that while Clinton is well respected by Democrats, she runs a deficit among Republicans relative to her Democratic challengers -- one that could have implications for the general election if it persists. (The same poll shows Clinton leading Giuliani for the November 2008 election among registered voters by a six-point margin, so it is not a fatal problem for her at the moment, but it could explain why she is not doing even better in the face-off.)

More Perceive Leadership Than Shared Policy Positions

Gallup asked respondents whether each of the six candidates rated in the survey “has the personality and leadership qualities a president should have,” and whether they agree or disagree with each candidate “on the issues that matter most to you.”

Americans are slightly more likely to say Clinton has the personality and leadership qualities needed in a president than to say they agree with her on the issues, though a majority of Americans say both statements are true. Giuliani and Obama receive nearly the same ratings as Clinton on both dimensions.

Edwards trails only slightly behind Obama on these measures. However, Romney and Thompson have much lower scores -- in part because of lower name identification, but also because they have higher negatives on these measures.

Americans’ perceptions of the personality and leadership strength of the top-ranked candidates for president, as well as their agreement with them on the issues, closely follows their overall views of these candidates as measured by Gallup’s standard favorability question.

At least half the public views Clinton, Obama, Giuliani, and Edwards favorably. Accordingly, a majority of Americans say each has “the personality and leadership qualities a president should have,” and about half say they agree with each on the most important issues.

Romney and Thompson have much lower favorable scores -- in part because a substantial segment of the public is not familiar with them -- and, consequently, their ratings for leadership qualities and issue positions are quite low.

Positive Ratings Comparison
Based on national adults
Nov. 2-4, 2007

 

Have favorable
opinion of
the candidate

Agree candidate
has presidential
leadership qualities

Agree with
candidate on
issues of
most importance

 

%

%

%

Hillary Clinton

52

60

51

Rudy Giuliani

55

59

50

Barack Obama

53

56

48

John Edwards

50

51

45

Mitt Romney

28

32

26

Fred Thompson

29

27

27

Romney and Thompson have more to overcome than low name ID, however; nearly half of Americans say each man lacks the leadership qualities a president should have, and does not share their views on the issues. Fewer than 4 in 10 Americans say this relative to either dimension for Giuliani, Obama, and Edwards, as well as for Clinton relative to leadership qualities. However, 44% say she does not share their views on the most important issues.

Partisan Differences

While several of the candidates cluster together at the top of the rankings for leadership and issues agreement, much more differentiation is seen according to partisanship. Consistent with her strong front-runner status in the Democratic Party, Clinton is the clear favorite of Democrats on both dimensions, well ahead of Obama and Edwards, as well as the Republicans rated.

Democrats’ Positive Ratings of Presidential Candidates
on Leadership and Issues
Nov. 2-4, 2007

 

Clinton

Obama

Edwards

Giuliani

Thompson

Romney

 

%

%

%

%

%

%

Leadership

88

68

64

39

16

15

Issues

85

68

65

29

10

7

Similarly, among Republicans, Giuliani far outpaces not only Clinton, Obama, and Edwards, but the other two Republicans included in the survey: Romney and Thompson. (Sen. John McCain was not rated in these leadership and issues questions, so it is unclear whether he would be more competitive with Giuliani on these dimensions than either Romney or Thompson.)

Republicans’ Positive Ratings of Presidential Candidates
on Leadership and Issues
Nov. 2-4, 2007

 

Giuliani

Romney

Thompson

Obama

Edwards

Clinton

 

%

%

%

%

%

%

Leadership

81

52

49

40

33

22

Issues

75

49

53

21

22

11

Naturally, their partisan supporters give the front-runners for each party’s presidential nomination -- Clinton for the Democrats and Giuliani for the Republicans -- high marks on both dimensions. However, Clinton is rated slightly higher by Democrats than Giuliani is by Republicans, particularly with respect to agreement with the candidates on the issues.

  • Eighty-eight percent of Democrats say Clinton has the personality and leadership necessary to be president, compared with 81% of Republicans saying this about Giuliani.
  • Eighty-five percent of Democrats say they agree with Clinton on issues that are most important to them, compared with 75% of Republicans saying this of Giuliani.

At the same time, Giuliani has greater crossover political appeal on both dimensions:

  • Only 22% of Republicans say Clinton has presidential leadership qualities, compared with 39% of Democrats saying this of Giuliani.
  • Similarly, only 11% of Republicans agree with Clinton on the most important issues, compared with 29% of Democrats who agree with Giuliani.

Obama also has relatively high political crossover appeal, as Republicans’ positive ratings of him on both dimensions are about as twice as high as those for Clinton.

Bottom Line

The general public gives Clinton, Giuliani, and Obama similar ratings in terms of each candidate’s leadership qualities and positions on the issues. For all three, the overall evaluation is positive.

Democrats give Clinton exceptionally good reviews on both dimensions. The great leveler for Giuliani is that he enjoys more crossover appeal from Democrats than Clinton does from Republicans. That could speak to the reaction these candidates get from voters in open waters, if they emerge as the Democratic and Republican nominees for their respective parties next year.

The reason Obama scores nearly as well as Clinton does, nationally, is that he garners significantly higher positive ratings from Republicans than she does. That could speak to the comparative viability of Clinton in the general election vs. that of Obama if he were the nominee.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,024 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Nov. 2-4, 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 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.

22. Please tell me whether you agree or disagree that -- [RANDOM ORDER] -- has the personality and leadership qualities a president should have.

2007 Nov 2-4 
(sorted by "agree,
has qualities")

Agree,
has qualities

Disagree,
does not

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

Hillary Clinton

60

36

3

Rudy Giuliani

59

34

7

Barack Obama

56

35

9

John Edwards

51

36

13

Mitt Romney

32

45

23

Fred Thompson

27

48

26

23. Please tell me whether you agree or disagree with -- [RANDOM ORDER] -- on the issues that matter most to you.

2007 Nov 2-4
(sorted by "agree with")

Agree
with

Disagree
with

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

Hillary Clinton

51

44

5

Rudy Giuliani

50

39

11

Barack Obama

48

38

13

John Edwards

45

39

16

Fred Thompson

27

46

28

Mitt Romney

26

49

26

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Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/102673/Clinton-Giuliani-Obama-Tie-Presidential-Leadership.aspx
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