Politics

Giuliani, Moral Values, and the GOP Nomination

He is the top choice even among those seeking moral values conservative

PRINCETON, NJ -- A major story line throughout the presidential campaign has been Republican front-runner Rudy Giuliani’s potential vulnerability because of his pro-choice views on abortion and pro-gay rights stance, positions that are generally out of step with most Republican voters. Giuliani has led national preference polls for the Republican nomination throughout much of the year, but it is unclear to what extent Republican voters know about his positions on these issues and, more importantly, how that might play out in the nomination battle.

A review of recent Gallup Poll data finds that while most Republicans are unaware of Giuliani’s positions on abortion and gay rights, they nevertheless generally perceive him to be liberal or moderate on moral values issues. In the most recent Gallup Poll, most Republicans expressed a preference for a nominee who is conservative on such issues. But even among these voters, Giuliani had more support for the nomination than any of his competitors.

Knowledge of Giuliani’s Positions

A recent USA Today/Gallup poll revealed that most Republicans are unfamiliar with Giuliani’s precise positions on abortion (55%) and gay civil unions (74%). Compared to earlier in the year, Republicans are more knowledgeable about Giuliani’s position on abortion, but not about his position on civil unions. In January, 64% of Republicans were unsure of his position on abortion, and those who responded were as likely to characterize him as being pro-life (16%) as pro-choice (20%). Now, Republicans clearly identify him as pro-choice, by a 37% to 8% margin.

Knowledge of Rudy Giuliani’s Issue Positions
Among Republicans and Republican Leaners,
January and October Gallup Polls
 

 

Jan 5-7, 2007

Oct 12-14, 2007

 

%

%

Abortion

 

 

Pro-choice

16

8

Pro-life

20

37

Unsure

64

55

 

 

 

Gay Civil Unions

 

 

Favors

17

18

Opposes

8

7

Unsure

75

74

At the same time, even if most Republicans are unable to specify Giuliani’s positions on these issues, there is a perception that his views on “social and moral values issues” fall somewhere in the middle of the ideological spectrum. The Nov. 2-4 USA Today/Gallup poll shows that most Republicans perceive Giuliani as moderate (47%) or liberal (18%) on social and moral values issues. Just 21% believe he is conservative.

The challenge for Giuliani is that most rank-and-file Republicans would prefer the party nominate a candidate with conservative (59%) rather than liberal or moderate (39%) positions on these issues.

Among Republicans who prefer a conservative values candidate for the 2008 presidential nomination, Giuliani does not fare as well as he does among those who prefer a moderate or liberal candidate. But he still tops the list among the former group, even though his lead over second-place Fred Thompson is not statistically significant. He is the solid choice among Republicans who prefer a nominee with liberal or moderate social issue positions, with a 25-point lead over second-place John McCain.

Republican Nomination Choice Based on Preference
for Candidate’s Views on Social and Moral Values Issues,
Nov. 2-4 Gallup Poll

 

Candidate

Prefer Republicans Nominate
Candidate With Conservative
Views on Social/Moral Issues

Prefer Republicans Nominate
Candidate With Moderate or Liberal
Views on Social/Moral Issues

 

%

%

Giuliani

27

46

Thompson

20

11

McCain

17

21

Romney

16

9

Huckabee

8

3

Hunter

1

0

Tancredo

*

1

Paul

*

1

 

 

 

Other

1

1

No opinion

9

7

* Less than 0.5%

Some pundits believe that Giuliani may fail to win the Republican nomination given his views on moral values issues, and the fact that a majority of Republicans do not know his precise views on those issues lends some weight to that argument. But as the above analysis makes clear, he is at worst competitive and at best the leader among Republicans who would be disinclined to support a candidate with his moral values issue profile.

Results of other Gallup Polls provide some possible hypotheses as to why moral values issues -- to this point -- have not derailed Giuliani’s campaign.

First, on the most basic level, Giuliani passes the “likeability” test better than his Republican competitors. His 74% favorable rating among Republicans is 12 points higher than the Republican rated next most positively, McCain.

Second, Giuliani benefits when the campaign focus shifts away from issues and onto other relevant dimensions, such as the candidates’ personal characteristics. For example, Republicans widely perceive Giuliani to be a stronger leader than Romney and Thompson, and 63% of Republicans say Giuliani’s “leadership style” makes them more likely to vote for him.

Third, Giuliani is currently well-positioned among “strategic” Republican voters -- those who are most likely to support the candidate who they perceive has the best chance of winning. A recent Gallup Panel survey found that Republicans do in fact rate Giuliani as the candidate with the best chance of being elected president and, separately, as the candidate with the best chance of defeating Hillary Clinton in the November 2008 election.

Even though a majority of Republicans, 57%, say they want the party to nominate the candidate closest to them on the issues, a substantial minority of 38% of Republicans can be considered strategic from the standpoint that they prefer the party nominate the candidate with the best chance of beating the Democrat, even if that candidate does not agree with them on the issues they care about. Giuliani is the top choice among “strategic Republicans” and fares better among this group than he does among “issue voters.”

Republican Nomination Choice Based on Issue Agreement
Versus Chances of Winning,
Nov. 2-4 Gallup Poll

 

Candidate

Candidate With Best Chance
of Winning, Even if Disagree on Issues

Candidate Closest on Issues,
Even if Not Best Chance of Winning

 

%

%

Giuliani

38

32

Thompson

14

18

McCain

17

20

Romney

15

14

Huckabee

7

6

Hunter

1

1

Tancredo

0

1

Paul

1

1

 

 

 

Other

0

1

No opinion

8

8

Fourth, Republican primary and caucus voters will likely take many issues into account when deciding which candidate to support, and Giuliani may look more appealing on other issues than he does on moral values. For example, a September Gallup Panel survey showed Giuliani with significant advantages over his chief Republican rivals on terrorism and crime. Also, in the Nov. 2-4 poll, Giuliani looks to be a better fit with the party rank-and-file on economic issues -- 64% of Republicans want the party to nominate an economic conservative, and 41% view Giuliani in those terms -- than on moral values.

Perhaps most importantly, though, moral values issues may not be as crucial to deciding the Republican nominee as some pundits perceive. In the Oct. 12-14 poll, 61% of Republicans say Giuliani’s views on abortion and gay rights either make no difference in whether they will vote for him for president, or make them more likely to vote for him. Twenty-eight percent say Giuliani’s views make them more likely to vote against him, including 17% who say “much more likely.”


Implications

The GOP presidential candidates certainly will do their best to remind Republican voters about Giuliani’s views on abortion and gay marriage, because they are an obvious weakness for him. But it likely will take much more than that to defeat the current front-runner. Televangelist Pat Robertson’s recent endorsement of Giuliani shows that even strongly religious Republicans will not necessarily disqualify the former New York City mayor on those grounds.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 430 Republicans and Republican leaners, 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 ±5 percentage points.

Results from the Oct. 12-14 survey are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 411 Republicans and Republican leaners, aged 18 and older. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects 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.

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/102685/Conservative-Values-Republicans-Prefer-Giuliani.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030