Hillary Clinton Easily Paces Democratic Field

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Two-thirds of Americans rate her as a strong leader

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- A new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll finds New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as the clear early favorite of the Democratic Party's rank-and-file for the 2008 presidential nomination. On the Republican side, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain are closely matched, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice coming in third. Majorities of Americans view Clinton as a strong and decisive leader, as likeable, and as caring and honest. However, Americans are more inclined to believe she would divide rather than unite the country, and less than half believe she shares their values.

Presidential Preference

The August 5-7 poll asked Democrats and Republicans who they are most likely to support in the 2008 presidential primaries. Clinton has a sizeable lead over the rest of the Democratic field, as 40% of Democratic registered voters prefer her to other possible nominees. Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards are the closet pursuers, at just 16% and 15%, respectively. Nine percent favor Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, while 5% or less currently support retired general Wesley Clark (5%), New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (3%), Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh (3%), and Virginia Governor Mark Warner (2%).

On the Republican side, 27% of registered voters support Giuliani and 24% back McCain. Rice is the choice of 19% of Republican registered voters. The remaining Republicans tested in the poll are all in single digits, including Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee (9%), Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (4%), New York Governor George Pataki (3%), Virginia Sen. George Allen (3%), and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback (2%). Less than 1% chose Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel.

Last month, a Gallup poll tested how some of those candidates might fare in a general election match-up. Both Giuliani and McCain had slight 50%-45% leads over Clinton in trial heats among registered voters, and larger 54%-41% leads over Kerry.

These results give an indication of early candidate support, but are not necessarily predictive of what will happen during the 2008 primaries or general election. Results of a poll question that asked Americans about their current orientations to the 2008 election underscore that caution. Just 16% say they have a good idea of whom they will support, 52% say they are following the news about the election but have not seriously considered whom they will support, and 31% say they are not following the news about it closely.

Views of Clinton

Much of the early focus on the 2008 election has been on Clinton, the former first lady who could become the first woman to win a party's presidential nomination. A July 25-28 Gallup poll found 53% of Americans rating her favorably and 43% unfavorably.

The current poll delves more deeply into public perceptions of the New York senator by asking Americans to rate Clinton on a series of personal characteristics.

Thinking about the following characteristics and qualities, please say whether you think each applies or doesn't apply to Hillary Clinton. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

2005 Aug 5-7
(sorted by "applies")


Applies


Doesn't apply

%

%

Is a strong and decisive leader

68

30

Is likable

60

39

Cares about the needs of people like you

54

43

Is honest and trustworthy

53

43

Shares your values

44

51

Would unite the country and not divide it

41

53

Nearly 7 in 10 describe Clinton as a "strong and decisive leader," and at least a majority believes she is "likable," "cares about the needs of people like you," and is "honest and trustworthy."

At 53%, she compares favorably to her husband, former President Bill Clinton, on the honesty dimension. Gallup's most recent reading on him, from July 2000, found only 21% of Americans describing him as honest and trustworthy. That was a dramatic drop from the 61% who described him that way shortly after he took office in 1993, long before the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Hillary Clinton's honesty ratings are comparable to the current president's. A late July CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll finds 54% saying George W. Bush is honest and trustworthy.

Her apparent weaknesses at this point are on values and uniting the country. Currently, 50% of Americans say the Republican president Bush shares their values, compared with 44% for Clinton. Recently, Clinton has received a lot of attention for apparently urging the Democratic Party take a more moderate approach on the abortion issue.

Likewise, only 41% say Clinton would unite the country, while 53% disagree. It is unclear to what degree that is a reflection on her versus a commentary on the highly partisan nature of politics in the United States today, since the question has not been asked recently about other politicians. When Gallup asked a slightly different question about Bush earlier this year, the public was evenly divided in its view of whether Bush was a "uniter" or a "divider."

The results for Clinton vary dramatically by party affiliation -- 65% of Democrats believe Clinton would unite the country, compared with just 39% of independents and 21% of Republicans.

As was the case in the 2004 election, the public will evaluate the next group of presidential candidates to a large degree on their ability to handle the terrorism issue. A majority of Americans, 57%, believes Clinton would be at least somewhat effective in dealing with terrorism, but only 17% say she will be very effective. Roughly 4 in 10 believe she would not be very effective on the terror issue.

Aside from being the first woman nominee of a major party, Clinton would also be the first spouse of a former president to seek the office. The poll finds that the public views Hillary Clinton's marriage to Bill Clinton as more of a liability than an asset. Forty-three percent of Americans say her marriage to Bill Clinton makes them less likely to vote for her, 30% say more likely, and 26% say it makes no difference. These views are strongly partisan -- with Democrats saying it makes them more likely to support Hillary Clinton and Republicans less likely, with independents fairly evenly divided.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,004 adults, aged 18 years and older, conducted August 5-7, 2005. 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. 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.

For results based on the sample of 406 Republicans and Republican leaners who are registered to vote, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 424 Democrats and Democratic leaners who are registered to vote, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.

22. Next, I'm going to read a list of people who may be running in the Republican primary for president in the next election. After I read all the names, please tell me which of those candidates you would be most likely to support for the Republican nomination for President in the year 2008. [ROTATED: Virginia Senator, George Allen; Kansas Senator, Sam Brownback; Tennessee Senator, Bill Frist; Former New York City Mayor, Rudy Giuliani; Nebraska Senator, Chuck Hagel; Arizona Senator, John McCain; New York Governor, George Pataki; Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice; Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney]

BASED ON 406 REPUBLICANS AND REPUBLICAN LEANERS WHO ARE REGISTERED TO VOTE

BASED ON 443 REPUBLICANS AND REPUBLICAN LEANERS

2005 Aug 5-7

Republican
Registered voters


All Republicans

%

%

Rudy Giuliani

27

28

John McCain

24

24

Condoleezza Rice

19

18

Bill Frist

9

8

Mitt Romney

4

4

George Pataki

3

3

George Allen

3

3

Sam Brownback

2

2

Chuck Hagel

*

*

Other

*

*

None

2

2

All/any

1

1

No opinion

6

7

* Less than 0.5%

23. Next, I'm going to read a list of people who may be running in the Democratic primary for president in the next election. After I read all the names, please tell me which of those candidates you would be most likely to support for the Democratic nomination for President in the year 2008. [ROTATED: Indiana Senator, Evan Bayh; Delaware Senator, Joe Biden; Retired General, Wesley Clark; New York Senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton; Former North Carolina Senator, John Edwards; Massachusetts Senator, John Kerry; New Mexico Governor, Bill Richardson; Virginia Governor, Mark Warner]

BASED ON 424 DEMOCRATS AND DEMOCRATIC LEANERS WHO ARE REGISTERED TO VOTE

BASED ON 466 DEMOCRATS AND DEMOCRATIC LEANERS

2005 Aug 5-7

Democratic
Registered voters



All Democrats

%

%

Hillary Rodham Clinton

40

41

John Kerry

16

16

John Edwards

15

15

Joe Biden

9

8

Wesley Clark

5

5

Bill Richardson

3

3

Evan Bayh

3

3

Mark Warner

2

2

Other

*

*

None

2

2

All/any

1

*

No opinion

4

5

* Less than 0.5%

24. Thinking about the 2008 presidential election, which of the following best describes you -- [ROTATED: you have a good idea about whom you will support, you are following the news about the people who might run, but you haven't seriously considered who you will support, or you are not paying much attention to the news about it]?


Good idea
about whom you will support

Haven't seriously considered who you will support


Not
paying much attention



No
opinion

2005 Aug 5-7

16%

52

31

1

25. Thinking about the following characteristics and qualities, please say whether you think each applies or doesn't apply to Hillary Clinton. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

A. Is honest and trustworthy

Applies

Doesn't apply

No opinion

%

%

%

2005 Aug 5-7

53

43

4

1994 Apr 22-24

52

41

7

1994 Mar 7-8

56

36

8

B. Is a strong and decisive leader

Applies

Doesn't apply

No opinion

2005 Aug 5-7

68%

30

2

C. Shares your values

Applies

Doesn't apply

No opinion

%

%

%

2005 Aug 5-7

44

51

5

1994 Apr 22-24

47

47

6

1994 Mar 7-8

50

45

5

D. Is likable

Applies

Doesn't apply

No opinion

2005 Aug 5-7

60%

39

1

E. Would unite the country and not divide it

Applies

Doesn't apply

No opinion

2005 Aug 5-7

41%

53

6

F. Cares about the needs of people like you

Applies

Doesn't apply

No opinion

%

%

%

2005 Aug 5-7

54

43

3

1994 Apr 22-24

59

37

4

1994 Mar 7-8

61

37

2

26. How effective do you think Hillary Clinton would be in dealing with terrorism if she were elected president -- very effective, somewhat effective, not too effective, or not effective at all?


Very
effective

Somewhat
effective


Not too
effective

Not effective
at all


No
opinion

2005 Aug 5-7

17%

40

21

18

4

Q.27-28 SPLIT SAMPLED

27. If Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton got a divorce, would that make you more likely to vote for her or less likely to vote for her if she ran for president in 2008?

BASED ON 481 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

More
likely

Less
Likely

NO
DIFFERENCE
(vol.)

No
opinion

2005 Aug 5-7

18%

22

58

2

28. Does the fact that Hillary Clinton is married to Bill Clinton make you more likely to vote for her or less likely to vote for her if she ran for president in 2008?

BASED ON 523 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

More
likely

Less
Likely

NO
DIFFERENCE
(vol.)

No
opinion

2005 Aug 5-7

30%

43

26

1

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