Clinton Eclipses Obama and Edwards on Leadership

by Lydia Saad

Obama enjoys a softer image as likable, a uniter

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Sen. Hillary Clinton's front-runner status in the opening chapter of the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination race -- she leads with 29% of Democrats compared with 18% for Sen. Barack Obama and 13% for former Sen. John Edwards -- carries over into her dominance over the other two top Democratic contenders in perceived leadership qualities.

A new Gallup Panel survey asked Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents to compare Clinton, Obama, and Edwards on 15 different positive personal characteristics. Of these, Clinton is perceived to best exemplify eight characteristics, she and Obama are about tied on four, and Obama leads on three.

Among the characteristics and qualities tested, Clinton's strong points are almost uniformly related to presidential leadership. She holds a formidable lead on many items in this category, including being qualified to be president and being a strong leader.

Obama leads on personal warmth, but with much slimmer margins than what Clinton enjoys for leadership. Democrats are most likely to choose Obama as the one who would do the most to unite the country and as the most likable. Edwards ranks third on most dimensions, but does relatively better in perceptions of how the candidates are received beyond the party base -- by Congress, with foreign leaders, and the general public.

Clinton's Competency

Clinton is widely perceived among Democrats as having what it takes to do the job of president. Her greatest strength is the perception that she is "the most qualified to be president." Six in 10 Democrats say this quality most applies to Clinton, versus 21% naming Edwards and 13% choosing Obama.

Other related Clinton strengths are that she is widely perceived as the "strongest leader," would perform best in the debates, would be best in a crisis, would manage the government most effectively, and would work the best with Congress. 

Additionally, by a 36-point margin over Edwards and a 42-point lead over Obama, Clinton enjoys a solid reputation as the candidate to beat for the 2008 Democratic nomination. Fifty-eight percent of Democrats believe Clinton has the best chance of winning the nomination. She enjoys a slightly smaller lead on being best able to defeat the Republican nominee in the 2008 general election, with 44% choosing Clinton, 27% Edwards, and 21% Obama.

Hillary Clinton Image Strengths

 

Clinton

Edwards

Obama

 

%

%

%

Is most qualified to be president

61

21

13

Is the strongest leader

59

15

22

Has the best chance of winning the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008

58

22

16

Would perform the best in debates

57

10

29

Would be the best in a crisis

54

20

20

Would manage the government most effectively

53

21

21

Would work the best with Congress

46

25

25

Has the best chance of beating the Republican nominee in the 2008 presidential election

44

27

21

Not only is Clinton perceived as having the best leadership credentials, but according to the same Jan. 25-28, 2007, Gallup Panel survey, she is chosen over the other two candidates as best able to handle 9 of 10 specific issues across a broad spectrum of policy areas. As discussed in another article on galluppoll.com, she is preferred by an outright majority of Democrats on healthcare, education, the economy, and energy and the environment. (See "Democrats Give Clinton Edge on Most Issues Over Obama, Edwards" in Related Items.) She holds smaller leads on terrorism, the situation in Iraq, relations with other countries, taxes, and crime. Only on "moral values issues" does one of the other candidates -- Obama -- tie with Clinton on perceived ability to handle an issue.

Competitive Image Territory

Gallup finds more parity among the three top Democrats with respect to perceptions of who would most likely be respected by leaders of other countries, who would run the most positive campaign, and who best understands the problems that ordinary Americans face.

Clinton and Obama are closely matched on these dimensions, while at least 20% choose Edwards on all but public speaking. These data suggest Clinton strategists might seek to brush up her image in these areas, and that Obama strategists might seek to emphasize them to play to his strengths.

Cultivating a Human Touch

The most promising dimension for Obama, and by contrast Clinton's weakest area, is with respect to human relations. This is apparently a weakness the Clinton campaign seems well aware of, as exemplified by framing her campaign as a "conversation" that she will take to people's living rooms via her Web site. As CNN political correspondent Candy Crowley recently opined, the backdrop for Clinton's presidential exploratory announcement -- "the warm lighting and the big sofa" -- was "an obvious attempt to try to connect and relate to people, many of whom think that she comes across as aloof, and that there's some sort of barrier there."

According to the Gallup survey, only 31% of Democrats today choose Clinton as the most likable of the three candidates tested. Obama wins this category with 41%, while Edwards is not far behind Clinton, with 24%. The results are similar to perceptions of which of the three would do the most to unite the country. 

Obama also leads Clinton -- 39% vs. 28% -- as being perceived to have the highest ethical standards. This may reflect Clinton's personal association with legal and ethical problems during the Clinton White House, such as the Whitewater land deal, "Filegate," and the removal of White House gifts at the end of Bill Clinton's presidency.

Survey Methods

Results for this panel study are based on telephone interviews with 504 Democrats or Democratic leaners, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 25-28, 2007. Respondents were randomly drawn from Gallup's nationally representative household panel, which was originally recruited through random selection methods. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the 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.

10. (Asked of Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic Party) Next, we'd like to know how you think Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama compare on a number of characteristics.  After I read each of the following characteristics, please say whether you think it most applies to -- [ROTATED: Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, (or) Barack Obama].   Which one of these three candidates do you think [RANDOM ORDER]?

BASED ON 504 DEMOCRATS AND DEMOCRATIC LEANERS


2007 Jan 25-28


Clinton


Edwards


Obama

No opinion

%

%

%

%

A. Is the best public speaker

41

11

44

4

B. Is the most likeable

31

24

41

3

C. Is most qualified to be president

61

21

13

4

D. Has the best chance of winning the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008

58

22

16

4

E. Has the best chance of beating the Republican nominee in the 2008 presidential election

44

27

21

7

F. Would run the most positive campaign

36

22

39

4

G. Would perform the best in debates

57

10

29

4

H. Has the highest ethical standards

28

24

39

9

I. Would work the best with Congress

46

25

25

3

J. Would do the most to unite the country

33

21

41

5

K. Would manage the government most effectively

53

21

21

6

L. Would be the best in a crisis

54

20

20

6

M. Best understands the problems faced by ordinary Americans

36

20

40

4

N. Would be respected most by leaders of other countries

37

28

31

4

O. Is the strongest leader

59

15

22

4

24. (Asked of Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic Party) 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, or if you would support someone else.

[ROTATED: Delaware Senator, Joe Biden; Retired General, Wesley Clark; New York Senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton; Connecticut Senator, Christopher Dodd; Former North Carolina Senator, John Edwards; Former Vice President, Al Gore; Massachusetts Senator, John Kerry; Ohio Congressman, Dennis Kucinich; Illinois Senator, Barack Obama; New Mexico Governor, Bill Richardson; The Reverend, Al Sharpton; Former Iowa Governor, Tom Vilsack]

BASED ON 518 DEMOCRATS AND DEMOCRATIC LEANERS

2007 Jan 12-14

2006 Dec 11-14

2006 Nov 9-12

%

%

%

Hillary Rodham Clinton

29

33

31

Barack Obama

18

20

19

John Edwards

13

8

10

Al Gore

11

12

9

John Kerry

8

6

7

Joe Biden

5

3

4

Bill Richardson

3

2

2

Wesley Clark

2

2

3

Al Sharpton

1

--

--

Christopher Dodd

1

1

1

Dennis Kucinich

*

*

--

Tom Vilsack

*

1

1

Evan Bayh

--

1

2

Russ Feingold

--

--

1

Tom Daschle

--

--

1

 

 

 

Other

2

2

2

None

2

3

1

All/any

*

1

*

No opinion

4

5

6

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