Giuliani, McCain Have Competing Strengths in Republicans' Eyes

by Frank Newport and Jeffrey M. Jones

McCain's strengths lie in foreign policy, ethics, and moral values; Giuliani's on domestic issues and leadership

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- A recent Gallup Panel poll shows Rudy Giuliani and John McCain the clear frontrunners among the Republican Party's 2008 presidential hopefuls. In the most recent test of rank-and-file Republicans' presidential nomination preferences, 31% said they would be most likely to support Giuliani and 27% said McCain. When asked to choose between the two, however, Republicans show a slight preference for Giuliani at 50% to 42%, respectively.

The latest poll sought to explore Republicans' views of Giuliani and McCain in more depth, asking them to choose which candidate better exemplified certain personality or political characteristics as well as say who would be better able to handle specific issues.

The results show Giuliani enjoys a remarkably strong image relative to McCain in terms of his likability. Nearly three-quarters of Republicans say Giuliani is the more likable candidate; only 21% choose McCain. Additionally, Giuliani has wide leads over McCain for handling crime, doing the better job in a crisis, uniting the country, understanding the problems of ordinary Americans, being the better public speaker, and being the stronger leader. McCain's strengths center on his handling of moral values issues, his ability to handle most foreign policy issues, and his ethical standards -- but his leads are much weaker than Giuliani's top strengths in terms of magnitude.

Giuliani is currently viewed as the candidate more likely to win the presidential election though Republicans are divided as to which candidate has the better chance of winning the party's presidential nomination. People are also relatively closely divided in their assessment of whether McCain or Giuliani is more qualified to be president -- though McCain has a slight edge on this.

Candidate Characteristics

The Jan. 25-28, 2007 poll asked Republicans and independents who say they lean to the Republican Party to rate Giuliani versus McCain on each of 15 specific issue characteristics [a similar analysis was done of Democratic candidates: see "Clinton Eclipses Obama and Edwards on Leadership" in the Related Items]. Of the 15 characteristics tested, Giuliani is viewed as having a clear advantage on 10 items. McCain "wins" on only three dimensions, and the two candidates are essentially tied on the remaining two.

 

Republicans' Ratings of Giuliani and McCain
on Character and Political Dimensions
January 2007 Gallup Poll


Giuliani


McCain


Advantage

 

%

%

 

Is more likeable

74

21

G, +53

Would be better in a crisis

68

28

G, +40

Would do more to unite the
country

65

28

G, +37

Is the better public speaker

61

27

G, +34

Better understands the
problems faced by ordinary
Americans

60

33

G, +27

Is the stronger leader

59

34

G, +25

Would perform better in the
debates

56

37

G, +19

Would manage the
government more effectively

55

37

G, +18

Has the better chance of
beating the Democratic
nominee in the 2008
presidential election

55

38

G, +17

Would run the more positive
campaign

50

38

G, +12

Has the better chance of
winning the Republican
presidential nomination in 2008

47

46

G, +1

Would be respected more by
leaders of other countries

45

45

Tie

Is more qualified to be
president

41

50

M, +9

Would work better with
Congress

41

52

M, +11

Has higher ethical standards

35

50

M, +15

Giuliani's greatest strength vis a vis McCain comes on the following dimensions on which he has at least a 20-point lead over the Arizona Senator:

  • Is more likable
  • Would be better in a crisis
  • Would do more to unite the country
  • Is the better public speaker
  • Better understands the problems faced by ordinary Americans
  • Is the stronger leader

Giuliani does better than McCain, albeit with a slightly smaller lead, on the following:

  • Would perform better in the debates
  • Would manage the government more effectively
  • Has the better chance of beating the Democratic nominee in the 2008 presidential election
  • Would run the more positive campaign

The two candidates are essentially tied in terms of these characteristics:

  • Has the better chance of winning the Republican presidential nomination in 2008
  • Would be respected more by leaders of other countries

Republicans give McCain the advantage on these dimensions:

  • Has higher ethical standards
  • Would work better with Congress
  • Is more qualified to be president

Overall, Giuliani appears to be very well-positioned against McCain on many relevant and important dimensions.

Significantly, of course, it is important to note that McCain is viewed by Republicans as more qualified to be president than Giuliani. His strength on working better with Congress undoubtedly flows from his own experience as a U.S. Representative from 1983-1986 and as a U.S. Senator since 1987. McCain's strength on the basis of ethical standards may result both from his own background and questions about Giuliani's business activities since the end of his mayorship of New York City as well as the events surrounding his recent divorce and re-marriage.

But Giuliani's perceived strengths are many, and the distance between Giuliani and McCain on some of these dimensions is very large. For example, there is a 53-point gap in the percent who choose the former New York City mayor made "more likable" compared to McCain and a 37-point gap on the dimension of "most likely to unite the country."

Candidates on the Issues

The poll also asked Republicans to indicate which of the two potential candidates would do the better job on a series of 10 issues. [The same analysis for the Democratic candidates can be found in the Related Items: "Clinton Eclipses Obama and Edwards on Leadership."]

Giuliani has an advantage on six of the issues tested and McCain has an advantage on four. Giuliani's strengths are primarily in the area of domestic issues while McCain leads on most international matters.

 

Republicans' Ratings of Giuliani and McCain on Issues
January 2007 Gallup Poll

 

Giuliani

McCain

Advantage

 

%

%

 

Crime

78

17

G, +61

The economy

52

38

G, +14

Terrorism

53

41

G, +12

Taxes

49

37

G, +12

Education

48

38

G, +10

Healthcare

47

39

G, +8

Energy and the environment

43

44

M, +1

The situation in Iraq

40

53

M, +13

Relations with other countries

37

54

M, +17

Moral values issues

30

58

M, +28

Giuliani's biggest advantage is on crime, for which 78% of Republicans view him as better compared with 17% who say McCain is. Giuliani, a federal prosecutor prior to being elected mayor of New York City, made crime prevention a focus during his administration and crime rates in the city did fall during his tenure.

Giuliani is also viewed as better than McCain on the economy (52% to 38%), education (48% to 38%), healthcare (47% to 39%), and taxes (49% to 37%). The candidates are rated about equally on the environment and energy with 44% saying McCain would do a better job and 43% Giuliani.

McCain, who has long supported an increased U.S. military presence in Iraq, is viewed by Republicans as better to handle the situation in Iraq by a 53% to 40% margin over Giuliani. (Giuliani has supported recent calls for a troop increase in Iraq.) Republicans also give McCain a 54% to 37% edge on handling "relations with other countries."

One international issue in Giuliani's favor is terrorism, on which he has a 53% to 41% edge over McCain. Giuliani's widely praised response to the Sept. 11 terror attacks while serving as mayor of New York City is the likely reason for this -- and is enough to overcome the perhaps more general sense that McCain is better on international matters.

McCain's biggest issue advantage is not on an international issue, but on moral values. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans believe he would do the better job on this issue while 30% believe Giuliani would. Giuliani's past positions in favor of abortion and gay rights are generally out of step with the views of most rank-and-file Republicans while McCain's positions have generally been in keeping with the Republican platform.

Republicans' relative ratings of the candidates on the issues do not vary much by their religious commitment or self-described political ideology.

Bottom Line

Unlike the Democratic candidates, where Hillary Clinton is clearly the dominant candidate in terms of voter preferences, character dimensions, and issue positioning, the Republicans show more delineation between their leading candidates. Giuliani is viewed favorably by Republicans on key dimensions such as leadership, likability, and electability, while McCain has equally important strengths on foreign policy aptitude, moral values issues, and integrity. But Giuliani's advantages on his strongest issues and characteristics (61 points on crime, 53 points on likability, 40 points on handling a crisis) are much greater than McCain's (28 points on moral values, 15 points on ethical standards).

The poll provides insight into where the candidates stand among the party before campaigning kicks off in earnest -- while both McCain and Giuliani have formed presidential candidate exploratory committees, neither has officially announced his candidacy. McCain would do well to emphasize his experience and foreign policy credentials while reminding Republican voters of his traditional views on moral values. Meanwhile, Giuliani apparently would be well-served to remind the voters of his leadership of New York following the Sept. 11 crisis and attempt to capitalize on his more favorable public image.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup Panel study are based on telephone interviews with 441 Republicans and Republican leaners, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 25-28, 2007. Gallup Poll panel members are recruited through random selection methods. The panel is weighted so that it is demographically representative of the U.S. adult population. For results based on these samples, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ¬Ī6 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.¬†

12. (Asked of Republicans and independents who lean to the Republican Party) Next, we'd like to know how you think John McCain and Rudy Giuliani compare on a number of characteristics. After I read each of the following characteristics, please say whether you think it applies more to -- [ROTATED: Rudy Giuliani (or) John McCain]. Who do you think [RANDOM ORDER]?

BASED ON 441 REPUBLICANS AND REPUBLICAN LEANERS

 


2007 Jan 25-28


Giuliani


McCain


No
opinion

 

%

%

%

A. Is the better public speaker

61

27

12

B. Is more likeable

74

21

5

C. Is more qualified to be
president

41

50

9

D. Has the better chance of
winning the Republican
presidential nomination in 2008

47

46

7

E. Has the better chance of
beating the Democratic nominee
in the 2008 presidential election

55

38

7

F. Would run the more positive
campaign

50

38

11

G. Would perform better in the
debates

56

37

8

H. Has higher ethical standards

35

50

15

I. Would work better with
Congress

41

52

6

J. Would do more to unite the
country

65

28

7

K. Would manage the government
more effectively

55

37

8

L. Would be better in a crisis

68

28

4

M. Better understands the
problems faced by ordinary
Americans

60

33

7

N. Would be respected more by
leaders of other countries

45

45

10

O. Is the stronger leader

59

34

7

13. (Asked of Republicans and independents who lean to the Republican Party) Now turning to the issues, if you had to choose, which candidate do you think would do the better job on [RANDOM ORDER] as president -- [ROTATED: Rudy Giuliani (or) John McCain]?

BASED ON 441 REPUBLICANS AND REPUBLICAN LEANERS

 


2007 Jan 25-28


Giuliani


McCain


No
opinion

 

%

%

%

A. Terrorism

53

41

6

B. The economy

52

38

9

C. The situation in Iraq

40

53

8

D. Education

48

38

13

E. Healthcare

47

39

15

F. Moral values issues

30

58

12

G. Taxes

49

37

13

H. Relations with other countries

37

54

9

I. Energy and the environment

43

44

13

J. Crime

78

17

5

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