Gallup Poll Review: John McCain

by Frank Newport

McCain's favorable rating has dropped 12 percentage points since March

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- For the third national Gallup Poll in a row, Arizona Sen. John McCain is in third place among Republicans as their party's preferred nominee -- behind former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson. McCain's favorable ratings continue to be significantly lower than they were earlier this year, caused more by a drop among independents and moderates than any other group. If McCain were to drop out of the race for president, Gallup analysis suggests that frontrunner Giuliani would pick up almost half of McCain's votes; far more than any other candidate.

McCain's Position in Republican Field for 2007 So Far

The trajectory of McCain's positioning among Republicans has been generally down over the last eight months, although not in a straight or linear fashion. In December of 2006, McCain received 28% of the GOP vote, tying him with Giuliani for first place. McCain fell to 16% by April, rebounded to 23% in a May Gallup Poll, but has since declined and is sitting at 16% in the last two polls -- both conducted in July. This puts McCain in third place behind Giuliani's 30% and Thompson's 20% share of the GOP vote.

Current Republican Standings
July 12-15, 2007

Giuliani   

F. Thompson   

McCain   

Romney   

Gingrich   

%    

%    

%    

%    

%    

2007 Jul 12-15    

30    

20    

16    

8    

7    

2007 Jul 6-8    

30    

20    

16    

9    

6    

2007 Jun 11-14    

28    

19    

18    

7    

7    

2007 Jun 1-3    

32    

11    

19    

12    

8    

2007 May 10-13    

29    

12    

23    

8    

6    

2007 May 4-6    

34    

13    

20    

7    

8    

2007 Apr 13-15    

35    

10    

22    

9    

7    

2007 Apr 2-5    

38    

10    

16    

6    

10    

2007 Mar 23-25    

31    

12    

22    

3    

8    

2007 Mar 2-4    

44    

n/a    

20    

8    

9    

Feb 9-11    

40    

n/a    

24    

5    

9    

Jan 12-14    

31    

n/a    

27    

7    

10    

2006 Dec 11-14    

28    

n/a    

28    

4    

8    

2006 Nov 9-12    

28    

n/a    

   26       

5    

7    

n/a = Not asked

Rudy Giuliani remains the frontrunner in our Gallup polling -- although his percentage of the GOP vote is not as high now as it was earlier in the year.

By way of comparison, McCain has fallen 11 percentage points from his highest percentage of the vote this year to his current position, while Giuliani has fallen 14 percentage points from his highest to his current rating. Both McCain and Giuliani showed their highest support levels before Gallup began including Thompson in the GOP ballot in late March. It appears that Thompson's inclusion hurt Giuliani more than McCain. But the percentages of the GOP vote for both Giuliani and McCain are still lower than their "pre-Thompson" highs -- 38% for Giuliani in April and 23% for McCain in May. Thompson has been at 20% of the Republican vote for the last two polls.

While McCain's "free fall" in the polls has been no worse than what has been seen for Giuliani, it may appear worse. This is because McCain has, over the course of the year, fallen from a position where he was tied for the lead to a position in which he is in third place -- while Giuliani has maintained first place position.

McCain's Favorable Ratings

McCain's favorable ratings have fallen significantly compared to earlier this year. In two Gallup Polls conducted in February and March, McCain averaged a 57% favorable rating. Now, across the last three Gallup Polls conducted in June and July, his favorable rating has averaged 45% -- a drop of 12 percentage points.

To get a better look at the pattern of this change, the following table displays McCain's favorable rating in an aggregate of two polls conducted in February and March. This is compared to an aggregate of the last three polls conducted in June and July.

John McCain's Favorable Rating

February
and March
2007

June and July
2007

Percentage of
Change

%

%

 

Total Sample

57

45

-12

 

 

 

Conservatives

61

51

-10

Moderates

61

43

-18

Liberals

45

38

-7

 

 

 

Republicans

67

54

-13

Independents

58

44

-14

Democrats

49

38

-11

 

 

 

Liberal Democrats

46

37

-9

Moderate Democrats

57

42

-15

Conservative Democrats

44

40

-4

Pure Independents

52

31

-21

Moderate/Liberal Republicans

66

51

-15

Conservative Republicans

69

56

-13

Based on these figures, McCain has lost positioning among all of the political and ideological subgroups portrayed. While few of the differences between subgroups are statistically significant, it appears that views of McCain have become more negative among independents and moderates than either conservatives or liberals.

McCain remains more popular among Republicans and conservatives than he is among others, but not necessarily by the large margins seen for other Republican candidates. (For example, there is a 30-point difference in the favorable rating given Giuliani by Republicans and Democrats in Gallup's latest poll.)

If McCain Withdrew?

If McCain were to withdraw from the race for the Republican presidential nomination -- something he claims to have no intention of doing -- frontrunner Giuliani's position would be strengthened, with Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney continuing to run far behind. That conclusion is based on a special analysis that substitutes McCain voters' second choices for their party's presidential nomination in recent Gallup polling.

This analysis involved an aggregation of the last four Gallup Polls in which the Republican trial heat was included -- conducted June 1-3, June 11-14, July 6-8, and July 12-16, 2007. Across those four polls, McCain averaged 17% of the vote.

The results show that Giuliani picks up almost half of McCain's votes, going from a 30% share of Republican choices with McCain on the ballot, to 38% with McCain removed.

Republicans' Choices for Their Party's Presidential Nomination
Based on an aggregate of four national Gallup Polls conducted in June and July 2007

Including Votes for John McCain

Reallocating Votes for John McCain
to Second-Choice Candidates

%

%

Rudy Giuliani

30

38

Fred Thompson

17

19

John McCain

17

--

Mitt Romney

9

11

Newt Gingrich

7

8

Mike Huckabee

2

3

Sam Brownback

1

2

Tommy Thompson

1

2

Duncan Hunter

1

2

Ron Paul

1

2

Tom Tancredo

1

1

Chuck Hagel

1

1

Fred Thompson moves from 17% to 19%. Mitt Romney goes from 9% to 11%. Newt Gingrich gains a point, from 7% to 8%. Sam Brownback, Duncan Hunter, Ron Paul, Tommy Thompson, and Mike Huckabee all gain one point, but remain at 3% or less of the vote.

The basic structure of the race is thus unchanged with McCain out, albeit it with a gain in the strength of the lead of frontrunner  Giuliani. With McCain in, the combined June and July numbers show Giuliani at 30%, McCain at 17%, Thompson at 17%, Romney at 9%, and Gingrich at 7%. Without McCain, these numbers show the race with Giuliani at 38%, Thompson at 19%, Romney at 11%, and Gingrich at 8%.

Bottom line: At the moment, McCain's supporters appear to be most inclined to move over to Giuliani if McCain were to drop out, with the net result that Giuliani's lead would strengthen.   

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,001 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted July 12-15, 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 ¬Ī3 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.

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