Election 2008

Veterans and the 2008 Election

Giuliani, Thompson, McCain viewed most positively by military veterans

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- In past presidential elections, nearly all candidates had served in the U.S. military, so their military records were not a campaign issue. But as Baby Boomers have replaced the World War II generation as the source of presidential candidates, service to the country has been something candidates with military experience (such as John McCain and John Kerry) tout, and lack of military service or the type of service has been the topic of investigation and criticism (as with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush).

In the 2008 election campaign, military service is the exception rather than the rule on the resumes of White House aspirants -- McCain stands alone among the leading presidential candidates of both political parties for having served in the military.

McCain and his non-veteran rivals for the presidency will do their best to court the roughly one in six Americans who served in the military -- and many of the candidates addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention during the past week. According to combined data from the three most recent Gallup Polls, U.S. military veterans nationwide have the most positive views of Rudy Giuliani, McCain, and Fred Thompson among the leading 2008 presidential candidates. Veterans' preferences for the parties' presidential nominations are very similar to those of non-veterans. One exception is that Thompson is slightly more likely to be supported by veterans than non-veterans affiliated with the Republican Party.

Veterans' Views of the Presidential Candidates

According to data from more than 3,000 combined interviews in July and August Gallup Polls, Republican candidates are generally rated more positively by veterans than Democratic candidates. In fact, each of the four leading Republicans is rated more positively by veterans than non-veterans, and each of the three leading Democrats is rated more positively by non-veterans than veterans.

Favorable Ratings of Presidential Candidates,
by Veteran Status

Military
Veterans

Non-
Veterans

Favor-
able

Un-
favorable

No
Opinion

 Favor-
able

 Un-
favorable

No
Opinion

%

%

%

%

%

%

Giuliani

64

29

8

54

30

16

McCain

52

40

8

41

38

21

Obama

44

40

16

51

28

22

Edwards

43

44

12

47

33

22

Thompson

40

21

39

28

18

54

Clinton

37

59

3

49

47

5

Romney

33

29

38

25

28

48

Giuliani has the highest favorable rating among veterans at 64%. Thompson is also viewed quite favorably by veterans -- his favorable rating (40%) is roughly twice as high as his unfavorable rating (21%), but 39% of veterans are not familiar enough with the actor and former Tennessee senator to rate him.

McCain -- the former Vietnam prisoner of war -- is also rated more positively (52%) than negatively (40%) by veterans.  

Veterans' views of Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Mitt Romney are about equally positive and negative. Hillary Clinton is the only candidate who is viewed much more negatively (59%) than positively (37%) by veterans. Clinton would seem to be at a decided disadvantage among veterans given that roughly 9 in 10 veterans in this sample are men.  

Veterans' affinity for Republican candidates is clear, with only Romney not rated substantially more positively than negatively by this group. The explanation for this is partially based on party identification: Overall, 49% of veterans identify with or lean to the Republican Party, compared with 41% who are Democratic in their political orientation. Among non-veterans, the figures are essentially reversed -- 50% Democratic and 39% Republican.

But veteran status can transcend political orientation. This is especially evident in ratings of McCain, who is rated more positively by veterans than non-veterans of the same party affiliation. Specifically, 63% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who served in the military rate McCain favorably, compared with 51% of Republicans who did not serve. Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, 43% of veterans and 35% of non-veterans rate McCain positively.

Veterans and the 2008 Nominations

Veterans are usually a key target voting bloc for Republican presidential nomination hopefuls given the group's usual alignment with the Republican Party. The analysis shows that Giuliani (28%) and Thompson (25%) essentially tie among veterans who identify with or lean to the Republican Party when they are asked to name their top choice for the 2008 presidential nomination. This is markedly different from non-veteran Republicans' preferences, which show a strong tilt toward Giuliani.

Preference for 2008 Republican Nomination,
by Veteran Status (among Republicans and Republican leaners)

Veteran

Non-Veteran

Total

%

%

%

Giuliani

28

34

33

Thompson

25

19

20

McCain

13

14

14

Romney

12

10

10

Hunter

3

1

1

Huckabee

2

3

3

Hagel

2

1

1

Paul

1

3

2

Tancredo

1

1

1

Brownback

<1

2

1

 

 

 

Other

3

2

2

No opinion

9

11

11

While McCain's favorable ratings among veterans are higher than his ratings among non-veterans, his support for the Republican presidential nomination is no better among veterans (13%) than non-veterans (14%). Not only does that 13% support figure among veterans leave McCain trailing both Giuliani and Thompson by a significant margin, it also leaves him in a tie with Romney -- who has been criticized for his and his sons' lack of military service -- for third place among the veteran vote.

None of the other Republican candidates receive more than 3% of the vote from veterans, including Duncan Hunter, Chuck Hagel, and Ron Paul -- all of whom served in the military.  

On the Democratic side, Clinton's strong positioning for the party's presidential nomination is evident from the fact that she is the top choice even among Democratic veterans, a group that in general does not view her all that positively. Her lead over second place Obama is not as large among veterans (11 percentage points) who identify or lean to the Democratic Party as it is among non-veterans (20 points), but she maintains a sizable lead among both groups. None of the other Democratic candidates show much difference in their appeal to veterans and non-veterans.

Preference for 2008 Democratic Nomination,
by Veteran Status (among Democrats and Democratic leaners)

Veteran

Non-Veteran

Total

%

%

%

Clinton

41

46

46

Obama

30

26

27

Edwards

12

13

13

Richardson

4

3

4

Biden

3

2

2

Dodd

1

1

1

Kucinich

1

2

2

Gravel

--

<1

<1

 

 

 

Other

2

1

1

 

 

 

No opinion

6

6

6

Thus, as might be expected, veterans are not likely to be a key voting group in the Democratic nomination contest. However, they could very well tip the scales in the Republican primaries and caucuses to Giuliani or Thompson, assuming the latter officially enters the race. Veterans will likely rally around the Republican nominee in the general election phase of the campaign, particularly if Clinton is the Democratic nominee.  

Survey Methods

These results are based on combined telephone interviews with 3,016 randomly selected national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted July 12 to Aug. 16, 2007. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±2 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 552 military veterans, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 2,464 non-veterans, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 277 veterans who identify with or lean to the Republican Party, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±6 percentage points.

For results based on the sample of 207 veterans who identify with or lean to the Democratic Party, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±8 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/28489/veterans-2008-election.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030