Front-Runner Giuliani Leading Among Most Republican Subgroups

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Thompson, Giuliani running even in southern states

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Rudy Giuliani has led the field of Republican candidates for the 2008 presidential nomination in every Gallup Poll since January. In the most recent nationwide poll of Republicans, 30% name Giuliani as their first choice for the party's nomination, giving him an eight-point lead over second place Fred Thompson who registers 22% support. John McCain is in third place at 18% and Mitt Romney is in fourth at 7%, with the five other announced candidates all polling at 4% or less.

While nowhere near as dominant as the Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, Giuliani, like Clinton, leads among most subgroups within his party [see Related Items]. In fact, Giuliani does no worse than tie for first in each of a number of key Republican demographic groups. But some of Giuliani's weakest showings are among subgroups of the party not likely to embrace his current or past pro-choice, pro-gay rights, and pro-gun control positions -- Southerners, weekly churchgoers, Protestants, and men -- in particular married men.

These insights are drawn from an aggregation of 1,690 interviews with Republicans and Republican-leaning independents taken from four Gallup surveys conducted in August and September. The analysis is primarily limited to the relative standings of the top four Republican candidates, since the minor candidates' support tends to show little meaningful variation by subgroup.

Ideology

Republicans are roughly twice as likely to describe their political views as "conservative" than as either "moderate" or "liberal." Giuliani has a lead among moderate and liberal Republicans as well as conservative Republicans, but his lead is much larger among the former group (21 points vs. 7 points). Thompson and McCain tie as the second place candidate among moderate and liberal Republicans, but Thompson is a clear second among the much larger conservative group.

Republican Nomination Preference by Ideological Self-Identification

Moderate/Liberal Republicans N=544

%

Giuliani

38

Thompson

17

McCain

16

Romney

9

Conservative Republicans N=1,131

%

Giuliani

30

Thompson

23

McCain

15

Romney

10

Religion

For more than two decades, the Republican Party has been closely aligned with conservative religious individuals and groups. There has been considerable media speculation that religious Republicans are not overly enthusiastic about any of the leading Republican candidates for the 2008 nomination, given some of their past positions on moral values issues. While their ballot choice cannot speak to that directly, the data do show that Giuliani does not fare as well among religious Republicans as he does among other constituencies within the party. Specifically, Giuliani (27%) and Thompson (24%) are running about neck-and-neck among the most religious Republicans -- those who attend church on a weekly basis. McCain is third among this key group, while Romney and former Arkansas Gov. and ordained minister Mike Huckabee essentially tie for fourth.

Among less religious Republicans, Giuliani is the clear leader, with double-digit leads.

Republican Nomination Preference by Frequency of Church Attendance

Attend Church Weekly N=689

%

Giuliani

27

Thompson

24

McCain

17

Romney

9

Huckabee

7

Attend Monthly N=396

%

Giuliani

33

Thompson

18

McCain

16

Romney

14

Seldom/Never Attend N=577

%

Giuliani

39

Thompson

20

McCain

13

Romney

8

Historically, every Republican nominee for president to this point has been of a Protestant faith. So it is notable that the group of leading contenders for next year's nomination includes a Catholic (Giuliani) and a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints (Romney). Giuliani leads the field by a wide 26-point margin among Republican Catholics. But he has a much smaller 5-point lead among Republican Protestants (including those who identify as "Christian" but do not mention a specific Christian denomination).

Romney is supported by 8% of Republican Protestants, not appreciably worse than his showing among Republicans more generally. That is notable because Gallup research has shown that a majority of Protestants have a negative view of the Mormon religion.

Republican Nomination Preference by Religious Affiliation

Protestant/"Christian" N=765

%

Giuliani

28

Thompson

23

McCain

17

Romney

8

Catholic N=273

%

Giuliani

44

Thompson

18

McCain

13

Romney

13

Region

Much of the Republican Party's success in electoral politics can be attributed to its strength in the South. Thus, it is important for a Republican presidential candidate to demonstrate an appeal to Southerners. Giuliani and Thompson have been running even among Republicans living in the South, with McCain and in particular Romney trailing by significant margins there.

As is usually the case in nomination campaigns, there is a strong element of a "native son" effect in support for the various candidates. Thompson (the South), Giuliani (the Northeast), and McCain (the West) all have the greatest support in their home regions. Romney's best showings are in the Northeast -- the home region for the former Massachusetts governor -- and in the West, which has a large population of Mormons and where he is known for his leadership of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Republican Nomination Preference by Region of the Country

Northeast N=327

%

Giuliani

43

McCain

14

Thompson

14

Romney

13

Midwest N=365

%

Giuliani

34

Thompson

17

McCain

16

Romney

9

South N=616

%

Thompson

28

Giuliani

28

McCain

12

Romney

6

West N=382

%

Giuliani

28

McCain

19

Thompson

18

Romney

14

Gender

It is common for there to be a gender gap in presidential elections since women are usually more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate and men for the Republican. But there has been persistent evidence of a gender gap in the Republican primaries this year in support for Thompson. Currently, 25% of Republican men name Thompson as their first choice for the nomination, compared with 16% of Republican women. The other candidates' support is similar among men and women, with Giuliani the leader among both gender groups.

Republican Nomination Preference by Gender

Men N=924

%

Giuliani

31

Thompson

25

McCain

13

Romney

10

Women N=766

%

Giuliani

34

McCain

17

Thompson

16

Romney

10

The gender gap in support for Thompson is almost exclusively due to his relatively strong showing among married men. Among this group, Giuliani and Thompson tie at 28%. Thompson's support is 16% or 17% among every other gender-by-marriage group, with Giuliani the leader by a significant margin in all of these groups.

Republican Nomination Preference by Gender and Marital Status

Married Men N=686

%

Giuliani

28

Thompson

28

McCain

11

Romney

11

Married Women N=230

%

Giuliani

36

Thompson

17

McCain

17

Romney

10

Unmarried Men N=449

%

Giuliani

37

McCain

19

Thompson

17

Romney

7

Unmarried Women N=309

%

Giuliani

32

McCain

19

Thompson

16

Romney

9

Age and Education

Giuliani's current front-runner status is no doubt aided by the fact that he is among the best known Republican candidates. Thompson and Romney remain unfamiliar figures to more than one-third of Republicans, and it is certainly possible that as they become better known their support could increase nationally. Indeed, among Republicans who have an opinion of the four leading candidates -- less than half the party base -- the ballot looks very different, with Thompson at 33% support, Giuliani at 26%, Romney at 15%, and McCain at 10%.

Two groups that are known for not being highly engaged in the political process are the young and those with less formal education. The data show that Giuliani does much better among younger Republicans and less educated Republicans than he does among those who are older and have more formal education. Among age groups, Giuliani's lead is largest among 18- to 29-year-olds (17 points more than McCain), and shrinks to just 6 points among those 50 and older.

Republican Nomination Preference by Age

18-29 N=105

%

Giuliani

38

McCain

21

Thompson

14

Romney

7

30-49 N=568

%

Giuliani

34

Thompson

21

McCain

13

Romney

8

50-64 N=517

%

Giuliani

30

Thompson

24

McCain

15

Romney

10

65+ N=481

%

Giuliani

29

Thompson

23

McCain

16

Romney

14

And whereas Giuliani has a 20-point lead among Republicans who did not attend college, his lead is only in the single digits among Republicans who attended or graduated from college.

Republican Nomination Preference by Education Level

High School Grad or Less N=464

%

Giuliani

37

Thompson

17

McCain

16

Romney

7

College, incomplete N=450

%

Giuliani

30

Thompson

25

McCain

15

Romney

10

College graduate N=770

%

Giuliani

29

Thompson

22

McCain

15

Romney

12

Implications

It is clear that at this point Giuliani is in a relatively solid position in the Republican nomination race despite questions about his viability given some of his more liberal issue positions. He is no worse than tied for the lead among all major Republican constituencies, including those from groups that are most likely to disagree with him on some of these issues. And among Republicans who are most likely to vote in the primary, his lead is eight points over Thompson, 32% to 24%.

Thompson appears to be the greatest threat to Giuliani's winning the nomination at this stage of the campaign, particularly since he is already competitive with Giuliani among some of the most important Republican subgroups. Though, he remains unknown to a large segment of the population. However, the actor and former Tennessee senator has yet to make any significant gains in the national polls since he officially entered the race earlier this month. If he can become better known over the next few months, he may well pass Giuliani.

Survey Methods

These results are based on of 1,690 combined telephone interviews with Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, aged 18 and older, from randomly selected national samples conducted in August and September 2007. 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.

Margins of error for subgroups of Republicans will be larger, in most cases between ±4 percentage points and ±6 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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