NEW YORK – A new FOX News poll finds that voters are focusing on Iraq, terrorism and health care as they consider their vote for president. Looking at the candidates, more voters think Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Barack Obama say what they truly believe, even if it is unpopular, while a majority thinks Hillary Clinton usually says what she thinks will get her elected.
President Bush’s approval rating remains in the thirties, as 34 percent of Americans approve of his job performance today, down from 38 percent last month (17-18 April 2007), and 56 percent disapprove.
The ratings for Congress are also negative: 32 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, while over half — 53 percent — disapprove.
Opinion Dynamics Corp. conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from May 15 to May 16. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
A 52 percent majority of voters says the situation in Iraq is extremely important to their vote for president, while about 4 of 10 say the same about terrorism (43 percent) and health care (41 percent).
Democrats (60 percent) are much more likely than Republicans (45 percent) to say Iraq is extremely important to their vote — by a 15-point margin. Republicans are most likely to be motivated by the issue of terrorism.
• Click here to see full results of the poll.
• FOX News Poll: Iraq War Remains Most Important Issue to Voters
Many voters also consider the economy (37 percent) and moral values (33 percent) extremely important. Despite much attention to the abortion issue recently, fewer voters say abortion will be extremely important to their decision-making process (23 percent) than any other issue except gun control (22 percent).
Furthermore, even though disagreement on the issue of abortion is deal-breaker issue for about a third of voters (32 percent), far more — over half (52 percent) — say they must agree with their candidate on the issue of Iraq.
Even with the early start, attention to the presidential election remains high. Many voters say they are extremely (27 percent) or very (35 percent) interested right now, although few (13 percent) say they have already made up their mind about which candidate to support.
Race for the Nomination
If the primary elections were held today, the front-runners would be Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Rudy Giuliani, as they continue to hold the top spots for their respective party’s nominations.
Clinton receives the backing of 35 percent of Democrats, putting her 15 percentage points ahead of Obama who is at 20 percent. John Edwards and Al Gore both capture 13 percent.
Among Republicans, Giuliani has the advantage over McCain by 24 percent to 17 percent. Romney comes in third with 9 percent and Fred Thompson is right behind him at 8 percent.
What’s interesting in the Republican numbers is the shift away from Giuliani this month. He’s down 11 percentage points from last month and 12 points from March. Yet instead of losing the support to an opponent, the shift goes to the "don’t know" category, which more than doubled this month.
"Many pundits have pointed out that the Republican front-runners all have problems with some parts of the constituency," says Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman. "While abortion ranks relatively low, for example, Giuliani’s various statements on the issue may have made Republicans, who care more than Democrats, take a step back. They’re not necessarily turning ‘anti’ but they aren’t going to close the deal without some more shopping. This is true on the Democratic side as well, though their issue is more choosing among a set of candidates that they like."
Overall, 39 percent of voters are able to identify Romney as the presidential candidate who is a Mormon. As has been the case in the past, a sizeable 71 percent majority says his Mormonism will make no difference, while 21 percent say it will make them less likely to vote for him.
Political observers and opponents like to point out when a candidate is a flip-flopper and has changed his or her stance on a key issue. But does being consistent matter to the electorate?
The poll finds that consistency is an important consideration for many voters. More than 7 of 10 say it is at least very important (45 percent) if not extremely important (27 percent) whether a candidate has held consistent positions on the issues.
In addition, while some 23 percent say their opinion of the candidate’s spouse is important, 38 percent say it’s important for the candidate to be a nice person. For 24 percent it is not important at all for the candidate they support for president to be a nice person.
Finally, which candidates stick to their principles rather than play to the audience? Overall, the Republican candidates do best here, as nearly half (49 percent) think McCain and Giuliani usually say what they truly believe, even if it is unpopular. One third thinks Giuliani says what he thinks will get him elected, while slightly fewer — 29 percent — say that’s true of McCain.
On the Democratic side, 46 percent think Obama says what he truly believes and 28 percent say he chooses the popular position, with quite a few voters unsure (27 percent).
Clinton is the only candidate where a majority of voters (55 percent) thinks she says what she thinks will get her elected, rather than what she truly believes (34 percent).
Doubts among Republicans in large part drive Clinton’s numbers. Consider that 76 percent of Republicans think Clinton is more likely to say what she thinks will get her elected, while only 41 percent of Democrats say the same of Giuliani and 34 percent of McCain.