NEW YORK – Nearly half of Americans think it would be good for the country if an independent candidate won the 2008 presidential election, according to the latest FOX News Poll. And despite acknowledging the improbability of the candidate winning, a majority says they would consider voting for an independent for president.
Opinion Dynamics Corp. conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from June 26 to June 27. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
More than twice as many voters think it would be good for the country if an independent candidate were to win the White House in 2008 than think it would be bad (45 percent good, 19 percent bad). In addition, there is rare partisan agreement on the issue as 42 percent of Democrats and 44 percent of Republicans think electing an independent candidate would be good for the country, as do 56 percent of self-described independents.
Furthermore, a 67 percent majority says they would consider casting their ballot for an independent — including more than 6 in 10 Democrats and Republicans.
Even so, most people believe independent candidates have little chance of success: 31 percent of voters think a qualified independent has a reasonable chance of winning a presidential election, while a 63 percent majority thinks it’s unlikely.
"It appears that many voters believe a vote for a candidate who has little chance of winning still is not a wasted vote," said Opinion Dynamics Vice President Lawrence Shiman. "A substantial percentage of both parties are willing to consider supporting independent candidacies regardless of the candidate’s chances of winning."
Given the amount of attention to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s party affiliation switch from Republican to independent, and the subsequent speculation about him entering the 2008 race, the poll asked people how they would vote in a 3-way race.
The recent media coverage fails to move the numbers much from earlier in the month. Bloomberg’s 7 percent support is unchanged, and obviously puts him far behind the major party front-runners Democrat Hillary Clinton (39 percent) and Republican Rudy Giuliani (37 percent).
Paris Better Known Than Romney, Thompson
Among the presidential hopefuls, Giuliani is not only one of the best known, but he also continues to be viewed the most positively, receiving a 54 percent favorable rating. Most voters are also familiar with Republican candidate John McCain — 47 percent have a favorable opinion of him and only 5 percent don’t know him.
Republicans Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson are much less well known than the other Republican and Democratic candidates. In fact, more people say they have "never heard of" Thompson, Romney and Bloomberg, than Paris Hilton — only 7 percent of Americans were unable to express an opinion of her.
Today, even though one in five Americans (22 percent) say they have never heard of Romney, that represents a noticeable improvement from earlier this year when 43 percent didn’t know him (Jan. 30-31, 2007). However, as many voters have an unfavorable opinion of Romney (26 percent) as have a favorable opinion (25 percent). His favorable rating is 39 percent among Republicans.
Thompson’s name recognition is also picking up — 32 percent say they have never heard of him today, down from 53 percent in March. His favorable rating is 30 percent overall and 46 percent among Republicans, with 16 percent of all voters holding an unfavorable view.
For Bloomberg, 20 percent have never heard of him, an improvement from 35 percent last month (15-16 May 2007). Bloomberg’s current favorable rating is 23 percent, with 24 percent holding an unfavorable view. Attitudes toward Bloomberg are similar among Democrats (25 percent favorable) and Republicans (22 percent favorable).
The Democratic contenders are well known to voters, as majorities are able to offer an opinion on each of them. About half of Americans have a favorable view of John Edwards (49 percent), Clinton (46 percent) and Barack Obama (46 percent). Al Gore’s favorable rating is 48 percent.
For a political comparison, President Bush’s current favorable rating is 37 percent and virtually all Americans express an opinion.
For a popular culture comparison, 7 percent of Americans say they have a favorable opinion of Paris Hilton (73 percent unfavorable) and 7 percent have never heard of her.
Standings in the Primaries
In the race for the Republican nomination, Giuliani retains the leader spot at 29 percent followed by McCain at 17 percent, Thompson at 15 percent, Romney at 8 percent and Newt Gingrich at 8 percent. Giuliani is up 7 points from earlier this month, though still 10 percentage points down from 39 percent in February.
Among Democrats, Clinton strengthens her front-runner status with the support of 42 percent (up 6 points), followed by Obama at 19 percent (down 4 points), Gore at 14 percent and Edwards at 10 percent.
When Gore is taken out of the mix, Clinton’s standing improves to 47 percent, Obama 21 percent and Edwards 13 percent.
Where People Are Learning About The Candidates
Television clearly is the most popular place to get information about the presidential candidates, but there are certainly many other options these days. The poll finds that 88 percent of voters are getting information about the candidates from television coverage, 69 percent from newspapers and 51 percent radio coverage.
Internet news sites are a source for 38 percent of Americans, which is distinguished from these specific online sources: 11 percent say they use blogs, 7 percent YouTube and 4 percent use MySpace to learn about the candidates.
About twice as many Americans think Conservative radio talk shows (38 percent) have more influence on politics these days than Liberal Internet blogs (17 percent).
Finally, 53 percent of voters today think it is too early for the 2008 presidential candidates to be campaigning — up from 47 percent who thought so four months ago (February 13-14).