NEW YORK – At the end of the day, do people really care whether the president of the United States is a Democrat or a Republican?
A new FOX News poll finds that half of Americans say yes, the president’s party affiliation does matter to them, but almost as many say it doesn’t. When it comes to candidate preferences, Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both top the Republican front-runners in head-to-head matchups. And while the candidates may want to show they are loving spouses, voters think taking a cell phone call during a campaign speech is going too far.
Nearly half of Americans — 46 percent — say it doesn’t really matter to them whether the president is a Democrat or a Republican, including a third (32 percent) who say it doesn’t matter at all.
Half say the president’s party affiliation does matter, with 31 percent saying it matters "a lot." Majorities of Democrats (56 percent) and Republicans (57 percent) say it matters, while most independents (64 percent) say it isn’t important.
"You have to take these results with a grain of salt," comments Opinion Dynamics CEO John Gorman. "Americans have been raised to say they put the person ahead of the party, but party is at least an indicator of where candidates stand on the issues."
Click here to view full results of the poll (pdf).
Opinion Dynamics Corp. conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from Sept. 25 to Sept. 26. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
In hypothetical presidential matchups, Clinton, the clear leader for the Democratic nomination, bests Republicans Rudy Giuliani and John McCain by 7 percentage points each and Fred Thompson by 13 points.
While independents are more undecided than others, in each case they prefer Clinton over the Republican candidate by double-digits.
Similarly, Obama tops each Republican hopeful tested on the poll, outperforming Thompson by 12 points, and barely capturing the edge over McCain by 2 points and Giuliani by 1 point.
Among independents, Obama has a 12 point advantage over Thompson and 1 point over Giuliani, but McCain tops Obama among this group by 5 percentage points.
About equal numbers of voters say they can "really relate to" Clinton (45 percent), Giuliani (43 percent) and Obama (41 percent). Some 37 percent say McCain is someone they can really relate to, and only 26 percent say the same about Thompson as he is still an unknown to about a quarter of Americans.
Clinton has the highest number of voters saying they cannot relate to her (48 percent), which reinforces previous poll findings that show large minorities of voters saying they would never vote for her or they have an unfavorable opinion of the former first lady.
For the voters that find Hillary Clinton somewhat difficult to relate to, maybe she can look to her husband to help her connect. Former President Bill Clinton is seen as the spouse that brings the most to the campaign trail. Over half of voters (53 percent) think Bill Clinton would be the greatest asset in helping his spouse win the White House; the next closest is John Edwards’s wife Elizabeth at 11 percent, followed by Barack Obama’s wife Michelle at 9 percent.
There’s a Reason for Voicemail
While in the middle of giving a speech last week, Rudy Giuliani’s cell phone rang and he not only answered it, but also proceeded to have a brief conversation with his wife. Most Americans think in general, under similar circumstances, that the call should be ignored (81 percent); 9 percent agree with Giuliani’s actions and think it is okay to interrupt a campaign speech to take a call from your spouse.
Job Ratings: President Bush, Congress and the United Nations
After a brief bump earlier in the month, President Bush’s job approval rating is back down in the low thirties this week, which is where it has been for most of the year. Today 34 percent of Americans say they approve of the job Bush is doing as president, down from 37 percent two weeks ago. A 58 percent majority disapproves.
Still, the president outperforms Congress. Fully 63 percent of Americans give a thumbs-down to Congress — more than two and a half times as many as the 24 percent who say they approve of the job lawmakers are doing.
The United Nations General Assembly held its annual session in New York City this week. How do people think the U.N. is doing? Some 34 percent of Americans say they approve of the job the United Nations is doing today and 48 percent disapprove.