NEW YORK – Even though it is still months before the first vote in a primary election and there is more than a year to go before the general election, many Americans already believe Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States.
More than 4 of 10 voters (44 percent) think another Clinton presidency is inevitable, which is almost four times as many as see Republican Rudy Giuliani winning the White House (12 percent), according to a newly released FOX News poll.
Not only do 61 percent of Democrats believe Clinton will be the next president, but also 25 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of independents.
• Click here to view full results of the poll (.pdf).
"These results suggest there is a growing sense of inevitability to a 'Clinton II' presidency — which is also reflected in the rhetoric of Republican presidential contenders who focus almost exclusively on Clinton as their general election target," commented Ernest Paicopolos, principal of Opinion Dynamics.
In addition, more people think Clinton is "very" qualified to be president than any of the other top contenders. Setting aside how they would vote, nearly half of Americans (47 percent) say they think Clinton is "very" qualified, followed by John McCain at 34 percent, Giuliani at 32 percent, Barack Obama at 23 percent, and Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson both at 16 percent.
Among their party faithful, 73 percent of Democrats think Clinton is "very" qualified, compared to substantially fewer — 44 percent of Republicans — that say the same of both McCain and Giuliani.
All in all, when "very" and "somewhat" qualified are combined, it's McCain (75 percent) who has a slight edge over Clinton (72 percent) and Giuliani (71 percent).
Opinion Dynamics Corp. conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from Oct. 9-10. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
Race for the Nomination
Clinton increases her advantage over Obama this week and now is preferred among Democrats by a 32 percentage-point margin (50 percent to 18 percent), up from a 19-point edge a month ago. Edwards is third at 11 percent.
Giuliani continues to lead among Republicans, besting Thompson by 29 percent to 16 percent. McCain comes in third with 12 percent, followed by Romney at 11 percent.
Religion and Candidate Characteristics
Despite most voters saying it is unlikely they would actually vote against a candidate because he or she has been divorced or because they dislike the candidate's spouse, a candidate's personal life is still a factor for some.
About half of Americans (49 percent) say a presidential candidate's personal life is less important than their positions on the issues, while 20 percent say the candidate's personal life is more important and another 28 percent say it is just as important as where they stand on issues.
The poll finds large majorities of voters think most Americans would be comfortable with, not surprisingly, a president who is a Protestant (80 percent) and a Roman Catholic (79 percent), and smaller majorities think people would be comfortable with electing a member of the Christian Coalition (59 percent) and a Jewish president (50 percent).
Fewer people think the country is ready for a Mormon president (36 percent), and fewer still for an atheist (15 percent) or a Muslim (10 percent) in the White House.
Some 33 percent of Americans would like to vote for a presidential candidate who shares their religion, and most — 78 percent — say they consider the United States a Christian country.
The Troops, the War and Lapel Pins
It isn't uncommon to hear a comment along the lines of "I support the troops but am against the war." Slightly more voters (44 percent) say this thinking is a "logical and valid distinction," while nearly as many (42 percent) think that it shows someone is "trying to have it both ways."
And finally, there are mixed views related to Obama's announcement that he would no longer wear an American flag lapel pin. Without mentioning Obama, the poll finds that 50 percent of voters say they would doubt the patriotism of a candidate who wore the pin in the past and now says he or she would no longer wear it, including 43 percent of Democrats, while nearly half — 45 percent — would not doubt the candidate's patriotism.