NEW YORK – While John McCain trails front-runner Rudy Giuliani in the race for the Republican nomination, slightly more Americans see McCain as a straight-talker and as honest and trustworthy than Giuliani; furthermore, for the second month in row McCain performs better against leading Democrat Hillary Clinton in hypothetical matchups than any other top-tier Republican, according to a FOX News poll released Thursday.
And despite Clinton having the highest negative rating of all the top contenders, she continues to not only hold a commanding lead in her party’s primary, but also to best her Republican opponents in the horserace.
The national telephone poll was conducted for FOX News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 900 registered voters from Nov. 13 to 14. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
Overall, nearly half of voters (47 percent) think McCain "says what he believes," and 39 percent think he says what he thinks will get him elected; while 44 percent think Giuliani says what he believes and 47 percent what will get him elected.
A 57 percent majority says McCain is "honest and trustworthy," including almost half of Democrats and 60 percent of independents, while a 52 percent majority says Giuliani is honest and trustworthy, down from 58 percent this summer (5-6 June 2007).
The trait where Giuliani trumps McCain is on leadership; by a 12-percentage point margin, more voters think Giuliani is a "strong leader," although both are seen as having this quality by a majority of voters.
Giuliani’s 16-point lead in the race for his party’s nomination is essentially unchanged from last month — what has changed is the positioning of the other candidates. The poll finds the former mayor garners the support of 33 percent of Republicans, followed by McCain at 17 percent re-capturing second place for the first time since this summer, and Fred Thompson now in third with 12 percent.
Mitt Romney receives the backing of 8 percent, as does Mike Huckabee, even though the former governor of Arkansas is still virtually unknown to a lot Americans as well as many Republicans.
"What is striking is that Romney has spent huge amounts of money and gone nowhere while Huckabee has spent virtually nothing is actually catching up to Romney in places like Iowa," says Opinion Dynamics CEO John Gorman. "While things change, right now it appears there is something fundamentally flawed in the Romney effort."
Turning to the Democrats, by an 11-point margin more voters think Barack Obama is honest and trustworthy than think so of Clinton, and by 13-points more think Obama "says what he believes."
Clinton has the highest number of voters that believe she says what she thinks will get her elected; 61 percent of voters overall, 67 percent of independents and 42 percent of Democrats think so.
Clinton has an 11-point advantage over Obama on the "strong leader" trait, although she trails Giuliani by 10 points and is virtually tied with McCain.
The poll finds that Clinton retains her significant lead in the Democratic contest, capturing 44 percent to Obama’s 23 percent among self-identified Democrats. Edwards receives 12 percent.
Last month Clinton bested Obama 42 percent to 25 percent (23-24 October 2007); her lead has ranged from as low as 13 points to high as 32 points during the last six months.
General Election Horserace
If the 2008 presidential election were held today and the only thing voters knew was that one candidate was a Democrat and the other a Republican, the Democrat would have a 9-point advantage — 43 percent to 34 percent.
In hypothetical matchups, the results are a bit different and move around depending on the contest. With the general election just about a year away, McCain does best of the Republicans against Clinton and trails her by just one point. Men are somewhat more likely to support McCain (+6 percentage points), and women are more inclined to back Clinton (+9 percentage points).
Clinton tops Giuliani by a slim 4 points — unchanged from last month (47 percent to 43 percent, 9-10 October 2007). Men favor Giuliani by 3 points, while women prefer Clinton by 12 points.
Independents give the edge to Giuliani over Clinton by 43 percent to 41 percent, and McCain bests Clinton by 49 percent to 40 percent.
Among white born-again Christians, Giuliani bests Clinton by 28 points; McCain tops Clinton by 35 points among this group.
Voters that attend religious services regularly back Giuliani over Clinton by 47 percent to 42 percent.
Overall, Clinton’s lead increases to 9 percent when pitted against Thompson and 13 points against Romney.
While Americans are about equally enthusiastic about watching Clinton (42 percent) and Giuliani (43 percent) on television for four years, when considering an "extremely serious crisis" in the country, more say they would want Giuliani (46 percent) sitting in the oval office than Clinton (41 percent).
The Bill Factor
Former President Bill Clinton’s influence on the race looks to be a wash. Overall, 23 percent say they are more likely to vote for Hillary because of her husband, 31 percent say less likely and 45 percent say it will not make a difference either way; however among Democrats, 34 percent say more likely, 18 percent less likely and 46 percent no difference.
Most Americans (72 percent) think if Clinton were elected, she would really be the president – although a few think Bill would really be in charge (13 percent).
With a 49 percent favorable and 46 percent unfavorable rating, Clinton has the highest negative rating of the candidates tested; yet her husband Bill has a 55 percent favorable rating — higher than any of the candidates. The poll finds that the only person with a higher unfavorable rating than Hillary is George W. Bush: 40 percent favorable and 55 percent unfavorable.