Nearly half of Democrats (48 percent) think Hillary Clinton has a better chance of beating John McCain in November — 10 percentage points higher than the 38 percent who think Barack Obama can win, according to a FOX News poll released Wednesday. This represents a significant shift from March, when Democrats said Obama was the candidate more likely to beat McCain.
Democrats continue to favor Clinton as their party’s leader, albeit narrowly: 44 percent want her to win the nomination and 41 percent want Obama. Last month Clinton was preferred by 2 percentage points.
• Click here to view full results of the poll (pdf).
Further, for the second month in a row Clinton does slightly better than Obama in head-to-head matchups against the Republican senator. Clinton tops McCain by just 1 point (45 percent to 44 percent), down from a 3-point advantage last month. McCain edges Obama by a narrow 3-point margin (46 percent to 43 percent), up from a 1-point lead.
The leader in these matchups has shifted back and forth. In the last year, the biggest spread between Clinton and McCain was September 2007 when Clinton led him by 7 points. Obama held a 10-point lead over McCain last July.
Nearly a third of Clinton supporters — 32 percent — say they would vote for McCain instead of Obama (47 percent) if the general election were held today. Fewer Obama supporters — 21 percent — would defect and vote for McCain over Clinton if she were the nominee.
A Democratic ticket with Obama as the presidential nominee and Clinton as his running mate receives 47 percent to 41 percent for a Republican ticket of McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as his vice president.
"The relative strength of this so-called ‘Dream Democratic Ticket’ is sure to fuel further speculation as to whether such a pairing is realistically possible after such a heated primary campaign," said Ernest Paicopololos, principal of Opinion Dynamics Corp., which conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from April 28 to April 29. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
If Obama wins the nomination, most Democrats (73 percent) think Clinton would want him to win the White House, although nearly one in five (18 percent) thinks she would want McCain to win.
The results are similar for the reverse situation: If Clinton is the nominee, most Democrats (80 percent) think Obama would rather see her win the presidency and 13 percent think he would want McCain to win.
Despite those findings, there are signs of deep divisions among Democrats: If Clinton loses, a 54 percent majority of her supporters says they would rather have former Vice President Al Gore as the party’s nominee than Obama (31 percent). Obama supporters are more evenly split: If he loses, his supporters would only slightly prefer Gore (46 percent) over Clinton (44 percent).
Candidate Favorable Ratings
The ongoing controversy over Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, appears to have damaged how Americans view Obama. His favorable rating is now 47 percent, down 7 percentage points since February when 54 percent had a positive view of him. As may be expected, his unfavorable rating went up from 33 percent to 42 percent today.
The poll shows smaller changes in the other candidate’s ratings: Clinton’s favorable rating is up 2 points to 47 percent from 45 percent in February, while McCain’s is down 3 points from 52 percent to 49 percent today.
The decline in Obama’s favorable rating also is evident among Democrats: 63 percent have a favorable opinion now, down from 73 percent in February. For Clinton, 73 percent of Democrats have a favorable view of her, up from 71 percent.
Earlier this month a Democratic congressman said McCain was too old to be commander in chief. McCain is 71 and, if elected, he would be the oldest person to become president. The poll finds 22 percent of voters say McCain’s age is enough to discourage them from voting for him, up from 18 percent in April 2007. Even so, most voters say his age would not discourage their vote (77 percent), including 91 percent of Republicans.
Overall, more voters think McCain (60 percent) is honest and trustworthy than think Obama is (54 percent) and than think Clinton is (46 percent).
While majorities of Democrats think Clinton and Obama are honest and trustworthy, slightly more think Clinton is (69 percent) than Obama (66 percent).
Many more Democrats describe Clinton as "tough" (plus-38 points over Obama). They also are more likely to think "in touch with the American people" describes her (plus-10 points) as well as "arrogant" (plus-17 points).
Obama has a double-digit edge on being better-described by the word "humble" (plus-18 points over Clinton); although some Democrats (16 percent) say neither candidate can be described this way.
Somewhat more say the word "intelligent" describes Clinton (37 percent) than Obama (28 percent), though a third (33 percent) of Democrats say it describes both of them.
Few voters (15 percent) think Clinton and Obama truly like and respect one another, while a 56 percent majority thinks they somewhat "dislike, but still respect" each other. Another 17 percent think they truly dislike and detest one another. The results are similar among Democrats.
Are we there yet?
Democrats are more likely to describe the way Clinton has been running her campaign as "tough and hard-hitting" (43 percent) than as "positive and upbeat" (26 percent) or as "negative and nasty" (19 percent). As for Obama, nearly half of Democrats think he has been running a "positive" campaign (45 percent) rather than a "hard-hitting" (25 percent) or "negative" one (14 percent).
But when will the campaign be over? More than six of 10 Americans (including 67 percent of Democrats) think the Democratic Primary has gone on too long. Some 29 percent of voters think it has been about the right amount of time and 7 percent say not long enough.