02/09/06 FOX News Poll: Republicans Have Edge in Early 2008 Presidential Matchups

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A new FOX News poll finds that strong support from within their party as well as from majorities of independents helps Republican candidates outperform Democratic candidates in head-to-head presidential matchups.

It might be early, but it is still fun to look at hypothetical matchups between possible 2008 candidates. The poll asked about Republican candidates Arizona Sen. John McCain and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Democratic candidates Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Overall, the Republican candidates top their Democratic opponents, and while the two Republican candidates get about the same level of support in each trial heat, Clinton performs significantly better than 2004 Democratic presidential nominee Kerry.

Among registered voters, Giuliani bests Clinton by 11 percentage points and Kerry by 19 points. McCain tops Clinton by 13 percentage points and Kerry by 20 points. These results are in line with past FOX News results on these vote questions, with the only real change being a lessening of support for Kerry.

There are clear differences in the amount of support the candidates receive from within their own party. For instance, Giuliani and McCain capture between 84-89 percent of the Republican vote in the matchups, while Clinton captures 70-75 percent among Democrats and Kerry’s highest is 65 percent.

Furthermore, Democrats are two-to-three times more likely than Republicans to say they would vote for the other party’s candidate. In the Giuliani-Clinton vote, 17 percent of Democrats say they would vote for the Republican, while 7 percent of Republicans say they would vote for Democrat. The other matchups show even higher numbers of party switchers among Democrats.

What about swing voters? The Republican candidates receive over 50 percent of the vote among self-identified independents in each of the four matchups.

Clinton has the highest portion of voters that say they would “definitely” vote for her, but she also has about twice as many as Giuliani and McCain that say “under no conditions” would they vote for her.

“Clinton is clearly a polarizing candidate,” comments Opinion Dynamics CEO John Gorman. “The question for her is whether she can piece together enough support on her side of the divide to reach a majority of the electoral vote. The vote in 2004 was also polarized, but the Bush campaign managed to find enough groups to knit together a majority.”

Over a third (35 percent) say they would definitely vote for Clinton, 19 percent say maybe and 44 percent say no way. In comparison, 30 percent would definitely vote for McCain, 40 percent would consider it and 22 percent definitely would not vote for him. Giuliani’s results are almost identical to McCain’s.

2008 Presidential Election

For the most part these candidates are well known and have high name recognition. Voters view Giuliani, Clinton and McCain more positively than negatively. Moreover, Giuliani’s 64 percent favorable rating is not only higher than the other potential candidates, but is also higher than President Bush’s 46 percent favorable. Kerry’s favorable has dropped 9 percentage points since the end of 2004 and current stands at 42 percent.

And although New York Governor George Pataki has made five visits to Iowa already, he is still an unknown nationally: 20 percent favorable, 15 percent unfavorable, with the remaining 65 percent either unsure or have never heard of him.

Smart and Likeable — Candidate Characteristics

Giuliani shows strength in the area of personal traits and bests McCain on all the characteristics tested, and Clinton on all but one. The poll finds that 77 percent of voters think Giuliani is a strong leader, giving him a double-digit advantage over Clinton (64 percent) and McCain (63 percent).

Majorities see Giuliani (74 percent), McCain (68 percent) and Clinton (56 percent) as “likeable,” though Giuliani’s broad public appeal is clear as he tops McCain by 6 percentage points and Clinton by 18 points.

Similar results are found on the attribute of “caring”: 72 percent think that describes Giuliani, 63 percent McCain and 61 percent Clinton.

While about six in 10 think Giuliani and McCain are “honest and trustworthy,” views are sharply divided on Clinton: 45 percent say yes and 46 percent say no.

Clinton has the edge on one characteristic — almost all voters think the former first lady is “intelligent” (87 percent), putting her slightly ahead of both Giuliani (83 percent) and McCain (78 percent).

Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News on February 7-8.

Overall, voters say they would rather see a business leader (33 percent) than a military general (21 percent) or a career politician (21 percent) as the country’s next president.

And what about non-traditional candidates? A 39 percent plurality thinks a woman is more likely to be elected president first, followed by an African-American candidate (20 percent), a Jewish candidate (12 percent) and an Hispanic candidate (6 percent).

Oprah for President?

On a wide-ranging list of individuals, the poll asked the simple question — “would this person make a good president?” Three people receive support from at least half of voters: Giuliani (60 percent), McCain (55 percent) and Clinton (50 percent). Nearly half think Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (47 percent) and John Kerry (45 percent) would be good.

A third (34 percent) think former Vice President Al Gore would make a good president, putting him ahead of talk show host/entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey (24 percent), Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass. (23 percent), and George Pataki (15 percent). Oprah receives twice as much support as real estate developer/television personality Donald Trump (11 percent) and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (11 percent).

• PDF: Click here for full poll results.