NEW YORK – The latest FOX News poll finds that Americans think the next person to move into the White House will be a Democrat, and while many voters would be enthusiastic or pleased if any one of the current front-runners were to win, one candidate scares more people than the others — Sen. Hillary Clinton.
In addition, voters are twice as likely to say that Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards made the right decision to stay in the race despite his wife Elizabeth’s recent cancer diagnosis.
President Bush’s job approval rating dips a point this week to 33 percent, matching a previous low in approval almost a year ago (33 percent, April 18-19, 2006). Disapproval of the president’s performance has increased to 61 percent — the highest disapproval rating of his presidency.
Opinion Dynamics Corp. conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from March 27 to March 28. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
By 67 percent to 22 percent, American voters think the Democrats are going to win the 2008 presidential election. Fully 90 percent of Democrats think their party is going to be victorious and 60 percent of independents agree. Among Republicans, 44 percent think Democrats will win the White House and 45 percent think their party will hold on to the presidency.
If the current favorites were to win, the reaction would be mainly positive or middle-of-the-road. With 16 percent of voters saying they would be enthusiastic if she won, Sen. Clinton has the edge over Illinois Sen. Barack Obama at 14 percent "enthusiastic," former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani at 13 percent and Ariz. Sen. John McCain at 8 percent.
When those saying they would be "enthusiastic" and "pleased" are combined, Giuliani (41 percent) has a 1-point advantage over Clinton (40 percent), a 2-point edge over Obama (39 percent) and an 8-point edge over McCain (33 percent).
The bad news for Clinton is that she leads the pack at the negative end of the scale: 40 percent of voters say they would be displeased or scared if Clinton were to become the next president, 25 percent would feel that way if McCain won, 24 percent if Obama won and 24 percent Giuliani.
Furthermore, one of four voters — 26 percent — say they would be "scared" if Clinton were to win — that’s more than twice as many as those who say the same of Obama (11 percent) and McCain (9 percent) and more than three times as many as feel that way about Giuliani (8 percent).
"As we will repeat over and over again in the coming year, it is really too early to make hard judgments about the presidential race, "comments Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman. "Hillary Clinton probably has the most stable position — not many of those who love or hate her are likely to change their positions. All the others have a lot of room to move as the public hears new things, good and bad, about them."
Race for the Nomination
Last week John Edwards announced that he was continuing his presidential campaign even though his wife Elizabeth had been diagnosed with an incurable form of cancer. Americans endorse his decision: A 59 percent majority thinks he is doing the right thing; 27 percent the wrong thing.
Women (63 percent) are slightly more likely than men (54 percent) to think Edwards is doing the right thing, and six of 10 women with children agree with his decision to stay in the race.
Almost all voters say Edwards’ decision to continue will not make a difference to their vote (78 percent), and his announcement and the accompanying press coverage did not give him a bump in the race for the Democratic nomination.
Sen. Clinton continues to hold the lead, receiving the backing of 36 percent of self-identified Democrats, Obama comes in second with 18 percent, former Vice President Al Gore receives 14 percent and Edwards 13 percent. Clinton is up a couple of points from last month, Obama is down 5 points and Edwards is up 1 point.
In a two-person race, Clinton bests Obama among Democrats by 20 percentage points (52 percent to 32 percent), up slightly from a 17-point advantage in late February (49 percent to 32 percent).
On the Republican side, talk of a possible new entrant, former Tenn. Sen. Fred Thompson, has resulted in some changes in the nomination race.
Among Republicans, Giuliani still tops the list with 36 percent to McCain’s 20 percent. Thompson takes over the third place slot with 9 percent, moving former Speaker Newt Gingrich down to fourth place at 6 percent. Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney also receives the backing of 6 percent.
In a two-way matchup, Giuliani’s strong lead over McCain subsided this month, though he still has a double-digit edge: 50 percent to 37 percent (among Republicans). Last month, Giuliani led with 56 percent to McCain’s 31 percent.
The poll also asked which Republican candidate was most like former President Ronald Reagan — a Republican icon that many of the candidates compare themselves to on the campaign trail. Giuliani gets top billing here too, as 18 percent of Republicans say "America’s Mayor" most reminds them of Reagan, 12 percent say McCain, 10 percent Fred Thompson, 6 percent Gingrich and 4 percent Romney. Fourteen percent say none of the candidates is like Reagan.
General Election Matchups
Taking a look at some hypothetical horse race numbers, the matchups have tightened up a bit. Today, Giuliani tops Clinton by only 1 point — 45 percent to 44 percent. Last month Giuliani had a 9-point edge (49 percent to 40 percent).
In addition, in a three-way race with current New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg as an independent, Clinton takes a slim lead over Giuliani (42 percent to 40 percent), with Bloomberg at 6 percent.
Obama now ties Giuliani at 43 percent. In mid-February, Obama (39 percent) trailed Giuliani (45 percent) by 6 points.
The race is also sharply divided between Clinton (43 percent) and McCain (47 percent), and she easily tops potential contender Fred Thompson by 51 percent to 34 percent.
"At this stage of the game, many of these shifts have little or nothing to do with the candidates. They have more to do with Iraq, approval of Bush, attitudes toward the Congressional parties and so on," says Gorman.
The Best Versus the Best Financed
Who wins elections? The poll finds that more than twice as many voters think the candidate with the most money wins (59 percent), rather than the best candidate (25 percent).