FOX News Poll: Voters Want Candidates to Be In Touch

Presidential hopefuls take note — pocketbook issues matter to voters, and that includes being familiar with how much Americans’ pocketbooks are hit when buying everyday items. A new FOX News poll finds that significantly more voters think it is important for candidates to know how much a gallon of milk costs than it is for them to reveal serious health issues that could make a difference to their presidency.

In addition, views are divided on whether the current slate of presidential contenders is stronger or weaker than in the past. Overall, 42 percent think the field is stronger this year and 43 percent say weaker. Democrats (57 percent) are much more likely than Republicans (32 percent) to say the candidate field is stronger this year.

Approval of President Bush’s job performance rebounds a few points this week to 38 percent — up from 33 percent approval last month (March 27-28), and 54 percent of Americans disapprove.

As for Congress, 35 percent of voters say they approve, 49 percent disapprove and 16 percent are unsure.

Opinion Dynamics Corp. conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from April 17 to April 18. The poll has a 3-point error margin.

• Click here to see full results of the poll.

Recently a reporter asked presidential hopeful former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani how much a gallon of milk cost and his answer was way too low. Does this matter to voters? The poll results suggest it does.

Almost all voters — 85 percent — say it is at least somewhat important for presidential candidates to be familiar with the price of items most people buy regularly, like a gallon of milk and a gallon of gasoline, including two-thirds (66 percent) that say it is "very" important.

In comparison, 64 percent think it is important (31 percent "somewhat" and 33 percent "very") for candidates to share their medical history and reveal any serious health issues that may make a difference to their presidency — information that would seem fairly important to know before entering the voting booth.

"It is likely that the importance of a particular item has a lot to do with whether or not it seems to confirm or refute a stereotype the voter already has," says Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman. "It is less important for someone perceived a ‘good old boy’ to know the price of things than for someone who is suspected of being a snob. People also feel they can make their own health judgments from television."

When asked specifically about former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson’s recent announcement that he has a non-life threatening form of cancer, hardly any voters (11 percent) say that alone would discourage them from voting for him. In fact, slightly more — almost one of five voters — says Arizona Sen. John McCain’s age would dissuade their support (18 percent).

Among Republicans, 8 percent say Thompson’s cancer would discourage their vote and 7 percent say McCain’s age would.

Presidential Primaries

The new survey shows little change in the party nomination lineups. Looking first at Democratic primary preferences, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton continues to hold the top spot with 41 percent, followed by Illinois Sen. Barack Obama at 20 percent, former Vice President Al Gore at 16 percent, and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards at 12 percent.

Among Republicans, Giuliani remains the clear favorite at 35 percent, followed by McCain at 16 percent, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney at 10 percent, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 9 percent, and Fred Thompson at 8 percent.

"It is important to reiterate that this far out from the primaries the ballot tests are not much more than popularity contests," says ODC Vice President Chris Anderson. "Voters still have a lot to learn about the candidates. In addition, the field of candidates is still not settled. With many voters seeing the overall field of candidates as weaker compared to past years, there is still room for an unannounced candidate to emerge as a factor, especially on the Republican side."

Another way to gauge intensity in support is to look at which candidates are stirring more individuals to open their wallet and make a campaign contribution. Among the main front-runners, Democratic candidates are doing better than Republicans, as is the case with the actual fundraising totals released by the campaigns.

Thirty-two percent of Clinton’s voters say they already have made or plan to make a contribution to her campaign, 29 percent of Obama’s voters say the same, as do 25 percent of those supporting Edwards, 22 percent supporting McCain and 17 percent supporting Giuliani.

Honesty and Politics

Does politics corrupt? The poll finds that a bare majority of Americans (53 percent) thinks it is possible for people to stay honest after entering politics, while a third (33 percent) says no — it’s impossible for them to stay honest.