Clinton doesn't need conservative Republican votes. But independents divide by a close 51-46 percent in favorable vs. unfavorable opinions of her. Men divide by 48-49 percent, compared with a much more positive 59-39 percent division among women. And whites split about evenly in their basic view of Clinton, 50-47 percent.
Obama's gotten a little gain in recognition, but in the wrong direction. Last month, 33 percent of Americans had no opinion of him; that's dropped by eight points, to 25 percent. But his favorable ratings are flat: Instead it's his unfavorable score that's inched up, from 23 percent to 29 percent. While nearly six in 10 blacks rate Obama favorably, that soars to 85 percent for Clinton.
McCain is rated favorably by 49 percent of Americans -- down by 10 points since last spring -- and unfavorably by 35 percent, up six. The decline has occurred disproportionately among Democratic men and among liberal Democrats. But McCain's rating also is down by 13 points among people who oppose the war in Iraq -- an unpopular conflict that he's staunchly defended.
Preferences for a general election that's nearly two years off probably say more about underlying partisan preferences -- which are important -- as about specific candidate choices. And they suggest that presidential preferences in the pending post-Bush era continue to look very closely divided. The key reason is that independents -- the quintessential swing group --split about evenly between Democratic and Republican candidates.
Overall, Clinton and Giuliani run 49-47 percent, essentially a dead heat. The gender gap is impressive: Clinton leads among women, 56-41 percent; Giuliani among men, 54-42 percent. Independents split 50 percent for Giuliani, 45 percent for Clinton.
It's 50-45 percent overall in a Clinton-McCain contest; while that's not a significant difference at the customary 95 percent confidence level, it's 89 percent probable that Clinton has an edge. Obama and McCain, for their part, run about evenly, 47-45 percent; and in their matchup Giuliani has 49 percent to 45 percent for Obama, not much of a difference given polling tolerances -- and with many miles to go.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Jan. 16-19, 2007, among a random national sample of 1,000 adults. The results have a three-point error margin overall, four points for leaned Democrats and five points for leaned Republicans. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.
ABC News polls can be found on ABCNEWS.com at http://abcnews.com/pollvault.html.