POLL: In a Clinton vs. Giuliani Race, a Battle of Competing Legacies

SEPT. 11 — Giuliani's support owes much to his performance as New York City mayor on Sept. 11, 2001. An enormous 86 percent of Americans say he did an excellent or good job of responding to the attacks that day; 73 percent think that performance indicates the kind of job he'd do as president. It's a significant predictor of his support.

Giuliani may try to sharpen his appeal on these scores. He does particularly well with people who rate his response to 9/11 as "excellent" (40 percent of Americans), and among those who think it says "a great deal" about how he'd perform as president (29 percent). He'd do well to try to build the size of those groups.

A related indicator is Giuliani's perceived leadership in general. Americans who say they're looking for "strength and experience" in the next president favor Giuliani over Clinton by 54 percent to 41 percent; by contrast, those looking more for "new ideas and a new direction," favor Clinton by 64 percent to 29 percent. Her lead is bigger — but the more pro-Giuliani "strength and experience" group is larger.

KEY GROUPS — Clinton owes her overall advantage entirely to women, not just a natural affinity group for her, but one in which Democrats predominate. Indeed, married women — central to Bush's winning formula in 2004 — divide evenly between Clinton and Giuliani.

Clinton, further, has a vast 34-point lead among those Americans — slightly over one in five — who call themselves feminists, while nonfeminists divide about evenly. (Self-described feminists, notably, include 18 percent of men, as well as 26 percent of women.)

The two run very closely in the two quintessential swing groups in presidential politics — independents and white Catholics (the latter, a natural affinity group for Giuliani). Independents divide 48 percent to 44 percent between Clinton and Giuliani; white Catholics, 47 percent to 46 percent.

Underscoring Giuliani's difficulties in the Republican base, weekly churchgoers in this survey divide, 46 percent to 49 percent, between Clinton and Giuliani; they've been a much more heavily Republican group in the past. Giuliani's supported by 69 percent of evangelical white Protestants, compared to Bush's 78 percent from this group in 2004.

LIB/CONS — Clinton so far has avoided being tagged with the "too liberal" label used successfully against past Democratic candidates; 35 percent of Americans say she's too liberal, compared with 45 percent who said that about John Kerry, shortly before the 2004 election. An additional 9 percent call her too conservative, the rest, 50 percent, "about right," ideologically.

Perhaps surprisingly, that's more than the 43 percent who see Giuliani — generally regarded as a moderate — as "about right" on the ideological scale. That's because, while 26 percent call him too conservative, an additional 19 percent call him too liberal — and 12 percent don't know enough yet to say.

OTHER CANDIDATES — While Clinton, if nominated, has the most "definite" voters, at 30 percent, only two candidates are ruled out by majorities of Americans: Republicans Mitt Romney — 57 percent say they definitely would not support him for president — and Fred Thompson, ruled out by 54 percent.

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