Republicans alike have strong opinions about who has the
best chance of capturing the presidency in 2008 -- Hillary
Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, that is -- but that's not
necessarily the candidate they'd rather go bowling
with, take along on a family vacation, or even vote
survey of more than 2,000 people offers a window into the
thinking of Americans as they look far beyond electability
in making their choices for president -- grappling
with matters of personality, policy, and religion in
sorting through the candidates.
Overall, the poll
finds, Democrats are weighing personal traits more
heavily than policy positions this election season;
Republicans are putting greater emphasis on policy.
The survey by the Associated Press and Yahoo News is a
departure from traditional polling in that it will
track the opinions of the same people across the country as
their beliefs develop and change through the campaign.
The interplay of
the personal and the political doesn't always make for
neat and tidy decision-making.
self-described die-hard Republican Donald Stokes. The
48-year-old steelworker from Waterbury, Conn., would
pick Democrat John Edwards if he could take a
candidate along on his family vacation. He likes Edwards's
personality and his family values. But he supports Giuliani
for president, largely because of the former New York
mayor's leadership after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in
''I'd rather have
a president that's going to get in somebody's face if
he's got a problem with them or another country,'' says
Thompson, a 48-year-old retired landscaper from Federal Way,
Wash., is a Democrat backing Barack Obama for president. But
she would probably pick ''the Mormon guy'' -- that
would be Republican Mitt Romney -- for a bowling
a 30-year-old physician's assistant from Milford, Pa.,
would love to see a woman in the White House -- ''just not
the female that's running this year.'' She's backing
Republican Mike Huckabee for president because of his
positive outlook and opposition to abortion, but she'd
rather invite Obama to dinner.
In this first
gut-check of the polling series, the voters signaled
there's still hope for candidates playing catch-up: Half of
likely Democratic voters said they could change their
minds about who should win their party's nomination,
as did two thirds of Republicans.
Ask Democrats to
size up their party's candidates on personal qualities,
and it's easy to see why Clinton is leading national polls
of Democrats. She is the candidate most often seen as
strong, experienced, decisive, compassionate. Looking
for strength, for example, 78% of Democrats see the
quality in Clinton, 61% find it in Obama, 56% in Edwards.
The picture is
less clear-cut when it comes to ethics and honesty, where
Clinton and Obama run about even.
Which Democrat is
judged the most likable? None has a clear advantage
among Democratic voters, with Clinton, Obama, and Edwards
running about even. Among all voters, however, Obama
has the edge.
It is a measure
of how polarizing Clinton can be that she is the both the
voters' favored bowling or vacation companion and the one
most often ruled out.
Irene Soria, a
60-year-old Democrat from Tulare, Calif., says she's
backing Clinton because ''she knows how to play Washington.
... The other two, Edwards and Obama, seem kind of
weak to me.''
says, is overrated. A lot of people thought they could
have a beer with George W. Bush, she said, but ''look at all
the things he's done to the United States. He hasn't
done much good.''
voters size up the GOP candidates, Giuliani claims the
advantage on a host of personal qualities. He is the GOP
candidate most often seen as decisive, strong and
compassionate. But, just as for Clinton, ethics and
honesty are a potential soft spot. Some 59% of GOP
voters see Sen. John McCain as ethical, compared with 54%
for Giuliani, 45% for Fred Thompson, and 42% for
Romney. On honesty, McCain and Giuliani run about
is the most likable? Giuliani gets the nod, both from
GOP voters and among voters overall.
Hold a sheer
popularity contest, pitting the most likable Democrat versus
the best-liked Republican, and it would be Obama over
Giuliani, 54% to 46%.
Ask voters which
qualities are most important, though, and they put
likability well down the list. They attach far more
importance to being honest, ethical, decisive and
Shipman, 33, of Wichita, Kan., is among the voters
sorting through the candidates' personal qualities and
policy positions as he makes his choice for president.
He's backing Rudy Giuliani right now, but sees him as
''the lesser of all evils.'' He disagrees with
Giuliani on abortion and same-sex marriage, but liked his
9/11 leadership. He also thinks Romney ''deserves a
The AP-Yahoo News
survey, conducted by Knowledge Networks, also asked
voters to shine the spotlight in the other direction, to
evaluate some of their own qualities.
It turns out that
supporters of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee
are the most likely to be happy. Huckabee has a relatively
high proportion of support among Evangelicals, who
tend to be happier than most people.
supporters of Obama and Edwards are more likely to say
they are very happy than are Clinton's backers. Her
supporters include more lower-income and less-educated
voters, who tend to be less happy.
The voters do own
up to some reservations about the age, sex, and
religion of certain candidates, but some also manage to
swallow their concerns. Nearly 60% of 71-year-old John
McCain's supporters say they have at least some
reservations about supporting a candidate who is over
70. About 30% of Romney's supporters have qualms about
voting for a Mormon. Fifteen percent of those who
support thrice-married Giuliani have reservations
about someone who is divorced.
On the Democratic
side, 7% of Clinton's supporters report some
reservations about voting for a woman.
The numbers show
a significant share of respondents resisting the pack
mentality. Fully half of Obama's supporters and a third of
Edwards's backers think Clinton is the Democrat with
the best chance of winning next November. On the
Republican side, a third or more of the voters
supporting McCain, Thompson, and Romney think Giuliani has a
better chance of winning.
Who would win
right now? When an unidentified Democratic nominee is
pitted against an unidentified Republican, the Democrat gets
42% of voters, the Republican 27%, and another 27%
don't know who they'd vote for.
The survey of
2,230 adults was conducted November 2-12 by Knowledge
Networks and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus
2.1 percentage points. The survey included 1,049
Democrats, for whom the margin of sampling error was
plus or minus 3 points, and 827 Republicans, for whom
the margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3.4 points.
Unlike most Internet polls, this one is nationally
representative because people are first contacted
using traditional telephone polling methods and are
then followed using online interviews. People selected for
the study who do not already have Internet access are
provided with Internet access for free.
is available at https://news.yahoo.com/polls (Nancy
Benac, Trevor Tompson, AP)