December 14, 2006

Public to ’08 Contenders – It’s Too Early

Favorable Ratings Are Mixed for Pelosi, Reid

Summary of Findings

Politicians and political reporters are scrambling to book flights for New Hampshire and other presidential primary states, but the public is far from engaged in the jockeying for 2008. About a quarter of Americans (23%) say they have given a lot of thought to candidates who may be running for president, while another 36% say they have given some thought to the candidates.

Even most Americans who have given some thought to the 2008 candidates could not actually name one they have considered supporting. Nearly three-quarters (74%) could not name a Republican whom they have thought most about possibly voting for; when asked the same question about Democratic candidates, 61% did not name a candidate.

Among Democratic candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton is named most frequently ­ at 19% ­ by those who have given at least some thought to the 2008 field. On the Republican side, 14% volunteered Sen. John McCain as the candidate they have thought most about possibly supporting.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted among 1,502 adults from Dec. 6-10, finds that more Democrats than Republicans or independents have given a lot of thought to possible candidates in 2008. Among Democrats, nearly a third (31%) have given a lot of thought to the candidates, compared with 21% each of Republicans and independents.

Liberal Democrats are considerably more likely than others to say they have given a lot of thought to the 2008 election; 40% have thought about it a lot, compared with 27% of moderate and conservative Democrats, 26% of conservative Republicans, and just 12% of moderate or liberal Republicans.

More Democrats have thought about voting for Sen. Clinton than for any other Democratic candidate; 33% of Democrats who have given at least some thought to the 2008 field named Clinton as the candidate they have thought most about possibly voting for; 18% volunteered Sen. Barack Obama. The two candidates are tied at 13% among independents. However, fewer independents than partisans named any candidate ­ 67% could not name a Democrat and 70% could not name a Republican for whom they have considered voting in 2008.

Among Republicans, 17% of those who have given at least some thought to the 2008 candidates volunteered McCain as the person they have thought most about possibly voting for; 12% named Giuliani. In addition, 17% of independents who have given some thought to the ’08 field also named McCain as their possible choice, more than any other GOP candidate.

Bush Popularity Remains Low

Favorable ratings for President Bush and Vice President Cheney remain largely unchanged over the past eight months. Only about four-in-ten Americans (41%) view the president favorably, while slightly fewer (38%) have a positive opinion of the vice president.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Robert Gates, recently confirmed as the new secretary of defense, are viewed favorably by about two-thirds (66% each) of those who can rate them. However, nearly half of Americans (48%) are not familiar enough with Gates to give a rating.

Hillary Clinton and John McCain are both popular with the American public. Six-in-ten have a favorable view of Clinton, while nearly two-thirds (66%) express a positive opinion of McCain. McCain’s popularity extends beyond his own party. The Republican has a favorable rating among six-in-ten Democrats, including a majority of liberal Democrats (56%), and among 65% of independents. Sen. Clinton is also popular with independents ­ nearly six-in-ten (58%) view her positively ­ but her favorability among Republicans stands at just 25%.

Six years after leaving office, former President Bill Clinton continues to have a positive image ­ nearly two-thirds (65%) have a favorable opinion of him. The former president is viewed positively by about nine-in-ten Democrats (91%) and 64% of independents. In May 2000, during his final year in office, just 75% of Democrats and 50% of independents expressed favorable opinions of Clinton. And while only about a third of Republicans (32%) express a favorable view of the former president, this is up significantly from almost seven years ago, when only about one-in-five (21%) had a positive opinion of then-President Clinton.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi receives a favorable rating from a majority (54%) of those who could rate her. The incoming speaker of the House is unfamiliar to about four-in-ten Americans (41%). Pelosi is slightly more popular than Newt Gingrich was in December 1994, when just under half of the public (47%) expressed a favorable view of him; 47% could not rate Gingrich at the time.

Pelosi’s standing among Democrats and Republicans is the mirror image of Gingrich’s in 1994. More than seven-in-ten Democrats (73%) express a positive view of their party’s leader; the same share of Republicans had a favorable view of Gingrich twelve years ago. Conversely, about a quarter of Republicans (26%) view Pelosi favorably, while Gingrich was popular among a similar proportion of Democrats (25%). Pelosi’s advantage over Gingrich comes from slightly higher support among independents ­ a majority (52%) have a favorable view of the Democrat, while 44% had a favorable view of Gingrich in December of 1994.

Cite this publication: “Public to ’08 Contenders – It’s Too Early.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (December 14, 2006) http://www.people-press.org/2006/12/14/public-to-08-contenders-its-too-early/, accessed on July 23, 2014.