June 6, 2007

Pew Poll: Most Voters Dim

Last night, I complained about the repetitive nature of the questioning at the debates. For the third straight debate, Rudy Giuliani had to state his position on abortion, and Mitt Romney had to answer for his change of position over the last two-plus years. As it turns out, though, CNN may have had a good reason to ask the same plodding questions over and over again, as Pew Research discovered that less than half of the voters have paid attention:

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted May 30-June 3 among 1,503 adults, finds that overall voter engagement in the presidential campaign remains somewhat limited, despite intense press coverage of the race. Just 33% of all voters say they have given a lot of thought to the presidential candidates, up only modestly from December (27%). However, Republican voters have caught up with the Democrats in campaign engagement, after trailing in previous surveys.

Many voters are dimly aware of even heavily covered aspects of the candidates' positions and backgrounds. For instance, just 37% of all registered voters could correctly identify Giuliani as the leading Republican candidate who favors a woman's right to choose when it comes to abortion. Among Republican and Republican-leaning voters, just 43% correctly identified Giuliani.

Let's get this straight. Pollsters asked Republican voters which of the ten candidates supported abortion rights, and less than half of them selected Giuliani. Who did they think it was -- Mike Huckabee?

If anything, this makes it easier for Giuliani to recover from his stumble on this issue last month. If no one paid that much attention, his new strategy -- to bluntly declare his pro-choice political stance -- has a good chance of succeeding. It puts the rest of the field in opposition to him, but that works for Rudy, too. The primary race could come down to Rudy vs Conservative X, which at least keeps Rudy in the top two.

Fred Thompson got good news from this poll. Despite only having a 58% name recognition -- by far the lowest in the top tier -- he has 66% of the voters saying that they would vote for him, and 37% saying that the chances are good that Fred will get their vote. The latter number puts him in a tie with Rudy, and the former puts him ahead of everyone else but Rudy. Mitt Romney gets an overall 60%, which is an improvement from the last poll. McCain gets a 65% overall, but only 20% give him the "good chance" rating.

The no-chance numbers are even more interesting. Despite the sense that Giuliani had been alienating some Republicans, only 20% claim that he has "no chance" of getting their primary votes. That's the lowest number in the field, followed by Fred's 24%, although it did rise from 15% in the February poll. Romney has 32% of the voters set against him, and Newt Gingrich surprisingly has 46% who would refuse to support him. McCain only has 28%, but that number ticked up rather than down since February.

Right now, it looks like a three-man race -- but with Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney challenging Rudy for the nomination. McCain seems to have lost some momentum, and given his high name recognition, he may not have much in reserve to get it back.


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Comments (10)

Posted by Ron C | June 6, 2007 8:16 AM

Most voters don't want to hear one thing about the presidential election - not until late next year. Do you blame them?

Posted by NahnCee [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 6, 2007 8:42 AM

I'll bet you voters can tell you what all of those candidates' positions on immigration is. If voters don't know or remember a person's positions on abortion or global warming, it's simply because no one but pundits and the media *care* about those issues. We keep being told we should care, and the same questions keep being asked over and over because someone some place thinks they're important ... but as is noted here, on all the tree-huggey issues voter's eyes simply glaze over.

Voters never cared about Clinton's indiscretions with Monica, either. It was the media and the Washington in-group that insisted on dragging that out, focusing on it, and impeaching a sitting President. Every politician who participated in that impeachment process was summarily voted out at the every next election as a reward for ignoring their constituency's wishes. Too bad we couldn't vote the media and *their* headstrong bosses out, also.

Posted by pilsener | June 6, 2007 8:59 AM

Cap'n Ed -

Six months ago it was doubtful that McCain could ever get the Republican nomination. Now it is an ABSOLUTE certainty that he cannot. Take it to the bank.

The view on Newt Gingrich is simply that he has no chance of winning the general election. Conservatives love Newt's brain, but recognize that as Speaker he was "fingernails on the blackboard" to independents and conservative Democrats, and even a lot of moderate Republicans.

Posted by Realist | June 6, 2007 9:06 AM

This is totally irrelevant to the 2008 presidential election. Here's what is set to happen:

No matter who wins the Republican nomination, a third-party candidate will emerge out of nowhere to split the Republican vote. Hillary will skate in with a plurality of the vote.

It's all in the bag, folks.

Posted by syn | June 6, 2007 9:25 AM

'voters never cared about Clinton's indiscretions with Monica'

Well, neither did Clinton's wife or her pals in National Organization of Women.

That 's when I started question just a tad bit that perhaps my sisterhood was full of lying, manipulative power-hungry feminists who were BSing me about a lot of things. Since then I've been rather disgusted with my gender and frankly want nothing to do with whinning victims who created their victimhood in their own ugly little minds.

Posted by Neo | June 6, 2007 10:57 AM

This current campaign is a remnant of the legacy of the Clinton years.

We voters don't want a permanent campaign. In some European countries the campaigns are limited to a few short weeks. That sounds better and better to me.

And all this crap about moving up the primaries .. damn. Start them in June, maybe May, but February .. give me a break.

Perhaps we should prohibit fund raising until April (of the election year) have the primaries in July and August, the conventions in Septemeber, and the election in November. In the period between November (of an election year) and April (of the next election year), anyone caught fund raising should be put in "stocks" (where I can come and throw tomatoes and old eggs at them).

Posted by Anthony (Los Angeles) | June 6, 2007 11:27 AM

People are paying attention probably because the debate formats themselves are a farce: ten candidates playing what looks like an extended version of Jeopardy? Please, spare me. Lincoln and Douglas are probably laughing in disbelief.

Interest will rise when it's down to 2-3 serious candidates who can challenge each other during the debates. My guess is the three will be Giuliani, Thompson, and Romney.

Posted by Dan Collins | June 6, 2007 11:48 AM

Fred!'s doing well in part because people are grateful that he's not bugging them, yet.

Posted by grognard [TypeKey Profile Page] | June 6, 2007 12:48 PM

For people not registered with either political party the debates are only of marginal interest. For me the Republican debates are less on the candidate and more on the general direction of the party. On the Democrats side it looks like a lock by Clinton, how she deals with the left in the party is of some interest. There is a lot of doom and gloom on the Republican side but I still think that a Conservative candidate that is serious about fiscal responsibility and shows some independence from the social conservatives could win the election. At least for a [insert favorite derogatory term here] centrist like myself that would be an appealing candidate. When I comment on left and right websites I say this to both sides [admittedly without much effect] the name calling makes you look like juveniles, and centrists don’t take juveniles seriously.

Posted by Del Dolemonte | June 6, 2007 2:32 PM

syn said

"'voters never cared about Clinton's indiscretions with Monica' "

Well...that's not completely true. Clinton was a lame duck when it happened, so he didn't really have to worry about what the "voters" thought.

But it is interesting to note that while he retained his job approval numbers-which in retrospect could have been aided by rigged polls over-sampling Democrats, as is regularly done today-at the same time his "personal approval" numbers were much lower. And a few years later when he left office, the majority of Americans polled said he'd only be remembered for scandals, not for anything he had "accomplished" while in the Oral Office running the "most ethical Administration in history".

If a Republican President had done the same thing Clinton did with Monica, NOW would have demanded that he be taken out behind the barn and shot, preferably in the crotch.

As for NOW giving Clinton a pass on his engaging in an exploitative sexual relationship with a subordinate Federal employee (talk about "ethical"!), that just shows their arrogance and utter hypocrisy. I don't know if you remember the story, but at the time one reporter or writer (I can't remember her name) gushed that she would happily give Clinton oral sex-just because he kept abortion legal.