Clemson University Palmetto Poll
Because both parties have a large number of candidates running to be their party's candidate for the nation's highest office, the first question asked voters about their familiarity with the contestants in the field.
Q1. Please tell me if you have ever heard of the following candidates for president and if you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of him/her?
Republicans Heard of Favorable Unfavorable
1. R. Giuliani ` 99% 63% 25%
2. J. McCain 97% 52% 35%
3. N. Gingrich 95% 54% 27%
4. M. Romney 87% 62% 14%
5. F. Thompson 83% 65% 7%
6. M. Huckabee 69% 48% 8%
7. S. Brownback 57% 33% 10%
8. R. Paul 40% 24% 22%
9. D. Hunter 32% 37% 14%
10. T. Tancredo 30% 38% 12%
1. H. Clinton 98% 68% 14%
2. A. Gore 97% 64% 18%
3. J. Edwards 94% 65% 12%
4. B. Obama 91% 63% 10%
5. J. Biden 64% 44% 17%
6. B. Richardson 56% 43% 14%
7. C. Dodd 52% 37% 13%
8. D. Kucinich 39% 36% 23%
9. M. Gravel 29% 15% 34%
A combination of high name recognition and favorable opinions among party partisans is the most desirable trait to have in any pre-election survey. The poll shows that each party has about four or five top tier candidates. For the Republican Party Rudy Giuliani (99%), John McCain (97%), Newt Gingrich (95%), Mitt Romney (87%) and Fred Thompson (83%) are all readily recognizable. Fred Thompson was an about-to-be candidate when the poll was conducted. Newt Gingrich remains a recognizable candidate, but one with significant negatives among GOP base voters. The "unfavorables" for McCain are noticeably high. Social conservatives Mike Huckabee (69%) and Sam Brownback (57%) have improved their standing among base voters, but they are not top tier candidates. Duncan Hunter (32%), Ron Paul (40%) and Tom Tancrado (30%) remain relatively unknown.
Well-known Democrats are Hillary Clinton (98%), John Edwards (94%) and Barack Obama (91%), all with strong favorable ratings and low negatives among base voters. Al Gore (97%) remains a well-known but is not a declared candidate. Joe Biden (64%), Bill Richardson (56%) and Chris Dodd (52%) are more familiar to Democratic voters, but trail the leaders. Candidates Dennis Kucinich (39%) and Mike Gravel (29%) remain relatively unknown.
A mixture of good name recognition and low unfavorable ratings is good news for the Romney, Huckabee and Thompson campaigns. While the rising unfavorable numbers for Gingrich, Giuliani and McCain are troubling signs for their respective candidacies. In defiance of rumored animosities, Hillary Clinton has relative high name recognition and low unfavorable ratings among the Democratic voters surveyed. Both John Edwards and Barack Obama remain valid challengers for the nomination based on their name recognition and favorability scores.
The table below compares the name recognition and favorable ratings of some candidates in both parties from the first (October, 2006) to the second (August, 2007) Palmetto polls.
Republicans Oct. '06 Aug. '07 Oct. '06 Aug. '07
Heard of Heard of Favorable Favorable
1. R. Giuliani 93% 99% 78% 63%
2. J. McCain 96% 97% 65% 52%
3. M. Romney 40% 87% 41% 62%
4. S. Brownback 17% 57% 28% 33%
5. M. Huckabee 25% 69% 24% 48%
1. H. Clinton 98% 98% 69% 68%
2. J. Edwards 91% 94% 68% 65%
3. B. Obama 58% 91% 82% 63%
The most improved candidates in each party are Romney and Obama. Their name recognition has soared in the past 10 months. Fred Thompson was not listed as a candidate in the last poll, and because Al Gore remains an undeclared candidate his name was omitted from this list for comparisons. The only improving Republican candidate in terms of name recognition and favorable opinions is Mitt Romney. Rudy Giuliani has lost some appeal in the past 10 months. Similarly, John McCain has slumped some 13 points since the last Palmetto Poll. Among Democrats Barack Obama has slumped, but such a number is probably attributable to the fact that he was relatively unknown in October of 2006.
The awareness of candidates led to a second question, which serves as a preview to the primary.
Q2. If the 2008 primary election in South Carolina were held today, for whom would you vote?
1. Fred Thompson 19% 1. Hillary Clinton 26%
2. Rudy Giuliani 18% 2. B. Obama 16%
3. John McCain 15% 3. J. Edwards 10%
4. Mitt Romney 11% 4. A Gore 8%
5. Newt Gingrich 9% 5. J. Biden 3%
6. Mike Huckabee 6% 6. B. Richardson 2%
7. Ron Paul 1% 7. C Dodd --
8. S. Brownback -- 8. D. Kucnich --
9. D. Hunter -- 9. M. Gravel --
10. T. Tancredo -- 10. Undecided 35%
11. Undecided 20%
Although he was an undeclared candidate when the poll was taken, Fred Thompson is locked in a dead heat with New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. Mitt Romney remains in fourth place in this survey. About one-fifth of the GOP respondents surveyed remained undecided about who they would support in January.
Among Democrats, Hillary Clinton maintains a significant ten-point lead over
Barack Obama, with John Edwards – the winner of the 2004 Democratic primary in South Carolina – mired in third place behind the leaders. Neither Joe Biden nor Bill Richardson has attracted enough votes to move from single digits, and Al Gore remains an undeclared, and not strongly supported candidate. African-Americans, who constitute about half the Democratic turnout in a presidential primary, are dividing their vote between Hillary Clinton (28%) and Barack Obama (23%). About 40 percent of the African-American vote in South Carolina is undecided at this point.
As the primary campaign for the presidency heats up, the idea of voter loyalty to candidates becomes a more important issue. The intangible attachment voters have to a candidate influences campaign strategy and election outcomes. How closely are voters following South Carolina "First in the South" primary status? How likely is it that they will remain loyal to candidates, including those suggested in this hypothetical race? The Palmetto Poll asked the following question to find out how interested voters were in the presidential importance of their state.
Q3. Thinking about the 2008 presidential campaign election, which of the following best describes your thoughts on this contest? (Some respondents asked to be listed in two categories)
1. Have a good idea about who to support 26% 32%
2. Have been following the news, but haven't
seriously considered who to support 65% 52%
3. Not paying much attention 29% 36%
With the election some five months away, only about one quarter of the Republicans, and one third of the Democrats, have a good idea about who they will support in the presidential primary. The other respondents are just now beginning to pay attention, and are variously open to campaign appeals and candidate news coverage. With the large number of undecided voters, and the number who have not been paying attention to the race, the South Carolina primary looms as an important campaign venue where both parties will wage a fierce battle for attention.
All respondents were asked questions about the most important problem facing the country today. The poll asked an open-ended question, and then grouped the responses into categories. Respondents in the Clemson University Palmetto Poll were allowed to list more than one issue if they wished. For comparison�s sake, the results for respondents in both parties in South Carolina are compared with the national results as listed in the latest Gallup Poll. The wording of the national poll, and its methodology, is different from the Clemson University Palmetto Poll in that the Gallup organization polls voters, while the Palmetto Poll selects respondents based on their party affiliation and the likelihood that they would vote in the 2008 presidential primary.
Q4. What is the most important problem to your personally as you think about the problems America faces today?
Republicans Democrats Gallup
1. Iraq & the war 22% 1. Iraq & the war 31% 1. Terrorism 11%
2. Immigration 14% 2. Health insurance 17% 2. Economy 11%
3. Economy 9% 3. Economy 10% 3. Immigration 10%
4. Faith & values 9% 4. Education 7% 4. Fear of war 9%
5. Terrorism 8% 5. Faith & values 4% 5. Education 4%
6. Health insurance 6% 6. Immigration 4% 6. Ethical decline 3%
7. Abortion 6% 7. Social security 3% 7. Health care 3%
8. Tax policy 4% 8. Global warming 1% 8. Crime 2%
9. Education 3% 9. Abortion 1% 9. Federal debt 2%
10. Social Security 3% 10. Crime 1% 10. Social Security 1%
11. Relation with other 11. National debt 1%
nations 2% 12. Relations with other
12. National debt 1% nations 1%
13. Crime 1% 13. Terrorism 1%
14. Global warming` -- 14. Tax policy --
15. Other 9% 15. Other 6%
Voters in both parties thought the Iraq War was the most important problem in the country, with the economy, and faith and values being listed as relevant concerns as well. Republicans listed immigration as the second most important problem, while Democrats were more interested in health issues.
A follow-up question was asked of both Republican and Democratic respondents about the Iraq War.
Q5. Which of the following do you think is better for the United States in its policy with Iraq?
1. Keep troops in country until the U.S. has
achieved its goals 54% 12%
2. Set a timetable for the removal of
troops from Iraq 15% 28%
3. Remove the troops regardless of
whether the U.S. achieves its goals 10% 27%
4. Come up with some other policy 17% 20%
5. Don't know/no answer 13% 5%
The divisiveness of the Iraq war is apparent in the different responses by voters in the two political parties. Over one-half of the Republicans survey supported the current Bush policy, while support for it was miniscule among Democrats. They, by contrast, are divided among a policy favoring a timetable for withdrawal (28%), favoring the removal of troops regardless of whether the U.S. has achieved its goals (27%), and coming up with some other policy (20%). A substantial number of respondents in both parties long for a new policy. The differences here are stark, with the Democrats scattered among several policy alternatives and the half the Republicans united around one.
Much of the national dissention on Iraq is centered on the personality and presidency of George W. Bush. Nationally the Bush approval rating in the Gallup Poll in September, 2007 is 39 percent. The presidential approval question was asked of voters in both the Republican and Democratic voters in both parties.
Q6. Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president?
1. Approve 61% 13%
2. Disapprove 27% 72%
3. Don't know/no answer 11% 10%
4. Refused to answer 1% 5%
Sixty percent of Republicans continue to approve of the Bush presidency, while 70 percent of the Democrats disapprove of it. Importantly, more than one-quarter of the Republicans surveyed disapproved of the way President Bush was doing his job.
In 2008 South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham will be up for re-election. He will likely face competition in the GOP primary in June of 2008, as well as a serious Democratic opponent in November. A question was asked of Republican voters about their willingness to support Senator Graham regardless of who runs against him in the GOP primary. The so-called �re-elect regardless� question for incumbents is a rough measure of electability. A figure in the mid 30s shows vulnerability, while a figure above 40 percent offers a measure of job security.
Q7. If the election were held today, how likely are you to vote to re-elect Lindsey Graham regardless of who runs against him?
1. Vote to re-elect regardless 36%
2. Vote depending on who runs against him 37%
3. Vote for someone else 24%
4. Don't know/no answer 4%
The poll shows that Senator Graham does not enjoy unqualified support among base Republican voters. However, given his campaign war chest and his general name recognition, he is only vulnerable if he has a well-known and well-funded opponent.
After the 2004 presidential election, a number of pundits declared that the "values voters" determined the outcome in crucial states. These voters were interested in issues like abortion, gay marriage and federal funding of stem-cell research. The final question of Clemson University's Palmetto Poll asked about church attendance by likely primary voters.
Q8. How often do you go to religious services or some other place of worship?
1. Every Week 66% 64%
2. About once a week 9% 10%
3. Once or twice a month 11% 13%
4. Four times a year 6% 4%
5. Never 6% 6%
6. No answer 1% 3%
The poll finds that religion, and religious issues matter to over three-quarters of the voters in both political parties, and are likely to remain important in presidential primary campaigns in South Carolina.