Hillary Clinton: The most likely and unlikely choice among New Jersey voters but youth and women among her biggest supporters

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New Jersey voters chose Senator Hillary Clinton as the candidate they’d be the most likely and most unlikely to support in the general election, according to a new study from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind. In a survey conducted from January 14 through January 20, likely primary voters, regardless of party affiliation, were asked who among the field of candidates they are most likely and most unlikely to support for president. Clinton tops both lists with 25 and 27 percent, respectively. Rounding out the list of candidates that New Jerseyans are most likely to support are Barack Obama (18%), John McCain (10%), and Rudy Giuliani (8%). After Clinton’s 27%, Giuliani (17%) and Mike Huckabee (13%) top the list of candidates that Garden State likely voters say they will not support.

“The fact that Senator Clinton tops the lists of likely and unlikely candidates is a reflection of her often polarizing effect on people,” said Krista Jenkins, a professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University and survey analyst with PublicMind. “As has often been the case since her entrance into public life, Senator Clinton elicits strong opinions from people – both positive and negative – and what we see here is proof of both the unique support and opposition that her candidacy brings.”

Among those who chose Clinton as their most favored candidate, more than half (52%) say that it’s her “stance on the issues” that they find the most appealing. “These numbers are good for Senator Clinton,” said Jenkins. “When a majority of supporters clearly identify issues as the major reason for their support, it means that she is communicating her message effectively. She can build on this strength in order to attract more supporters.”

But when it comes to understanding what drives opposition to Senator Clinton, her detractors are evenly divided over whether they most dislike her issue positions (30%), personal qualities (33%), or both (32%). Rudy Giuliani, the second least favored candidate, generates opposition that follows a similar pattern. “When I see numbers like these, it means that people who don’t like Clinton and Giuliani can’t quite put their finger on why they really don’t like them,” said Jenkins. The fact that Mike Huckabee, who is the third least favored candidate for president, generates opposition based on his stance on issues (65%) makes sense, according to Jenkins. “He’s an evangelical Baptist minister running in a moderate, northeast state. Voters have an easier time identifying why they don’t like him compared to Clinton and Giuliani.”

Clinton gets more support from New Jersey women than any other candidate, Republican or Democratic.  Women support Clinton by almost two to one over her closest Democratic rival, Senator Obama (30 vs. 17 percent, respectively).  And when it comes to support for Republican candidates, female support for Clinton eclipses McCain’s and Giuliani’s by more than three to one.

Another notable finding is the large number of women who remain undecided. One-in-four likely female primary voters remain uncertain regarding whom to support. “These numbers are good for Senator Clinton. Her already significant lead over other candidates means there’s still more support to be gained by trying to appeal to those women who are still shopping for the right candidate,” said Jenkins.

The survey also suggests that the support Obama garnered in other states from youth is likely to be shared with Clinton in New Jersey. Although Senator Obama is clearly attractive to young voters, the same can be said for Senator Clinton. Likely voters 29 and younger are drawn to both of these historic candidates. “Young people are looking for something different than the same old ‘white guy in a suit’ that they so often identify with politicians. This is why a female and African-American candidate are connecting so strongly with young people both here and around the country. They’ve also been active in reaching out to young voters and inviting their support, something that helps to motivate youth to take part in politics,” said Jenkins.

Primary voters mull over their choices against a backdrop of dissatisfaction with the incumbent president. Only a fifth (20%) say they approve of the job President Bush is doing, a seven point drop from October.  And stark partisan differences are evident, with just 4 percent of Democrats approving of President Bush but about half of Republicans approving of him (48%).

Three-fourths of primary voters say the country is headed in the wrong direction and a majority of Republicans (57%) agree with Democrats (86%) and independents (72%) on this question. “Talk of economic recession is contributing to the gloomy perception that our country is on the wrong track.” said Jenkins.   When it comes to the war in Iraq, the number of those who believe things are going very or fairly well remains essentially unchanged since October (37 versus 35 percent, respectively).

The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 797 likely primary voters statewide was conducted by telephone from January 14 through January 20 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. More detail on methods is available on the Web.


Contacts:  Krista Jenkins: 973.443.8390

            or Peter Woolley: 973.670, 3239

For more information, please call (973) 443-8661.

Copyright © 2008, Fairleigh Dickinson University. All rights reserved. FDU PublicMind Poll [Latest update 080123]