NPR: Primary Battles Strengthen Democrats' Standing


With both primaries still open, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Public Opinion Strategies conducted the latest in our series of bipartisan polls for National Public Radio in the midst of the Florida primaries and less than a week before super Tuesday. The survey of 1,000 likely voters fielded January 29-31 and has a margin of error of +/-3.2 percent.

The survey finds voters are still deeply dissatisfied with the direction of the country and looking for Democrats to bring a new direction. Indeed, more than two-thirds say the country is headed in the wrong direction and voters favor Democrats on the generic presidential ballot by 5 points (49 to 44 percent).

The primary battles are aligning Democrats with voters’ preferences as the top priorities for the Democratic presidential candidates are also the most important concerns for voters - change from Bush, the economy and the war in Iraq. More importantly, voters agree with Democrats more than Republicans on the issues as a whole by a 7-point margin and on candidates’ personal characteristics by a 6-point edge.

The bases of both parties are very satisfied with their candidates. After hearing the candidates throughout the primary process, about six-in-ten Republicans are more likely to support McCain and Romney and about two-thirds of Democratic voters are more likely to vote for Clinton or Obama. The differences that produce net positive support for the Senators from Illinois and Arizona and negative support for Clinton and Romney are a function of independents’ preferences for Obama and McCain.

Beyond the primary season, the dynamics of the general election will be very different depending on which candidates emerge as the nominees. Clinton and Obama tie the vote with McCain by virtually the same margin, yet the dynamic of these races are significantly different.

Key Findings

  • Change from Bush stands alone for one quarter of voters as the single highest priority for Democratic presidential candidates.
  • Voters also see Democratic presidential candidates addressing two of their highest concerns - the economy and the war in Iraq. On both of these issues voters prefer Democrats’ standing and they side with Democrats on the economy and Iraq by 14 and 9 points, respectively. These two issues will certainly shape the upcoming primary debates as candidates discuss what policies will be better to get the economy moving again and deal with Iraq.
  • On the Republican side, the priorities of the candidates are not clearly defined. Voters mention several issues as Republicans’ highest priorities (the war in Iraq, the economy and the war on terrorism) but none of them really breaks through.
  • A confrontation between Clinton and McCain will produce a very polarized electorate with strong support from both bases and few voters crossing party lines. A base election could be a good thing for Democrats in an environment desperate for change.
  • A race between Obama and McCain shows weaker support for the candidates from their respective bases and an intense battle for independents as both candidates are very popular with this bloc of voters.

Methodology

These results are based on a bi-partisan survey conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner in conjunction with Public Opinion Strategies for National Public Radio. The survey fielded January 29-31, 2008. It has a sample size of 1,000 likely voters and a margin of error of +/-3.2 percent. The results and broadcast can also be found at www.npr.org, although neither NPR nor POS are responsible for the comments above.

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