CBS Poll: Slim Edge For Hillary

hillary clinton, rick lazio, senate race generic image AP / CBS

Forty-four percent of likely New York voters say they will vote for Hillary Clinton for Senate, while 39 percent favor upstart Republican candidate Rick Lazio, according to the latest CBS News/New York Times poll.

In the previous CBS News/Times poll, conducted at the height of the uproar in New York City over the police shooting of Patrick Dorismond, an unarmed black man, Clinton held an edge of 49 percent to 41 percent over Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Since the mayor's withdrawal from the race, voters have become more undecided. And within what are expected to be key subgroups, Lazio, a U.S. congressman from Long Island, holds nearly all of Giuliani’s support, while Clinton’s percentage has declined as voters reassess the contest.

Giuliani’s departure from the race has given his personal image a lift. And while it appears that Clinton now holds a small advantage, her less-well-known Republican opponent has some good news from this poll. As a candidate, he has few of the negatives Giuliani brought to the campaign.

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NEW YORK SENATE – LIKELY VOTERS

  Now April
Clinton 44% 49%

Lazio/Giuliani 39% 41%

Undecided 17% 10%
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When undecided voters are asked whom they lean towards, just about as many choose Lazio as choose Clinton, while 8 percent remain undecided. Another indication of the changing nature of the race is that more voters admit they could be moved in their candidate support. Just 61 percent in this poll say their minds are made up and won’t change, compared with 67 percent two months ago.

Whatever finally happens in the New York Senate race, voters are enjoying the contest. By almost three to one, they think the campaign so far has been interesting and not dull. That makes the New York Senate race a lot different from the national campaign – only a third of voters nationally interviewed last month thought the Gore-Bush race was interesting.

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JUDGING THE CAMPAIGNS

  N.Y. Senate National, 5/00
Interesting 70% 36%

Dull 25% 57%
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One example of the way the Senate contest has changed comes in upstate New York, an area the Clinton campaign had targeted, and which Giuliani rarely visited. In the last poll, Clinton and Giuliani ran even upstate, which is unusual for a Democrat. In this poll, the area looks more like its Republican tradition. Lazio holds an 11-point lead over Clinton there, 46 percent to 35 percent. On the other hand, in heavily Democratic New York City Clinton maintains her substantial lead.

Similar patterns hold with both men and women, and in all racial groups, as Clinton’s percentage of support has declined more while the Republican candidate’s support (initially Giuliani, now Lazio) has held steady, and the undecided number has grown. Clinton’s lead among blacks is now 87 percent to 5 percent (it had been 95 percent to 4 percent), and among Hispanics it is 70 percent to 17 percent (compared with 79 percent to 16 percent). One exception to this pattern may be among Jewish voters. Though the sample sizes of Jewish voters in both polls are small, Clinton’s lead over Lazio is twice what it was over Giuliani in April.
There are indications of potentially more movement in the months ahead. Among voters who say they now support Lazio or are undecided, 28% say they would consider voting for Clinton. Among those now favoring the first lady or having no preference, 39 percent say they would consider voting for Lazio. There is also lack of certainty when voters are asked which candidate they expect will win in November: 43 percent say Clinton will win, which is substantially more than the 29 percent who name Lazio, but more than a quarter make no guess.

However doubtful some voters are about what lies ahead and what they’ll eventually do, they are certainly happier about the options now than they were two months ago. Fifty-five percent say they are satisfied with the choices (compared with 50 percent in April. Only 6 percent now volunteer that they would rather have Giuliani be the Republican candidate instead of azio.

THE CANDIDATES

The New York Senate campaign now has two candidates with positive images. Perhaps the polarization in the Clinton-Giuliani race took its toll on both candidates. Lazio, though unknown to most voters, is more than twice as likely to be viewed favorably as unfavorably (the Mayor had a net negative rating in April), while Clinton’s favorable rating has jumped to 45 percent from 39 percent since the mayor’s withdrawal.

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OVERALL IMAGES

  Clinton-6/00 Clinton-4/00 Lazio
Favorable 45% 39% 26%

Not Favorable 31% 31% 10%


Although a majority of voters living in New York City thought of Clinton positively in April, now increasing numbers of voters living outside the city – especially those in the suburbs - do as well. Currently, 40 percent of suburban voters have a favorable view of Clinton, up from 27 percent in April. Among upstate voters, 35 percent have a favorable image of her, up from 31 percent in April. Both suburban men and women hold more positive views of her now.

On most specific characteristics, however, views of Mrs. Clinton have changed little in the last two months. A small majority says she has the right experience for the job, and a larger majority says she cares about people like them. Fewer New Yorkers give Lazio credit for experience than gave Giuliani that compliment, but fewer also view him as uncaring.

Perhaps because Lazio is seen as having better people skills than Giuliani, Clinton no longer has the advantage of being seen as the candidate who, if elected, would get along better with other members of the Senate. Now that contest is nearly a draw.

THE CAMPAIGN

Voters are paying attention to the Senate campaign, even at this early stage: 78 percent of voters are paying at least some attention, including 35 percent who are paying a lot of attention. And from what voters have seen so far, Lazio’s campaign efforts are perceived as fairly negative.

Thirty percent of voters say Lazio has spent more time attacking Clinton than explaining his positions to the voters – and among these voters, one-quarter already have an unfavorable view of the congressman. Thirty-seven percent say Lazio has spent more time explaining than attacking, while 33 percent don’t know yet. Clinton, however, is seen as taking the high road: 74 percent say she is spending more time explaining her positions to voters than attacking Lazio.

However, Lazio’s campaign is viewed more positively than Giuliani’s campaign was. In April, just 26 percent said that the mayor was spending his campaign explaining what he would do as Senator while 52 percent said he was spending most of his time attacking Hillary Clinton. In April, 28 percent said Clinton was mostly attacking the mayor, while 57 percent said she was mostly explaining her positions.

Lazio has derided Clinton’s “listening tour” of the state by saying he does not need to listen to voters, as he already knows what New Yorkers want – but New York voters still think listening is the right thing to do.

Fifty-eight percent of voters say they would like candidates to spend most of their time listening to what the voters have to say, while only 27 percent prefer that candidates spend more time explaining their positios to the voters. That’s down from last year, when Clinton began her listening tour, but it’s still a clear majority.

Clinton is still seen as a uniter in her campaign: 61 percent of voters say she's trying to bring New Yorkers together. Only 14 percent think she is trying to divide them. Voters are still unsure of Lazio’s strategy: 44 percent say he is trying to unite New Yorkers, while 46 percent don’t know yet.

IS HILLARY CLINTON A CARPETBAGGER?

Accusations that Clinton is a “carpetbagger” and that she could not represent New York effectively because she isn’t a New Yorker appear to be diminishing somewhat, despite Lazio’s focus on his lifelong state residency. Now, a majority of voters – 55 percent - think Clinton can represent the state, even though she hasn’t lived there for many years, while 38 percent think she could not. Last October, just 50 percent thought she could represent New York, while 43 percent had their doubts.

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CAN HILLARY CLINTON REPRESENT NEW YORK EFFECTIVELY?

  Now 10/99
Yes 55% 50%

No 38% 43%
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Most New York voters say birthplace shouldn’t matter at all. Although 39 percent say all in all they’d prefer to have a Senator who was born in New York, 58 percent say that makes no difference to them. Most of those who don’t care are currently voting for Hillary Clinton.

New York voters have consistently viewed Hillary Clinton’s handling of her non-New York job, that of First Lady, positively. Seventy-five percent approve of the job she is doing as First Lady, a figure that is unchanged since last October.

ABORTION

The Clinton campaign has already begun to make an issue of Lazio’s position on abortion, portraying the Congressman as “multiple-choice” on the issue. But this argument may be difficult to sustain: more New Yorkers agree with Lazio’s specific positions on abortion than with Clinton’s; few New Yorkers cite abortion as the deciding factor in their vote; and those who do cite it are predominantly “pro-life.”

In Congress, Lazio has voted to ban a late-term abortion procedure that opponents call partial-birth abortion. Three-quarters of New York voters would also like to see the procedure banned.

In addition, Lazio has voted against public funding for abortions for poor women – an issue over which voters are divided: 44 percent support public funding for abortions, and 45 percent oppose it. Overall, 41 percent of voters say they support access to abortion, but with some restrictions; 39 percent support general access, and 15 percent would like to see abortion outlawed.

But while Lazio may have an edge on the abortion issue, neither candidate stands to gain much from this issue alone. Only 6 percent of New York voters say that abortion is the single most important factor in determining their vote. The vast majority – 63 percent - say abortion is important, but so are other issues. Almost one-third say abortion won’t affect their vote at all.

Among those who say that abortion is the single most important issue in their vote, 54 percent are staunchly anti-abortion. Only 27 percent of that small group support having abortion generally available, and 16 percent would like to see some limits.

Currently, seven in ten voters say they don’t know enough about the candidates’ positions on abortion to tell whether Lazio or Clinton is closer to their own position (though twice as many say Clinton is closer to them than think Lazio is).

OTHER ISSUES: EDUCATION AND GUNS

The top issue to voters in this race is education – mentioned by 15 percent of voters. And here Lazio may have an edge on one aspect of that debate. Fift-two percent of New York voters support publicly-funded private school vouchers, while 40 percent oppose them. Those for whom education is the most important issue are more evenly divided: 50 percent support vouchers while 45 percent oppose them.

Education is the top issue, while health care, taxes, and a candidate’s honesty each get about one in twenty voters naming it as their most important. Gun control is farther back. However, Clinton’s position on gun control is more in line with New York voters’ than Lazio’s is. Eight in ten voters support a proposal to require gun owners to register every firearm they own with the government. Among these voters, half are currently supporting Clinton while one-third are voting for Lazio.

On the issue of the federal budget surplus, New York voters overwhelmingly support using the surplus to shore up Medicare and Social Security, rather than for a large tax cut. Fifty-six percent would like to see the surplus used for programs like Social Security, wile only 14 percent would prefer to see a tax cut; 13 percent would like to use the surplus to pay down the debt.

One final underlying issue in the race – Bill Clinton’s impeachment – could prove to be a non-issue. Despite the president’s popularity in the state (55 percent of New Yorkers view him favorably), most voters don’t care that Lazio voted to impeach him. Two-thirds of voters say Lazio’s impeachment vote will not affect their decision in the race. Another 14 percent say it makes them more likely to vote for him and 19 percent are less likely to support him.

GIULIANI’S DECISIONS

New Yorker voters approve of New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s decision to drop out of the race for Senator from New York. In this poll, 75 percent think he did the right thing by dropping out, and 14 percent think he should have stayed in the race.

Voters think the main reason for Giuliani’s decision was his current fight against prostate cancer, as opposed to his marital problems. Forty-two percent of voters think he decided to drop out of the Senate race primarily due to his health problems, and 12 percent think he did so mostly because of his marriage troubles; 31 percent volunteer that both of these issues contributed to his decision.

The New York City Mayor’s health and marital problems and his subsequent withdrawal from the Senate race may have helped Giuliani’s image among New York State voters. His statewide favorable ratings are the highest they have ever been. Positive views of him have risen from 32 percent of voters just last April to 48 percent now. Unfavorable views of Giuliani have decreased as well.

Positive assessments of Giuliani have risen since April among all types of New York voters. Now, 35 percent of voters in New York City view him favorably; in April, 26 percent did. The most drastic improvement in Giuliani’s image has occurre among those living outside of New York City. Among voters living in the suburbs, 66 percent now have a favorable view of him, while in April, 49 percent did. Forty-nine percent of upstate voters now rate him favorably, up from 28 percent in April.

His image among men, women and white voters has improved similarly. Even among African American voters, a group that Giuliani has alienated and among whom he has never been well regarded, Giuliani’s image has improved slightly, though it remains overwhelmingly negative. Twelve percent of black voters have a positive image of Giuliani, up from a mere 3 percent in April.

Giuliani’s job approval ratings have also risen in the past three months. Among state residents overall, 62 percent now approve of the job he is doing, up from 45 percent in April. (Giuliani’s statewide approval rating is still lower than the 66 percent approval rating New Yorkers give Governor George Pataki and President Bill Clinton’s 71 percent rating). Among city residents, Giuliani’s improvement has been less drastic but nonetheless significant. In April, 36 percent of New York City residents approved of the job he was doing as Mayor (a record low); now, 47 percent approve. Last April’s poll was conducted just after Giuliani’s public response to the police shooting in New York City of Patrick Dorismond, an unarmed black man, when his job approval among New York City residents was at a record low.

Do New Yorkers want to keep Giuliani in the political spotlight after his term as mayor runs out next year? Half the voters (49 percent) would like to see him run for another political office, while 39 percent just want him to fade away politically. Fourteen percent would like him to run for governor of New York, 6 percent want him to run for Senate and 2 percent for president. Twenty-six percent want him to run for elected office, but aren’t sure which office. Voters who supported his Senate candidacy are particularly encouraging of Giuliani making another run for office: 72 percent would like to see him run again and only 18 percent would not.

The poll was conducted among a New York statewide sample of 1,897 adults interviewed by telephone June 4-10, 2000. The sample includes 1,440 registered voters, and 1,240 likely voters. Likely voters are defined as registered voters who either voted for president in 1996, or voted in the 1998 congressional elections, and intend to vote this year. This likely voter group reflects the typical distribution of the statewide vote from New York City, the suburbs and the rest of the state. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the entire sample and the samples of registered and likely voters.
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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