CBS Poll: Voters Like VP Choice

John Kerry, left, and John Edwards, right, applaud before the start of a democratic presidential hopefuls debate at Southern California University in Los Angeles, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2004. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) AP/CNN

John Kerry's naming of North Carolina Senator John Edwards as the Democrat's running mate met with a positive response yesterday, slightly improving the standing of the Democratic ticket, and also improving the image of John Kerry among voters.

A majority of all voters, and seven in ten Democrats, say they are glad that Edwards was chosen. Only one in ten think Kerry should have named someone else. By more than two to one, voters think Edwards has the right experience to be a good vice president, though many are not sure he has enough experience to be a good president.

CHOOSING EDWARDS

There is little doubt that the choice of John Edwards was a popular one. Most voters said they were glad Edwards was chosen, and few would have picked anyone else. A minority admitted that it really didn't matter who the vice presidential candidate was.


EDWARDS AS KERRY'S RUNNING MATE

Glad Edwards was chosen
All Voters
52%
Democrats
69%

Wish Kerry picked someone else
All voters
11%
Democrats
9%

Didn't matter/no opinion
All voters
37%
Democrats
22%


The general good feeling about the Edwards nomination exceeds the positive reaction towards two former vice presidential nominees about whom this question was asked. In 2000, 45 percent of all registered voters said they were glad that Al Gore chose Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman; in 1988, only 33 percent said they were glad that George H.W. Bush named Dan Quayle.

When asked specifically about the Edwards choice, there was a significant level of satisfaction -- both within the Democratic Party and outside it. Nearly three in four registered voters said they were satisfied (one in five was enthusiastic about the choice). As for Democrats, 90 percent were satisfied. Very few voters admitted they were angry about the choice.

FEELING ABOUT CHOICE OF EDWARDS

All Voters
Enthusiastic
19%
Satisfied
53%
Dissatisfied
12%
Angry
1%

Democrats
Enthusiastic
25%
Satisfied
65%
Dissatisfied
4%
Angry
-

Most Democratic delegates were also happy with the choice. In interviews with 736 delegates to the Democratic Convention, all of whom were interviewed by CBS New and "The New York Times" before July 6, 405 had volunteered Edwards' name as their first choice for Vice President. Another 92 named him as their second choice. No other name was mentioned as a first choice by more than 44 delegates.

WILL THE CHOICE MATTER?

Few voters ever admit that a vice presidential choice will change their vote. Only 16 percent of registered voters say the vice presidential candidates will have a great deal of influence on their vote this year. Eight in ten say they will vote mostly on the presidential choices.

IMPORTANCE OF VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
Will have influence on vote
16%
Will make choice mostly on president
81%

When asked specifically about this choice, again most voters (84 percent) say it won't affect their vote. But those who do are more likely to say the choice of Edwards will make them more likely to vote for Kerry than say it will make them less likely to do so. That is also the case for independent voters -- the ones who might be most affected and the ones most likely to still be making up their minds.

EDWARDS' IMPACT ON YOUR VOTE

All Voters
Makes no difference
84%
More likely to vote for Kerry
10%
Less likely to vote for Kerry
3%

Independents
Makes no difference
83%
More likely to vote for Kerry
10%
Less likely to vote for Kerry
4%

And that slight change is reflected in the overall horserace numbers. A week ago, the race was effectively tied, with Kerry receiving 45 percent of registered voter support, and Bush 44 percent. Now, with the full tickets, these same respondents give Kerry and Edwards a five-point edge over the Republican ticket.

PRESIDENTIAL CHOICE

Now
Kerry/Edwards
49%
Bush/Cheney
44%

June
Kerry/Edwards
45%
Bush/Cheney
44%

REFLECTION ON THE CANDIDATES

At the moment, Edwards enjoys far more favorable assessments than does his opponent, Vice President Dick Cheney. But there are still many voters who have no image of the Senator.


VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE IMAGES

Cheney
Favorable
27%
Not favorable
47%
No opinion
26%

Edwards
Favorable
38%
Not favorable
9%
No opinion
53%

Vice President Cheney has been under attack lately, and in the last few weeks, his image has declined somewhat. In late June more of this sample's voters had an unfavorable opinion of the Vice President than had a favorable one, by a margin of 23 percent to 37 percent. But in the re-interviews, unfavorable opinion rose by 10 points. Favorable evaluations increased by only four points in the sample.

While Edwards' favorable ratings exceed his unfavorable ones by four to one, he is still unknown to a majority of registered voters. On the night after Kerry picked him, 53 percent expressed no opinion of Edwards.

Naming a vice presidential candidate can affect perceptions of a presidential candidate, too. And this poll suggests some improvement for Kerry. In the last poll, unfavorable opinions outnumbered favorable ones for Kerry. These same respondents, interviewed Tuesday night, now see the Senator more favorably than not, though by a narrow margin. There are fewer voters expressing no opinion.

KERRY'S IMAGE
(among same respondents)

Favorable
Now
37%
June
32%

Not favorable
Now
34%
June
35%

No opinion
Now
29%
June
33%

In the same period, there was little change in opinions of President Bush.

THE QUESTION OF EXPERIENCE

Voters clearly differentiate between the experience needed to be a good vice president and the experience needed to be president. Edwards has the former, but voters are not sure he has the latter.

By more than two to one, voters say Edwards has the right experience to be a good vice president. Republicans aren't sure that's true, but Independents and Democrats overwhelmingly agree he does.

DOES EDWARDS HAVE RIGHT EXPERIENCE TO BE GOOD VP?
Yes
50%
No
21%

In 2000, 54 percent said Joe Lieberman had the right experience to be a good vice president, while 61 percent felt that way about Cheney.

But there is more doubt about whether Edwards has enough experience to be a good president. 37 percent say he does, while 41 percent say he does not. There is the expected partisan gap on this question: by more than two to one, Republicans say he does not, by nearly two to one, Democrats say he does. Independent voters, who will decide this election, are evenly divided.

DOES EDWARDS HAVE ENOUGH EXPERIENCE TO BE GOOD PRESIDENT?
Yes
37%
No
41%

Vice presidential candidates can certainly survive poor marks on this question. In 1988, Democratic candidate Lloyd Bentsen was viewed as having enough experience to be president -- and by a nearly two to one margin. By more than two to one, voters thought Republican Dan Quayle did not. But Quayle and his presidential running mate, George H.W. Bush, easily won that election.

THE VP ANNOUNCEMENT: RECENT HISTORY

Vice presidents have generated mixed public reactions, at least when it comes to winning votes for their ticket. The typical goal is for the vice presidents to carry his or her own state in the fall campaign. But other times there has been the additional goal of adding excitement to a ticket.

For example, Geraldine Ferraro's nomination as the Democratic candidate for vice president in 1984 brought a high level of interest. But according to the CBS News/New York Times 1984 exit poll, she may have brought less than a point overall for the Democratic ticket, which lost resoundingly to Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.

It's difficult to measure the immediate impact of the vice presidential choice on the ticket's standing in the horserace. Often, the selection of the vice presidential nominee comes during or immediately before a party's nominating convention, which also usually gives a boost to the ticket, so sorting out how much of a change is due to the vice presidential choice and how much to other aspects of the convention period is difficult. For example, in 1992, prior to the Democratic convention, George H. W. Bush led Bill Clinton 36 percent to 32 percent while Perot was at 26 percent. After the convention, Gore's nomination, and Perot's temporary withdrawal from the contest, Clinton had a 23-point lead over Bush.

The 2000 election saw smaller changes. The selection of Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman by Al Gore narrowed the gap between Gore and George W. Bush from 15 points to 10 points. The immediate reaction to Bush's naming of Dick Cheney as his running mate had no discernible impact on support for Bush. The full impact of the naming of Edwards may not be known until after the Democratic convention.



This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 462 registered voters interviewed July 6, 2004. These respondents had originally been interviewed by CBS News and "The New York Times" June 23-27, 2004. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus five percentage points for results based on the entire sample. The sampling error on individual change is much smaller.

For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.


  • John Esterbrook

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