Poll: Dean Pulls Away In Dem Race

Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean left, makes a point during his foreign policy speech to the Pacific Council on International Policy, Monday, Dec. 15, 2003, in the Century City section of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian) AP

Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean has pulled away from the field in the Democratic Presidential nomination race: his support among Democratic primary voters nationwide has risen in the past month, and held steady after the news of Saddam Hussein's capture. But the race remains open: more than half of Democratic voters still have no opinion of Dean, most have not made up their minds for sure, and large numbers remain undecided.

Dean has been a vociferous critic of the Iraq war. Most voters believe, as Dean does, that the U.S. is no safer from terror in the wake of the arrest of Saddam Hussein. And while Dean's rise may have been helped along by former Vice-President Al Gore's recent endorsement, most primary voters say Gore's nod makes no difference to them.

Dean has the backing of 23 percent of likely primary voters, the same as he did in the days just prior to Saddam's capture, and up from 14 percent in November. His nearest rivals today are Wesley Clark and Joe Lieberman, both at 10 percent.

CHOICE FOR DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE
(Democratic primary voters)
Now
Howard Dean
23%
Wesley Clark
10%
Joe Lieberman
10%
Richard Gephardt
6%
Al Sharpton
5%
John Kerry
4%
John Edwards
2%
Carol Moseley-Braun
1%
Dennis Kucinich
1%
Don't Know
28%

12/10-13
Howard Dean
23%
Wesley Clark
10%
Joe Lieberman
6%
Richard Gephardt
5%
Al Sharpton
6%
John Kerry
4%
John Edwards
3%
Carol Moseley-Braun
4%
Dennis Kucinich
3%
Don't Know
24%

Last month
Howard Dean
14%
Wesley Clark
9%
Joe Lieberman
9%
Richard Gephardt
12%
Al Sharpton
3%
John Kerry
7%
John Edwards
2%
Carol Moseley-Braun
4%
Dennis Kucinich
2%
Don't Know
23%

Dean's rise between November and now seems to have come partly at the expense of Congressman Richard Gephardt -- whose 6 percent support today is down from 12 percent last month -- and to a lesser extent from Senator John Kerry, who has fallen to 4 percent nationally from 7 percent last month. But in a sign the race could still shift, the number of voters who do not have a candidate choice has also grown, up to 28 percent today from 23 percent one month ago.

Dean has said that while he applauds the U.S.' capture of Saddam, it will not make the U.S. any safer, and most voters agree. 85 percent of Democratic primary voters think the threat to the U.S. will either rise or stay just as it is following Saddam's capture -- a feeling shared by 78 percent of all voters nationwide.

AFTER SADDAM'S CAPTURE, THE TERROR THREAT IS…?
Increased
Democratic primary voters
22%
All voters
17%

Still the same
Democratic primary voters
63%
All voters
61%

Decreased
Democratic primary voters
13%
All voters
18%

Democratic primary voters are less likely than all registered voters to say that the war in Iraq, or removing Saddam Hussein, has been worth the costs.

They are also less likely than voters as a whole to say that the U.S. efforts to rebuild Iraq now are going well, following Saddam's capture. Just under half of primary voters say the U.S. effort is going well following the arrest, while 66 percent of all American voters describe it that way.

STILL AN OPEN RACE?
Nearly three-quarters of Democratic primary voters who back a candidate today say it is still too soon to say if their choice is final, and just 25 percent say their mind is made up. This is slightly less certainty than there was in December of 1999: when the 2000 Democratic nomination fight was about to begin, 29 percent of those Democratic primary voters had made up their minds between Al Gore and Bill Bradley.

IS YOUR MIND MADE UP?
(Primary voters naming a candidate)
Yes, mind made up
25%
No, still to early to be sure
74%

RATING THE CANDIDATES
With just over one month remaining before voting begins in the Iowa caucuses, most of the candidates vying for the Democratic nomination still do not elicit much response, either good or bad, from many primary voters. Joe Lieberman, the party's Vice-Presidential nominee in 2000, is the best known, and he also has the highest favorable rating. 37 percent of Democratic primary voters hold a favorable view of him. Over half -- 56 percent -- of primary voters do not see Howard Dean either favorably or unfavorably; this includes nearly one in three who have not heard much about him at all.

VIEWS OF THE CANDIDATES
(Democratic primary voters)
Favorable
Joe Lieberman
37%
Howard Dean
33%
Wesley Clark
24%
Richard Gephardt
20%
John Kerry
22%
Al Sharpton
15%
Carol Moseley-Braun
9%
John Edwards
10%
Dennis Kucinich
7%

Unfavorable
Joe Lieberman
19%
Howard Dean
12%
Wesley Clark
10%
Richard Gephardt
13%
John Kerry
12%
Al Sharpton
35%
Carol Moseley-Braun
10%
John Edwards
9%
Dennis Kucinich
7%

Undecided or Haven't heard enough
Joe Lieberman
44%
Howard Dean
56%
Wesley Clark
66%
Richard Gephardt
67%
John Kerry
66%
Al Sharpton
50%
Carol Moseley-Braun
83%
John Edwards
80%
Dennis Kucinich
84%

Lieberman received increased attention and favorability in the days following Saddam's capture. Before the capture, Lieberman had a 25 percent favorable rating and 58 percent had no opinion of him; in the days following, Lieberman received a 37 percent favorable rating while 44 percent had no opinion of him.

Among all registered voters nationwide, Dean's favorability drops to 20 percent, while more -- 25 percent -- view him unfavorably. Gephardt and Kerry are also viewed more negatively than positively among all registered voters.

Lieberman and Clark's favorability ratings are lower among all registered voters, too, but their overall standing remains mostly positive. Lieberman is viewed favorably by 27 percent of all voters and negatively by 24 percent; Clark is viewed favorably by 17 percent and negatively by 16 percent.

ATTENTION TO THE CAMPAIGN
But voters are not paying any more attention to the campaign now than they were a month ago: 21 percent say they are paying a lot of attention, and four in ten are paying it some attention.

ATTENTION TO THE CAMPAIGN
(Registered voters)
A lot
Now
21%
Last month
20%

Some
Now
40%
Last month
41%

Not much
Now
29%
Last month
26%

None
Now
10%
Last month
13%

GORE AND DEAN
Dean's rise over the past month is apparently not only the result of Al Gore's endorsement -- though the former VP's nod has helped. One in five Democratic primary voters says they are more likely to back Dean for the nomination as a result of the endorsement, though the vast majority says Gore's support makes no difference to them.

DOES AL GORE'S ENDORSEMENT MAKE YOU…?
(Democratic primary voters)
More likely to back Dean
20%
Less likely to back Dean
9%
Makes no difference
69%

Gore's endorsement had a similar effect on Democratic voters' general feelings about Dean; most voters said it made no difference, but where the endorsement did have an impact, it was positive.

HAS AL GORE'S ENDORSEMENT MADE YOU…?
(Democratic primary voters)
Think better of Dean
20%
Think worse of Dean
4%
Makes no difference
73%

Gore is seen favorably by most -- but not all -- Democratic primary voters: 52 percent hold a favorable view of him, but 21 percent hold a negative view of their party's 2000 nominee. Among all American voters, Gore does less well: 31 percent of voters nationwide have a favorable view of him, and 46 percent have a negative view. This is lower than Gore's favorable ratings following the 2000 campaign; in November of 2000, Gore was seen favorably by 41 percent of voters.

If Dean does go on to win the Democratic nomination, 42 percent of all registered voters today say they would consider voting for him in the General Election in November, but 40 percent say they would not consider it. Currently, most Democrats would consider backing Dean, while 42 percent of Independents and 14 percent of Republicans would.

WOULD CONSIDER VOTING FOR DEAN IN NOVEMBER
(Registered voters)
Yes
All
42%
Dems
67%
Reps
14%
Ind
42%

No
All
40%
Dems
17%
Reps
74%
Ind
31%

THE NOMINEE AND THE ISSUES
Democratic primary voters are not necessarily looking for a candidate who opposed the war in Iraq -- in fact, many say the nominee's stance on the war would not matter to them. 31 percent want the party's nominee -- whoever he or she might be -- to have opposed the action in Iraq. 27 percent want a candidate who supported it, while more than one in three -- 37 percent -- say the candidate's war stance doesn't matter to them.

There was less desire for a nominee who opposed the war after the capture of Saddam: in the days prior to the capture, 40% wanted such a candidate.

WOULD YOU PREFER DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE:
(Democratic primary voters)
Supported war in Iraq
After Saddam capture
27%
Before Saddam capture
21%
9/2003
25%

Opposed war in Iraq
After Saddam capture
31%
Before Saddam capture
40%
9/2003
29%

Doesn't matter
After Saddam capture
37%
Before Saddam capture
34%
9/2003
41%

Only 21% of Democratic primary voters would like to see a nominee who supports gay marriage, while more than one-third would prefer the nominee oppose it. 41% say the candidate's stand on this issue would not matter to them.

WOULD YOU PREFER DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE:
(Democratic primary voters)
Supports gay marriage
21%
Opposes gay marriage
36%
Doesn't matter
41%

Democratic primary voters prefer someone who has Washington experience to someone who does not: 26 percent want a nominee whose experience is mostly in Washington, while 16 percent want a nominee from outside Washington. But more than half, however, say it would not matter.

WOULD YOU PREFER DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE:
(Democratic primary voters)
From outside Washington
16%
With experience mostly in Washington
26%
Doesn't matter
56%

Upbringing could matter more. More than two-thirds of Democratic primary voters believe that political leaders who grew up middle class do a better job of representing middle-class interests than do leaders who grew up wealthy. 21 percent say those who grew up wealthy can represent the middle class just as well. Among all voters, 61 percent think people who grew up middle-class can better represent the middle class.

WHO BEST REPRESENTS MIDDLE-CLASS PEOPLE?
(Democratic primary voters)
Leaders who grew up middle class
69%
Leaders who grew up wealthy can do it just as well
21%

Many voters don't want to hear too much about the candidate's personal life, however. Nearly half of Democratic primary voters said that political candidates, in general, spend too much time discussing their personal lives: 47 percent think so, while 37 percent say the time spent on such topics is about right.

CANDIDATES DISCUSS THEIR PERSONAL LIVES…
(Democratic primary voters)
Too much
47%
About right amount
37%
Too little
9%

VIEWS OF THE PARTIES
Overall, 52 percent of voters hold a favorable view of the Democratic Party, and 54 percent hold a favorable view of the GOP, about the same way things stood just before the 2002 midterm elections.

FAVORABLE VIEWS OF THE PARTIES
(Registered voters)
Democrat
Now
52%
10/2002
53%

Republican
Now
54%
10/2002
54%

Whoever the Democratic nominee is, he or she will lead a party that is currently seen as better able to create new jobs, but not necessarily better able to create a strong overall economy. Despite the passage of Medicare reforms by President George W. Bush and a Republican-controlled Congress, the Democrats are still seen as better able to lower the cost of prescription drugs for the elderly. But the Republican Party is overwhelmingly seen as better able to deal with terrorism and handle the rebuilding of Iraq.

WHICH PARTY IS BETTER ABLE TO…
(Registered voters)
Ensure a strong economy
Democrats
40%
Republicans
42%

Create jobs
Democrats
48%
Republicans
35%

Lower cost of RX drugs
Democrats
50%
Republicans
26%

Handling rebuilding of Iraq
Democrats
25%
Republicans
48%

Make right decisions on terrorism
Democrats
22%
Republicans
50%




The December 14-16, 2003 poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 857 adults interviewed by telephone, including 716 registered voters and 290 Democratic Primary Voters. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus four percentage points for results based on the entire sample.

The December 10-13, 2003 poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1057 adults interviewed by telephone. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the entire sample.


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


  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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