Poll: Democratic Field's Wide Open

Italian team Azzurra competes in Nice southeastern France, Monday, Nov. 16, 2009, during the sailing match racing competition "The Louis Vuitton Trophy." AP Photo/Lionel Cironneau

There is no clear front-runner yet in the crowded field of contenders for the Democratic nomination for president; Joe Lieberman, Howard Dean and Richard Gephardt are the only candidates receiving double-digit support from Democratic voters. But that may mean little: few voters are paying much attention to the campaign yet (many still cannot name a Democratic candidate), and few have opinions of any candidates besides Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee.

At this point, more registered voters would cast their ballot for President George W. Bush than for an un-named Democratic nominee. But the President's re-election is not a given; 50% of voters think a Democrat can win this election.


THE DEMOCRATIC FIELD

Among registered Democratic voters, 14% want Joe Lieberman to win the nomination. 11% pick Howard Dean, followed by Richard Gephardt with 10%, while John Kerry and Al Sharpton each are supported by 5% of Democratic voters.


WHO DO YOU WANT TO WIN DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION?
(Registered Voters)


Democrats
Lieberman
14%
Dean
11%
Gephardt
10%
Kerry
5%
Sharpton
5%
Graham
4%
Edwards
2%
Moseley-Braun
2%
Kucinich
0%

Independents
Lieberman
15%
Dean
9%
Gephardt
8%
Kerry
7%
Sharpton
6%
Graham
3%
Edwards
5%
Moseley-Braun
1%
Kucinich
0%

There is a front-runner among registered voters who identify themselves as Independents. 15% of them would like to see Joe Lieberman win the Democratic nomination. Dean and Gephardt follow.

VIEWS OF THE CANDIDATES

Lieberman's name recognition may give him an advantage over the other Democratic contenders. When voters are asked their views on some of the Democratic candidates, more are able to give an opinion of Joe Lieberman than any other candidate. 28% of voters have a favorable opinion of Joe Lieberman, while 21% view him unfavorably; still half are undecided or haven't heard enough about him.

A majority of voters so far haven't heard enough to form an opinion of any of the other Democratic candidates. Among those who do have an opinion of Kerry, Gephardt, Dean or Edwards, views are mixed.

The opinions of Democratic voters aren't much different from voters overall; many haven't heard enough about any of the candidates. The Democratic candidates are similarly unknown to Independent voters.

Voters may not know much about the candidates because few are paying attention -- just 15% of registered voters say they are paying a lot of attention to the 2004 Presidential campaign. More Democratic voters (19%) than Republicans (13%) are paying a lot of attention. This lack of attention is not unusual; at about the same point in 1999, just 13% of voters were paying a lot of attention to Campaign 2000.

ATTENTION TO PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
(Registered Voters)


2004 Campaign
Now

A lot
15%
Some
34%
Not much
29%
None
21%


2000 Campaign
9/1999

A lot
13%
Some
39%
Not much
33%
None
15%

Moreover, when voters - Democrats or otherwise --are asked off the top of their head to name a Democratic candidate running for president, two-thirds are unable to do so. For the first time, Howard Dean is now the most frequently mentioned by voters, with 11%, followed by 7% who say John Kerry, and 5% who mention Joe Lieberman. Among Democratic voters, more mention Dean than any other candidate.

Regardless of which candidate Democratic voters support for the nomination, Joe Lieberman leads the pack when asked which candidate has the best chance of winning the general election in 2004. 21% of Democratic voters pick Lieberman as having the best chance, 14% choose Dick Gephardt, followed by John Kerry and Howard Dean -- with 12% and 11% respectively.

DEMOCRAT WITH BEST CHANCE OF WINNING IN NOVEMBER 2004
(Democratic voters)


Lieberman
21%
Gephardt
14%
Kerry
12%
Dean
11%
Graham
5%
Edwards
3%
Sharpton
1%

THE PREFERRED DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE

Democratic voters are looking for a candidate ideologically in the center. 43% would like to see a moderate nominee, while 27% would like the Democratic nominee to be a conservative. Less than one in five want the Democrats to nominate a liberal.

Independents - who may make the difference next fall -- are somewhat more likely than Democratic voters to want a conservative Democratic nominee.

While there is no clear consensus between Democratic and Independent voters on the positions they would like a Democratic nominee to take, they do agree in one respect: the Democratic nominee should be aggressive in challenging George W. Bush on most issues.

Two thirds of Democratic registered voters would prefer to see a Democratic nominee who would challenge George W. Bush on most issues, while just 14% want their party's nominee to seek common ground with President Bush.

Among Independents, 47% would prefer to see the Democratic nominee challenge Bush; 24% would prefer a Democratic nominee who would seek common ground with the president.

Democratic voters also prefer a nominee who opposed the war in Iraq, who would eliminate the recent Bush tax cuts, and who supports gun control.

On these issues, however, Democrats and Independents may be looking for candidates with differing positions. Independent voters are more likely to prefer a Democratic nominee who supported the war in Iraq and who would keep the recent tax cuts. But sizable groups of Democrats and Independents say positions on these issues don't matter much.

While the Democratic field seems packed with candidates, half of Democratic voters still wish there were even more; just 40% are satisfied with the current array of Democrats now in the race. Independent voters are even less likely than Democratic voters to feel satisfied with the choices on the Democratic ticket - only 33% say they are satisfied. 52% want more choices.

Among Democrats who would like to see other choices, Al Gore is most often mentioned as someone Democratic voters would like to see run for president (cited by 19%). Hillary Rodham Clinton is mentioned by 6%, and former President Bill Clinton is mentioned by 2%. General Wesley Clark, whose supporters have organized a campaign to draft him to run, is also cited by 2%. Among Independent voters, 7% would like see Al Gore run, 6% mention Bill Clinton, and 5% would like to see Hillary Rodham Clinton on the ticket.

WHAT OTHER DEMOCRAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE RUN?
(Registered Voters who want more choices)


Democrats
Al Gore
19%
Hillary Rodham Clinton
6%
Bill Clinton
2%
Wesley Clark
2%

Independents
Al Gore
7%
Hillary Rodham Clinton
5%
Bill Clinton
6%
Wesley Clark
0%

THE TOP NATIONAL PROBLEM

At this point, economic concerns clearly top the list of national problems voters most want the presidential candidates to focus on: 24% of registered voters say they want to hear the candidates explain what they would do as president about the economy and jobs, far exceeding any other national problem mentioned. 9% want the candidates to talk about the war in Iraq. Other domestic problems, including education, health care, and Social Security and Medicare, are mentioned by 7%, 6%, and 5% of voters respectively.

The economy is the top problem for both Democrats and Republicans, but Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to mention Social Security and Medicare as the national problem they most want the candidates to address.
Along with these concerns, a majority of voters - 69% - would like to see presidential candidates listen to what voters have to say rather than hear them explain their positions (22%). More Democratic voters than Republican voters think presidential candidates should spend their time listening to voters.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2004

With a crowded Democratic field and more than a year to go before the general election, many voters remain undecided at this point as to who they will support for president. 36% of registered voters do not know whether they will vote for George W. Bush or the Democratic candidate for president next fall. A third of voters say they will vote for Bush, while 27% say they will vote for the unnamed Democratic challenger. The margin between Bush and the Democratic candidate has narrowed since last spring, from thirteen percentage points to six.

BUSH VS. DEMOCRATIC CHALLENGER 2004
(Registered Voters)


Now
George W. Bush
33%
Democrat challenger
27%
Don't know
36%

5/2003
George W. Bush
34%
Democrat challenger
21%
Don't know
42%

Among voters who have made up their mind, their support is solid. 79% of Bush voters say there is no circumstance in which they would vote for the Democratic candidate. Similarly, of those who say they will support the Democratic candidate in 2004, 81% say under no circumstance would they vote for Bush.

As for what voters think the outcome of the presidential election in 2004 will be, opinion is somewhat divided. While Bush remains very popular, many voters think he can be beaten. 38% of voters think Bush will definitely be re-elected, but more - 50%- think a Democratic candidate can win in 2004.

There are partisan differences on this question. While 64% of Republican voters think Bush will be re-elected, more than a quarter - 27% - think a Democrat can beat him. Democrats, of course, are more optimistic that Bush can be beat; 70% think a Democratic candidate can win in 2004. Independent voters are in the middle, with 32% who think Bush will be re-elected, and 52% who think a Democrat can win.

WILL BUSH DEFINITELY BE RE-ELECTED IN 2004?
(Registered Voters)


George W. Bush
Now

Yes, re-elected
38%
No, a Democrat can win
50%

George H.W. Bush
11/1991

Yes, re-elected
47%
No, a Democrat can win
42%

There is less confidence in George W. Bush's re-election now than there was for his father in late 1991. Back in October 1991, 66% of voters thought George H.W. Bush would definitely be re-elected; but that dropped precipitously over the next month to 47% by November 1991.

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



This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 930 adults interviewed by telephone August 26-28, 2003. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the entire sample. The sample included 775 registered voters of which the margin of error could be plus or minus 4 percentage points and 270 Democratic voters for which the margin of error could be plus or minus 6 percentage points.
  • Joel Roberts

Comments

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.