Poll: No Democratic Front Runner

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

Few voters from either party are paying much attention to the 2004 presidential campaign yet; only 18 percent are paying a lot of attention, and 41 percent are paying some. But interest has increased somewhat since the summer.

No single Democratic candidate has yet been able to break out from the pack with voters who say they are likely to vote in a Democratic primary - but less than one in five are paying a lot of attention to the campaign right now. Wesley Clark receives the most support for the Democratic nomination, closely followed by Richard Gephardt, Joe Lieberman, Howard Dean and John Kerry. The differences between the top five candidates are all within the margin of error for this poll.

WHO DO YOU WANT TO WIN DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION?
(Democratic primary voters)
Clark 12%
Gephardt 10%
Lieberman 9%
Dean 9%
Kerry 8%
Moseley-Braun 4%
Sharpton 3%
Graham 3%
Edwards 2%
Kucinich 1%

When asked which member of the Democratic field has the best chance of beating George W. Bush, Wesley Clark, Richard Gephardt and Joe Lieberman cluster at the top of the list. Nearly as many see Dean and Kerry as the strongest candidate.

WHO HAS BEST CHANCE OF BEATING BUSH?
(Democratic primary voters)
Clark 15%
Gephardt 14%
Lieberman 11%
Dean 8%
Kerry 8%
Graham 4%
Edwards 3%
Sharpton 2%
Moseley-Braun 1%
Kucinich 0%

One issue that divides the Democratic candidates is their position on the war in Iraq; this also divides some likely Democratic primary voters. 25 percent of them say they would prefer the Democratic nominee supported the war in Iraq, while about as many, 29 percent, would prefer the nominee be someone who opposed it. 41 percent say it doesn't matter what position on Iraq the nominee took.

PREFER A DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE WHO...
(Democratic primary voters)
Supported war with Iraq
25%
Opposed war with Iraq
29%
Doesn't matter
41%

IMAGES OF THE CANDIDATES
Most of the ten Democratic candidates aren't yet well known to the public. For all ten candidates, at least half - if not many more - of voters are undecided or haven't heard enough to form an opinion yet.

Joe Lieberman, Richard Gephardt, John Kerry and newcomer Wesley Clark enjoy the most favorable image among all registered voters, followed closely by Howard Dean and Bob Graham. John Edwards, Carol Moseley-Braun and Dennis Kucinich remain relatively more unknown to most voters, while Al Sharpton has a high unfavorable rating.

VIEWS OF THE DEMOCRATS
(All Registered Voters)

Undecided/Favorable
Lieberman
22%
Gephardt
17%
Kerry
17%
Clark
16%
Dean
12%
Graham
11%
Edwards
8%
Sharpton
6%
Moseley-Braun
5%
Kucinich
5%

Unfavorable
Lieberman
27%
Gephardt
26%
Kerry
17%
Clark
14%
Dean
17%
Graham
12%
Edwards
10%
Sharpton
45%
Moseley-Braun
16%
Kucinich
8%

Haven't heard
Lieberman
51%
Gephardt
57%
Kerry
66%
Clark
70%
Dean
70%
Graham
77%
Edwards
81%
Sharpton
49%
Moseley-Braun
79%
Kucinich
86%

Democratic primary voters are more likely than all registered voters to have a favorable opinion of some of these candidates, although still majorities are undecided or haven't heard enough. Among this group, Lieberman, Kerry and Gephardt have the most positive image, closely followed by Clark and Dean.

DO TITLES MATTER?
Are some of the Democratic candidates for president in 2004 looking better in polls that refer to them by their honorific titles, such as Senator, General or Congressman?

An experiment conducted in this CBS News/New York Times Poll shows little direct benefit in favorability ratings or vote preference for most candidates from the use of their titles. Inclusion of titles along with the candidates' names has the most impact for members of Congress (including Senators), while it has little effect on the ratings of those outside of Congress.

When asked who they want to win the Democratic nomination, Congressman Richard Gephardt rises to the top of list among likely Democratic primary voters when his title is used, and Senator John Kerry's favorable ratings improve slightly when Senator is included in his name. And while Wesley Clark is a strong contender for the nomination whether or not he is referred to as "General."

Most voters have yet to form favorable or unfavorable opinions of individual candidates, and the presence of a title does little to change that. Notably, neither Wesley Clark nor Howard Dean gain much from the inclusion of their titles in the question; nearly identical percentages of voters have favorable views of each candidate regardless of whether or not titles are used. The only candidate for whom the mention of a title makes any difference is John Kerry, whose favorable rating increases when he is identified as Senator John Kerry.

FAVORABLE VIEWS OF THE DEMOCRATS
(All Registered Voters)

Wesley Clark 16%
General Wesley Clark 15%

Howard Dean 13%
Dr. Howard Dean 12%

John Edwards 7%
Senator John Edwards 9%

Richard Gephardt 17%
Congressman Richard Gephardt 17%

Bob Graham 10%
Senator Bob Graham 11%

John Kerry 13%
Senator John Kerry 21%

Dennis Kucinich 7%
Congressman Dennis Kucinich 3%

Joe Lieberman 21%
Senator Joe Lieberman 24%

Carol Moseley-Braun 5%
Former Senator Carol Moseley-Braun 6%

Al Sharpton 7%
Reverend Al Sharpton 5%

The same pattern applies to likely Democratic primary voters.




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


This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 981 adults interviewed by telephone September 28-October 1, 2003. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the entire sample. The sample included 844 registered voters of which the margin of error could be plus or minus 3 percentage points and 353 Democratic primary voters for which the margin of error could be plus or minus 5 percentage points.
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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