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Poll: McCain Loses Ground

John McCain remains unknown to most Americans, but in the last week his unfavorable rating has increased by 6 points. Opinions of him are now split, according to a recent CBS News/New York Times poll. In addition, McCain's share of the national Republican primary vote has dropped back down to single digits.


  Now 10/99

Favorable 14% 18%

Unfavorable 10 4

Undecided 16 12

Haven't heard enough 58 65

McCain's unfavorable rating has increased over the past week from 4 percent to 10 percent, while his favorable rating has decreased to 14 percent from 18 percent. Much of the increase comes from voters paying very close attention to the presidential campaign: among this group McCain's unfavorables have risen from 7 percent to 19 percent. McCain is still viewed favorably by 30 percent of those paying a lot of attention to the campaign, but this is down dramatically from the 42 percent favorable rating he received among this group in late October.

Republicans also view the senator faorably overall, although not as favorably as last week. Twenty-one percent of Republicans currently view McCain favorably while 13 percent view him unfavorably. Last week his favorable margin among Republicans was six to one: 24 percent favorable to 4 percent unfavorable.


As a result, McCain has also taken a hit in the Republican primary. Bush currently leads among likely Republican primary voters by 68 percent to 8 percent. Just last week, McCain had moved into double digits with 14 percent of the national vote to Bush's 63 percent.


  Now 10/99

Bush 68% 63%

McCain 8 14

Forbes 5 6

Keyes 3 3

Bauer 2 1

Hatch 2 1

Among those who like McCain, the most often cited reason is his integrity and honesty. Thirty-two percent of those who have a favorable impression of McCain say they have that impression because of his integrity. Another 18 percent point to his image as a war hero and prisoner of war.

McCain's veteran status is his most well known attribute: in October, when asked what came to mind when they heard his name, 11 percent of people cited his time as a prisoner of war, while only 2 percent cited his time in the Senate. And among those who associated him with being a veteran or a P.O.W., 62 percent had a favorable impression of him, and only 2 percent had an unfavorable impression.

Despite setbacks in people's opinions of him, McCain is still rated positively on presidential issues. Specifically, 37 percent of voters in the most recent survey say that he has a clear idea of what he wants to accomplish as President, while only 23 percent say he does not. In October, McCain was rated positively on a host of other presidential questions.


  Yes No Don't

11/99 -

Have a clear idea of what he wants to accomplish as President 37% 23 40

10/99 -

Understand problems Pres. deals with 37% 21 42

Care about problems of people like you 28% 23 49

Have strong leadership qualities 27% 19 54

Have more honesty and integrity than most in public life 27% 19 54

Have right experience to be good Pres. 22% 27 51

McCain is also viewed as fairly moderate overall. Twenty-three percent of voters say McCain is a moderate, while another 23 percent say he is conservative, and 9 percent call him a liberal. But among Republican primary voters who know McCain, he is viewed as more conservative than George W. Bush, which may help McCain's performance among the more conservative Republican primary electorate.

This poll was conducted November 4-7, 1999 and included 1,162 respondents and 953 registered voters. The October poll was conducted October 28-30, 1999 and included 1,065 respondents and 901 registered voters. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus 3 percentage points for both polls for the samples of all adults and all registered voters. The sampling error for subgroups is higher. For full question wording and poll findings, please contact the CBS Election and Survey Unit at 212-975-5554.

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