Poll: New Yorkers Want Hillary

The speculation over whether first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will run for the Senate in 2000 is being greeted with enthusiasm in New York state.

And in a match-up with hypothetical candidate Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, more New York voters say they would support Hillary Clinton than the New York City mayor, according to the latest CBS News/New York Times poll.

The first lady enjoys a large degree of popularity in the state — especially among New York City and minority voters — as well as positive evaluations on many candidate qualities.

Mayor Giuliani draws support mainly from suburban, upstate and white voters, but he has suffered politically in the wake of the fatal shooting of an African immigrant by four white police officers. In this poll, his job-approval rating among New York City residents is the lowest it has been since he became Mayor.

More than half of New York state voters say Hillary Clinton should run for the Senate, and half think Giuliani should enter the race. Not surprisingly, enthusiasm for a Clinton candidacy is highest among heavily Democratic New York City voters [68 percent of them think she should run], while it drops dramatically outside of the city. In fact, a majority of suburban voters says Clinton should not run for the Senate.

Women are much more excited about the prospect of candidate Clinton than men are. Fifty-eight percent of women voters think she should run, compared with 47 percent of men who think she should.

While 50 percent of New York voters overall think Giuliani should run for Senate, his own city constituents are divided. Forty-four percent think he should run, but 45 percent say he should not. But that's not necessarily because they want him to remain as mayor. Those who approve of the way he's handling his job favor a Giuliani run.

Because neither Giuliani nor Clinton have officially announced their candidacies, any horserace question is extremely hypothetical. The support Hillary Clinton enjoys at this point is clearly a sign of her overall, and overwhelming, personal popularity.

Mrs. Clinton's favorable rating nationally has remained about two to one positive since the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke in January 1998. In this poll, registered New York state voters say they have a favorable opinion of her by 52 percent to 22 percent. New York City voters are more than four to one positive about her.

Hillary Clinton's husband, President Clinton, enjoys a high approval rating in the state as well. By 75 percent to 19 percent, New York state adults approve of the way he's handling his job.

One negative for Mrs. Clinton is the carpetbagger issue, which resonates with her non-urban critics. While 51 percent of New York state voters overall say Hillary Clinton could represent New York even though she hasn't lived there, almost half of upstte voters and 54 percent of suburban voters say she could not represent the state well.

When asked who they would vote for if the 2000 Senate election were held today, by 50 percent to 41 percent, active New York state voters would vote for Hillary Clinton, not Rudolph Giuliani. These figures include leaners. Active voters are defined as registered voters who either voted for president in 1996 or voted in the 1998 Congressional elections. This active-voter group reflects the typical distribution of the statewide vote from New York City, the suburbs and the rest of the state.

As is always the case in statewide races in New York, preferences can differ widely among voters from different parts of the state. The first lady draws her strength predominantly from New York City, and her support drops dramatically outside of the city. Suburban voters are strong supporters of the mayor. Among active suburban voters, Giuliani beats Clinton by an 11-point margin.

There is also a slight gender gap in voter preference, with women more likely to say they would vote for Clinton than men. Among women voters, 52 percent say they would vote for Clinton, and 38 percent would vote for Giuliani.

The hypothetical horserace is nearly a draw among men: 47 percent say they would vote for Clinton, 44 percent for Giuliani.

Race is another factor in this potential match-up. One of the reasons Hillary Clinton enjoys a solid lead in the overall horserace is her enormous support among black voters. Almost all active, black voters in New York state say they would vote for her against Giuliani, by a margin of 91 percent to 8 percent.

On the other hand, among active white voters, Giuliani would emerge the winner. Fifty percent of whites say they would vote for Giuliani against Clinton if the Senate election were being held today. Thirty-nine percent would vote for Clinton. White men give Giuliani a clear edge [52 percent to 38 percent], and he would even enjoy a slight lead over Clinton among white women [47 percent to 41 percent].

When comparing the two potential candidates, Hillary Clinton's strongest quality is caring. More voters see her as caring about their needs and problems than view Giuliani this way. Sixty-three percent say she cares about people like themselves, compared with only 42 percent who say this about Giuliani. Women and Democrats are usually viewed more positively in this dimension.

And Mrs. Clinton, who has never held elective office and whose legislative foray into health care was unsuccessful, is also perceived as better than Giuliani on the question of being able to get things done. Sixty-one percent of voters say this about her, compared with 54 percent who say it about Giuliani.

When it comes to experience, however, Giuliani is seen by more voters as having the right kind to e a senator. Fifty-six percent say this about him, compared with half who say the same about Clinton.

This poll was conducted after the fatal shooting in February of African immigrant Amadou Diallo by four white police officers. Mayor Giuliani appears to have suffered from the intense criticism that has followed this shooting.

The most dramatic fallout is the mayor's negative job-approval rating among New York City residents. In this poll, only 42 percent approve of the way he is handling his job as mayor, while 50 percent disapprove. That represents a 21 percent drop in the past five months, and the first time in the CBS News/New York Times poll that Mayor Giuliani has received a negative job-approval rating.

His overall favorable rating has dropped as well. In contrast with Hillary Clinton's clearly positive ratings, Giuliani's ratings are mixed. By 34 percent to 28 percent, registered voters across the state say they have a favorable opinion of him. Just five months ago, the mayor's favorable rating was two to one positive.

Another repercussion for Rudy Giuliani, at least in the near term, is that by six to one, city residents feel the policies of the Giuliani administration have caused police brutality in the city to increase, not decrease. In October 1997, the margin who said this was three to one. And by 60 percent to 12 percent, city dwellers think Giuliani's response to the Diallo incident has made things worse, not better.

Mayor Giuliani's personality, which has been the subject of some criticism since he became a public figure, evokes concern for some voters. When asked if they think he has the personality to be an effective United States Senator, New York state voters are evenly divided. Forty percent say he does, but 41 percent say he does not.

And while he has received much statewide and national publicity since assuming office, the mayor appears still to have some work to do in terms of statewide recognition. Thirty-five percent of upstate voters say they haven't heard enough about Giuliani to have an opinion of him. In fact, 35 percent of self-described Republican voters in the state and 46 percent of upstate voters don't even know what Rudolph Giuliani's party affiliation is.

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,859 New York state adults interviewed by telephone, March 8-14, 1999. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus two percentage points for results based on the entire sample. Sampling error for the 1,270 active New York state voters is three percentage points.