PRINCETON, NJ -- Hypothetical 2008 general election trial-heat matchups between Democratic and Republican presidential candidates suggest that the Democrats would continue to have an edge if the election were held today. Specifically, Barack Obama does better than Hillary Clinton against two out of three Republican candidates, while Rudy Giuliani does better than either Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney against the Democrats. Additionally, the new poll shows that the Democrats are comfortably ahead of the Republicans when voters are asked for which party's candidate for the House of Representatives they would vote next November.
The Dec. 14-16 USA Today/Gallup poll pitted Clinton and Obama against Giuliani, Romney, and Huckabee -- yielding six separate matchups (all data reported here are among registered voters).
These results show that the two Democratic candidates are tied with or lead the three Republican candidates in all six pairings -- albeit across a range from just 1 point (Clinton versus Giuliani) to a robust margin of 18 points (Obama versus Romney).
More specifically, the Democratic candidates get between 49% and 57% of the national vote across these six matchups; the Republican candidates get between 39% and 48%.
Obama does as well as or better than Clinton against the three Republican candidates. These results are of interest against a backdrop that shows that an increasing number of Democrats are interested in nominating a candidate who has the best chance of beating the Republican in the November 2008 election. (In November of this year, 36% of Democrats chose that alternative, versus nominating a candidate with whom they agree on the issues; now, 45% of Democrats prefer to nominate a candidate who has the best chance of beating the Republican.)
It is also of interest that Clinton's name ID -- based on the percentage of Americans who know enough to have either a favorable or an unfavorable opinion of her -- is at 98% in our latest poll. Obama's national name ID is lower, at 87%. Yet he does as well or better than she does when pitted against the Republican candidates.
Giuliani does better than his two Republican counterparts when voters are asked to choose between the Republicans and the two Democratic candidates. That could be because he is much better known than the other Republican candidates included in the poll. Perhaps the most interesting point to be made from a comparison of the Republican performances is that Huckabee -- whose name ID at 58% is lower than Romney's at 67% -- still manages to match the latter's performance in these general election trial heats.
All in all, it can be said that at this point, the Democrats maintain at least a slight edge across these hypothetical matchups. Also, Obama tends to fare better versus the Republicans than does Clinton, and Giuliani tests better against the Democrats than does Huckabee or Romney. There have been some changes in these results across time.
The accompanying tables represent the last three polls in which Clinton and Obama have been matched against GOP front-runner Giuliani.
Here it appears that the trends are to some degree moving in opposite directions. While Clinton has lost ground against Giuliani since early November, Obama has been gaining ground.
A somewhat similar pattern holds in a comparison of the two Democratic candidates against Romney. Romney now does better against Clinton than he did in November, while Romney's position vis-à-vis Obama has not changed since then.
All 435 House of Representatives seats are up for grabs next fall, as they are every two years. Gallup typically gauges the potential for a change in relative distribution of seats between the two major parties by asking a "generic ballot" question.
At this point, the Democrats have a sizable 13-point edge among registered voters. That compares with an 11-point lead among registered voters in Gallup's final 2006 pre-election poll. Democrats gained 30 seats in that election to wrest partisan control from the Republicans.
If the type of broad Democratic edge that Gallup measures now continues through next fall, the odds would be high that the Democrats would continue to control the House when the dust settles after the Nov. 4 election.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,011 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Dec. 14-16, 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
For results based on the sample of 399 Republicans or Republican leaners, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.
For results based on the sample of 513 Democrats or Democratic leaners, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.