skip to main content
Quayle Never Caught on With Republican Voters

Quayle Never Caught on With Republican Voters

McCain less well-known than Quayle, but has more positive image


PRINCETON, NJ -- Despite the vastly different announcements made Monday by former Vice President Dan Quayle and Senator John McCain -- with Quayle dropping out of the presidential race while McCain formally announced that he was in -- neither candidate is receiving much support among Republicans nationwide. The fact that McCain is still relatively unknown to many Americans, however, suggests there is the potential for him to do better as he campaigns more vigorously in the months ahead.

Both Quayle and McCain received only 5% of the Republican vote in the latest Gallup/CNN/USA Today poll conducted September 10-14, dwarfed by the enormous 62% of the vote received by front-runner George W. Bush. In fact, both Quayle and McCain also trail Elizabeth Dole, who has consistently run second behind Bush this year, and who received 10% of the vote in the mid-September survey. Quayle's and McCain's poor current showing reflects a decided lack of progress for both; Quayle's high point among Republicans has been only 9% (in June), while McCain has been continually mired with 4% to 6% of the vote.

Prior to dropping out, Quayle was focusing his efforts on trying to win over conservative Republicans, but neither he nor any candidates other than Bush have been able to develop much support among this group. Quayle receives only 5% of the conservative Republican vote in the mid-September poll, exactly the same percentage he received among all Republicans. Bush wins strongly among all segments of Republicans, regardless of their ideology, and Dole comes in second among both conservative and moderate Republicans.

Quayle has long suffered from image problems, with unfavorable ratings that rose to 48% and 59% in the summer of 1992 when he was being chosen again to run with George H. Bush (at the time, it should be noted, the senior Bush's own job approval ratings were at the low point of his administration). Additionally, Gallup polling in the summer of 1992 showed that almost four out of ten Republicans thought President Bush should dump Quayle in favor of someone else. Quayle, of course, stayed on the ticket and the Republicans lost the November election to Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

Gallup polling earlier this year found that Quayle has been unable to repair his image after leaving the White House. According to a February poll, Quayle's favorable to unfavorable image ratio remained anemic, at 46% favorable to 44% unfavorable.

McCain's image, on the other hand, has been more positive than negative, although the largest percentage of Americans say they don't know enough about him to rate him. In fact, the relative obscurity under which McCain is currently operating may be one of his strongest selling points as he begins mounting his presidential campaign in earnest. While Quayle is a very well-known commodity, as might be expected given his four years as vice president, McCain is not. This would seem to allow McCain to hold out some hope that he may do better against Bush as he becomes better known.

For example, in the mid-September poll, 61% of Americans said it would be unlikely that they would vote for Quayle if he were to be on the November 2000 ballot, while 32% said they might vote for him. Only 7% had no opinion. When Americans were asked the same question about McCain, however, the percentage saying they might consider voting for him was 27%, with 32% saying it was unlikely, but with 41% saying they didn't know. That 41% figure is presumably McCain's best hope -- that he can create a more positive image as he becomes better known in the months ahead.

Survey Methods
The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,698 adults, 18 years and older, conducted September 10-14, 1999. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 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. Results based on likely voters are based on the subsample of 741 survey respondents deemed most likely to vote in the November 2000 general election, according to a series of questions measuring current voting intentions and past voting behavior; margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points. Gallup's current likely voter estimation for 2000 assumes that 50% of the voting age population (VAP) will turn out to vote. (In 1996, turnout among the VAP was 49%. The average turnout rate in all presidential elections since 1980 is approximately 52%.)

Next, I'm going to read a list of people who may be running in the Republican primary for president in the next election. After I read all the names, please tell me which of those candidates you would be most likely to support for the Republican nomination for president in the year 2000. [RANDOM ORDER: Family Research Council Chairman, Gary Bauer; Political commentator, Patrick Buchanan; Texas Governor, George W. Bush; Former Red Cross Director, Elizabeth Dole; Businessman, Steve Forbes; Arizona Senator, John McCain; Former Vice-president, Dan Quayle; Utah Senator, Orrin Hatch; Political commentator, Alan Keyes]

  Bsh Dol Qay Frb McC Buc Bau Htc Key No
National Adults
1999 Sep     
44% 15% 6% 6% 7% 3% 1% 1% 1% 16%
1999 Apr 13-14 40 22 6 5 6 4 1 -- -- 14
1999 Sep     
62 10 5 5 5 3 2 2 1 5
1999 Aug 16-18 61 13 6 4 5 3 2 1 1 4
1999 Jun
59 8 6 6 5 3 2 2 -- 6
1999 Jun 4-5 46 14 9 5 5 6 1 -- -- 5
1999 May 23-24 46 18 7 5 6 6 2 -- -- 5
1999 Apr 30-May 2 42 24 6 6 4 5 3 -- -- 5
1999 Apr 13-14 53 16 7 6 5 4 2 -- -- 2

-- Candidate's name not included in list for that survey (either because person had not yet announced candidacy, or because candidate had dropped out of the race)
Bsh: Bush
Dol: Dole
Qay: Quayle
Frb: Forbes
McC: McCain
Buc: Buchanan
Bau: Bauer
Htc: Hatch
Key: Keyes
No: None/ Other/ No opinion

Next, if each of the following candidates were on the ballot for president next November, please say how likely it is you would vote for him or her -- very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, not at all likely, or if you don't know enough about that person to say. First, ... . How about ... [RANDOM ORDER: Vice President, Al Gore; Former New Jersey Senator, Bill Bradley; Texas Governor, George W. Bush; Former Red Cross Director, Elizabeth Dole; Businessman, Steve Forbes; Arizona Senator, John McCain; Political commentator, Patrick Buchanan; Former Vice President, Dan Quayle; Movie actor, Warren Beatty; Minnesota Governor, Jesse Ventura]?

  Very likely Somewhat likely Not too likely Not at all likely No opinion
Al Gore
National Adults 23% 28% 11% 33% 5%
Likely Voters 25 23 12 37 3
Bill Bradley
National Adults 15 30 14 17 24
Likely Voters 18 32 17 16 17
George W. Bush
National Adults 37 31 9 18 5
Likely Voters 39 29 8 20 4
Elizabeth Dole
National Adults 18 36 15 19 12
Likely Voters 17 38 17 20 8
Steve Forbes
National Adults 9 24 17 26 24
Likely Voters 9 25 19 29 18
John McCain
National Adults 7 20 13 19 41
Likely Voters 10 22 15 17 36
Patrick Buchanan
National Adults 5 19 15 41 20
Likely Voters 4 18 18 47 13
Dan Quayle
National Adults 8 24 18 43 7
Likely Voters 6 23 22 46 3
Warren Beatty
National Adults 3 8 14 57 18
Likely Voters 1 7 14 64 14
Jesse Ventura
National Adults 8 15 15 41 21
Likely Voters 6 12 17 47 18

(vol.) volunteered response

Subscribe to receive weekly Gallup News alerts.
Never miss our latest insights.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030