Fox News' new poll, completed 1/30-31/07, provides a new look at the favorable and unfavorable ratings of the leading presidential contenders. Rudy Giuliani continues to lead the pack in the balance of favorable to unfavorable ratings in the new Fox poll with 54% favorable to 24% unfavorable . John McCain enjoys a net-positive evaluation, though not as strongly positive as Giuliani, at 45%-29%. Among Democrats, Hillary Clinton strongly divides voters yet manages a 50%-44% net positive rating. Less well known John Edwards has an 8 point net positive (41%-33%) while Barack Obama has the best balance, 41%-20% but the largest number of voters unable to rate him (38%.)
Three political figures have net negative ratings in the Fox poll. Mitt Romney is the least well known among all the candidates and suffers a net negative rating of 11%-22%, but with 67% unable to rate. Newt Gingrich, who has adopted a wait-and-see approach to the presidential campaign, suffers a 22%-49% net negative, while Al Gore, who seems quite uninterested in the race, has a somewhat better but still net negative 39%-51%.
(For comparison, see my similar analysis of an early January CBS News poll here. That post also discusses the plots and how to read them in greater detail.)
The extent to which partisans divide over the candidates is clear above. Hillary Clinton remains the most polarizing figure with strongly net negative views among Republicans, strongly positive views among Democrats, and a near balance yet net negative among independents. (The purple dot is independents, the black dot is the population as a whole, with the now conventional red for Republican and blue for Democrats.)
McCain and Giuliani do well among independents and even with Democrats. Gore and Gingrich in contrast both divide the electorate and manage net positives only among their own partisans. Edwards splits partisan camps, though not as strongly as Clinton and roughly balances the sides and among independents. Obama does quite well among independents, but is developing a Republican opposition. Romney remains a mystery to all partisan groups, which cluster and don't know him.
There has been some movement in the Fox ratings, but the most recent prior poll varies a great deal in how old it is. Clinton's most recent poll was just last October, and little seems to have changed. Several other candidates were measured in May 2006. But Edwards' last reading was in October 2004 (during his run for the Vice-Presidency) and Gingrich's dates back to 1998! So look at change with due caution.
Finally, the balance of not knowing the candidate versus knowing but not enough to rate them can be instructive. In the earlier CBS News poll, there was a clear differentiation between the better known and the lesser known candidates. The new Fox poll lacks almost all of the lesser known figures, so that pattern is less pronounced here than in the CBS data (here)
Still, among these candidates, it is interesting the Obama now more closely resembles the better known candidates, while only Romney remains in the space occupied by the least known in the CBS poll.