Giuliani’s Social Views Not Well Known

Gallup’s Lydia Saad looks at a recent survey by her firm and finds that, although Rudy Giuliani “is extraordinarily well-liked and respected by the American public” and the early frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination “his views on abortion and same-sex civil unions are unknown to most rank and file Republicans.” Further, “Once informed of Giuliani’s positions, a sizable minority of Republicans say they would reconsider their support.”

Of those who identify themselves as Republicans or Republican leaners:

  • Only 17% knew Giuliani favors civil unions for same-sex couples with 75% unsure.
  • Only 20% knew Giuliani is pro-choice, 16% thought he was pro-life, with 64% unsure.
  • When informed of Giuliani’s positions, 25% say they would be less willing to vote for him and 18% say they would rule out voting for him entirely while only 13% would be more likely to vote for him.
  • Of those favoring Giuliani in the two-way match with McCain, 10% say they rule out voting for Giuliani entirely and 25% would be less likely to support him but 17% would be more likely to support him.

It’s not particularly surprising that, at this early stage, people are so ignorant about Giuliani’s policy stances. Indeed, as Saad notes, they’re “nearly as unfamiliar with McCain’s stances on both issues. Only 19% correctly associate McCain with being opposed to same-sex civil unions and 28% correctly identify him as pro-life. The vast majority are unsure about his position on each issue.”

Further, the usual caveat when analyzing Gallup polls applies: The survey is of “adults” rather than likely voters. And the Republican split sample was only 407 people, yielding a +/-5 margin of error. It’s probable that those who will actually vote are more knowledgeable and firm in their beliefs.

More importantly, people tend to move the goalposts and rationalize away reasons not to vote for the candidate they find most likable. On that score,

Giuliani has formidable image strengths, which could well compensate for his potential weaknesses on social policy. As a Jan. 25-28, 2007 Gallup Poll shows, Giuliani is perceived extraordinarily well among Republicans on a number of personality dimensions. Compared with McCain, Giuliani is selected by a huge margin (74% vs. 21%) as the more likable candidate; he is also preferred as the stronger leader (59% vs. 34%), and, importantly, as having the better chance of beating the Democratic candidate in the general election (55% v. 38%).

My strong guess is that his views on abortion and gay unions won’t hurt him much if he’s honest, direct, and smart in addressing them. Ultimately, likability, perception of leadership, and the various gaffes made over a long campaign will have more impact on these issues. And I don’t even have a guess as to how that will play out.

Disclosures: My wife is COO of Public Opinion Strategies, a political polling firm. John McCain is among their many political clients. Saad is a longtime friend of my wife, who worked for Saad’s husband, Tom Scott, in his legislative office and managed his 1998 bid for governor of Connecticut. We had dinner with her when she was in town Monday night and discussed this poll.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. An early start to the 2008 campaign combined with an abundance of Presidential hopefuls make it easy to believe the electorate is generally unaware of candidate details.
    Why analyze before the field thins out. Most are probably waiting for a few self-destructs, closet skeletons and simple attrition to reduce the reading list.

  2. dan in michigan says:

    Second amendment issues will finish Rudy off. Gun rights advocates will not support him unless he does a complete 180 on the issue, which I doubt he will. The gun rights community has shown that it is very powerful at the margin, enough to make a difference.

  3. I think Rudy handles the civil union issues in a similar manner as he did the abortion issue. On abortion, he says he will appoint strict constructionist judges. On civil unions he just needs to say let the states decide but endorse a constitutional amendment version of the DMA.

    I personally see abortion as killing a person. I acknowledge great difficulty in assigning the exact moment that “person-hood” occurs. Rudy is able to agree to disagree honorably. And he certainly is better than any alternative coming out of the democratic party.

    I wouldn’t have any problem voting for Rudy. I also wouldn’t have any problem voting for McCain or Romney, but I would prefer Rudy.