Hillary Clinton vs. Hillary Rodham Clinton

There may or may not be a big difference in how the public perceives “Hillary Clinton” and “Hillary Rodham Clinton” according to a new CNN/Opinion Research poll.

If presidential elections were held today, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton would likely have a comfortable edge over Sen. John McCain, but take away her maiden name and McCain has a better shot of landing in the Oval Office. So say the results of a CNN poll released Friday by Opinion Research Corp., which asked 506 adult Americans whom they preferred among potential 2008 presidential candidates. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 4.5 percent.

Asked if they preferred Hillary Rodham Clinton to McCain, respondents gave the Democratic New York senator and former first lady a 51 percent to 44 percent advantage over the Republican Senator from Arizona. Remove “Rodham” and McCain had a 1 percentage point advantage, 48 percent to 47 percent.

The results fall within the sample’s margin of error, so there is a “good chance, but not a statistical certainty” that Clinton’s maiden name would help her in a matchup against McCain, said Keating Holland, CNN’s polling director. The results are consistent with earlier testing that indicated Clinton’s favorability rose when her maiden name was included in the question, Holland said.

Without looking at the crosstabs, sample construction, and question wording, it’s hard to make much of a judgment about this. There are all sorts of reasons why the “Rodham” would matter and I suspect it would have different influences in different parts of the country. But here’s where it gets interesting:

However, using “Rodham” seems to cut into Clinton’s edge if her opponent is former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Though Clinton has an advantage over Giuliani with or without her maiden name, using “Rodham” closes the gap. Asked if they prefer Hillary Clinton or Giuliani, Clinton has a 4 percentage point advantage, 50 percent to 46 percent. Add “Rodham” to the equation and the former first lady’s advantage over the Republican former mayor drops to 1 percentage point, 48 percent to 47 percent.

Given that the results move in opposite directions, one guesses that the “Rodham” isn’t the key variable here. One also guesses that this poll was shoddily constructed and, given the huge margin of error, given to a very small sample. Moreover, they had to split that small sample in order to ask half the respondents the “Rodham” version and half the “not-Rodham” version.

It’s also notable that most of the other recent polls have Clinton–by either name–trailing both Giuliani and McCain.

via Taegan Goddard



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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 and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anderson says:

    The difference obviously falls within the margin of error. Junk polling at its finest!