Republican voters say Rudolph W. Giuliani has strong leadership qualities, and they associate him closely with his handling of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but those impressions have not translated into a substantial advantage over his party’s other presidential candidates when it comes to who can best fight terrorism, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
Nearly half of Republican primary voters in the poll did not know Mr. Giuliani’s position on abortion — he supports abortion rights — suggesting that he could be vulnerable among conservatives because of his positions on social issues. And many voters said that Mr. Giuliani’s experience as mayor of New York City, which he consistently trumpets, limited his ability to understand their needs and concerns and was not as good a background for the presidency as having been a governor or a senator.
While the poll found that Mr. Giuliani faced some big challenges in winning his party’s nomination, with 31 percent of self-identified Republican primary voters saying he does not share the values of most members of his party, it also suggested that he might be able to win over wary or unconvinced Republicans if he could make the case that he would be the candidate with the best chance of winning the general election.
In recent days, Mr. Giuliani has been emphasizing exactly that theme as he campaigns across the country.
“We have to elect a Republican who can run in all 50 states,” Mr. Giuliani told Republican voters at a Reagan Day dinner Friday in St. Petersburg, Fla. “I know my opponents won’t say this — they shouldn’t, it would sound too strange to say this — but here is the truth. If they get nominated, there will be no campaign in New York. If they get nominated, there will be no campaign in California.”
He cited a host of other states he said he could compete in and then raised the specter of what a Republican loss might mean.
“If we lose Ohio, Hillary Clinton becomes president,” he said.
Six of 10 Republicans surveyed, including an equal number of conservatives, said they would be willing to vote for someone whose views were less conservative than their own if they believed the candidate was electable.
The nationwide telephone poll was conducted Sept. 4-9 with 1,263 adults, including 357 voters who said they planned to vote in a Republican primary. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus three percentage points for all adults and five percentage points for Republican primary voters. The detailed questions focusing on Mr. Giuliani, who has been leading for months in most national polls, were not asked about the other candidates.
Over all, the poll found Republican voters expressing tepid views of the Republican field, with many expressing no opinion of the candidates yet. No candidate was viewed positively by a majority of voters.
Forty percent of Republican primary voters said they had a favorable view of Mr. Giuliani, with 14 percent unfavorable and the rest expressing no opinion. Senator John McCain of Arizona received a similar favorable rating from Republican voters, at 38 percent, but more, 28 percent, rated him negatively. About one in four Republican primary voters had favorable views of Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and former Senator Fred D. Thompson of Tennessee, with the broad majority having no opinion about them at this stage.
More than 6 in 10 Democratic primary voters viewed Mrs. Clinton, of New York, favorably. Just over half rated Senator Barack Obama of Illinois positively, and 43 percent expressed a favorable opinion of former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina. Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards do not have significantly higher unfavorable ratings than Mrs. Clinton; rather, more voters just have no opinion of them.
Eighty-two percent of Republican primary voters said Mr. Giuliani has strong leadership qualities. Mr. Giuliani’s strongest appeal remains his handling of the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York six years ago, with an overwhelming majority of Republicans, and a clear majority of all voters, saying he did a good job.
But 61 percent of Republican voters said Mr. Giuliani would do about the same job as his rivals for the nomination in combating the threat from terrorism; Mr. Giuliani has made keeping the United States “on offense” against terrorism a centerpiece of his campaign. And he still faces a formidable challenge in winning over conservative voters who are leery of his positions on some social issues, like abortion and same-sex marriage.
Mr. Giuliani supports abortion rights, and about half of Republican primary voters are aware of that. More specifically, about 6 in 10 conservative Republican primary voters, who overwhelmingly favor tightening or eliminating abortion rights, know where Mr. Giuliani stands on the issue.
Additionally, Mr. Giuliani may still face difficulty in overcoming the doubts of some Republican voters troubled by aspects of his personal life, including his strained relationship with his children and the fact that he has been married three times.
Two-thirds of Republican primary voters said candidates should be judged not only on their political records, but also on their personal lives.
Marina Stefan contributed reporting.