Democratic voters in Iowa and New Hampshire — the states that begin the presidential nominating battle — say Senator Barack Obama and John Edwards are more likely than Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to say what they believe, rather than what they think voters what to hear, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Polls. But they also view Mrs. Clinton as the best prepared and most electable Democrat in the field, the polls found.
Republican voters in those two states say that Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, shares their values and views on immigration, a red-hot issue for Republicans in Iowa especially. But they are divided over whether Mr. Romney or Rudolph W. Giuliani, who Republican voters say does not share their values, would be the party’s strongest general-election candidate — and electability looms as a crucial factor for Republican voters in those states.
These are some of the findings in twin polls conducted by the New York Times and CBS News in the two states, which will begin the nominating process in less than two months. The polls found that the electorates in the two states had different perceptions of the candidates and concerns about issues, while suggesting that the outcome was far from settled in either place.
Tie in Iowa
The Democratic contest is essentially tied in Iowa, among Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards, while Mrs. Clinton has a substantial lead in New Hampshire, according to The Times/CBS News Polls.
Mr. Romney is running relatively strongly in New Hampshire, but many of his supporters say they are open to changing their mind. In Iowa, where Mr. Romney has built a big network of supporters and invested heavily in advertisements, he appears to be in a tight race with Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas.
The polls found a wide disparity between Republicans and Democrats on two critical issues that are confronting the candidates as they travel in Iowa and New Hampshire and the rest of the country: illegal immigration and how to deal with the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran.
Just 4 percent of Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire would favor a candidate who advocates using military action soon to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons; 38 percent of New Hampshire Republicans and 31 percent of Iowa Republicans would support such a candidate.
In Iowa, 86 percent of Republicans described immigration as a very or somewhat serious problem facing the country; 59 percent of Democrats said the same thing. In both states, immigration rivals the war in Iraq as the issue Republicans want the candidates to discuss. Republicans in Iowa view Mr. Romney as the candidate who most closely shares their views about immigration. Senator John McCain of Arizona has repeatedly pointed to his identification with legislation that included some provisions that would allow immigrants to gain legal status as a main cause of his decline in Iowa.
More broadly, the survey suggests the extent to which Republicans are struggling to balance ideological and pragmatic considerations as they face an election in which many are fearful of losing the White House.
Large majorities of Republicans in New Hampshire and Iowa said they wanted the next president to be as conservative or more conservative than President Bush. But New Hampshire voters who said they intended to vote in the Republican primary are prepared to vote for a candidate who is not as conservative as they are, if they judge the candidate to have a good chance of winning the presidency (independents can vote in either party primary in New Hampshire). Two-thirds of New Hampshire Republicans and one-half of Iowa Republicans said they were open to voting for candidates who did not share their view on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, which augurs well for Mr. Giuliani, who supports abortion rights and gay rights.
By contrast, 50 percent of New Hampshire Democrats said they would not be prepared to vote for a candidate who wanted to keep troops in Iraq “longer than you would like,” even if they thought the Democrat had a good chance of victory in November.
The poll for Iowa was conducted by telephone from Nov. 2 through Nov. 11, and involved 793 Democratic caucusgoers and 480 Republican caucusgoers. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points for Democrats and five percentage points for Republicans.
The New Hampshire telephone poll was conducted Nov. 9-12 with 417 Democratic and 302 Republican primary voters. Undeclared voters were asked which primary they planned to participate in. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus five percentage points for Democrats and six percentage points for Republicans.
Iowa polls this early are notoriously unreliable in terms of predicting the outcome; that said, this poll suggested volatility on the Republican side, with evidence that Mr. Huckabee is well-positioned to present an intense last-minute challenge to Mr. Romney, who has worked for a year to assure himself a solid victory in Iowa on Jan. 3.
Among Republican caucusgoers, 27 percent said they would support Mr. Romney, while 21 percent said they would support Mr. Huckabee and 15 percent said they would support Mr. Giuliani. But two-thirds of Mr. Romney’s backers said they could change their mind, a strikingly large number; by contrast, half of Mr. Huckabee’s supporters said they could change their mind. And nearly every one of Mr. Huckabee’s poll measures in Iowa, where he has focused most of his resources, was encouraging: 50 percent of respondents had a favorable view of him, compared with 7 percent who said they viewed him unfavorably.
None of the Democrats has a statistically significant lead in Iowa: Mrs. Clinton has the support of 25 percent of respondents, Mr. Edwards 23 percent and Mr. Obama 22 percent. Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who has waged a spirited campaign in the state, was named by 12 percent of Democratic caucusgoers.
In New Hampshire, Mrs. Clinton leads with 37 percent, compared with 22 percent for Mr. Obama and 9 percent for Mr. Edwards. Among Republicans, Mr. Romney has the support of 34 percent of respondents, while Mr. Giuliani and Mr. McCain — who won the state in 2000, and has always described it as warm environment for him — each have the support of 16 percent.
The findings underlined the challenge Mrs. Clinton faces in fighting criticism that she is politically calculating rather than principled, which appears particularly prevalent in Iowa.
Forty-seven percent of Iowa caucusgoers said Mrs. Clinton said what she believed, compared with 48 percent who said she told voters what they wanted to hear. In New Hampshire, where the Clintons have been a strong force in Democratic politics since 1992, 54 percent said Mrs. Clinton said what she believed, while 38 percent said she said what people wanted to hear.
Prepared to be president
Voters have clearly rallied around one central part of Mr. Obama’s message: 37 percent of respondents in Iowa described him as the candidate most likely to bring change to Washington. But Mrs. Clinton’s effort to present herself as having the experience to be president has clearly taken hold: 80 percent of Iowa voters described her as prepared to be president, compared with 68 percent who said that of Mr. Edwards and just 42 percent who said that of Mr. Obama.
If Mrs. Clinton has trouble in Iowa, the poll suggests that New Hampshire is heading toward the voting with a more positive view of her. There, 34 percent of respondents said Mrs. Clinton was the candidate who best understood the needs and problems of people in their state; in Iowa, 18 percent of respondents said that.
On the Republican side, the poll suggests that Mr. Giuliani’s rivals might not have as easy a time as they once thought in derailing his candidacy by attacking for him for his stand on social issues. A majority of Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire said they were aware that Mr. Giuliani supported abortion rights, suggesting that they had already incorporated that fact into their voting calculations.
This article was reported by Adam Nagourney, Marjorie Connelly and Dalia Sussman and written by Mr. Nagourney. Megan Thee contributed reporting.