Poll: Clinton Leads Among Democrats, No Clear Favorite in GOP

By Beacon Staff

HELENA (AP) – Montana Democrats prefer Sen. Hillary Clinton as their party’s presidential candidate, but a majority of Montana voters have an “unfavorable” impression of her, a new poll shows.

Republicans in Montana have no clear favorite in the presidential race with about a month remaining before the party holds its caucus, a poll done for Lee Newspapers of Montana shows.

Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Washington, D.C. surveyed 625 registered Montana voters by telephone from Dec. 17-19. The margin of error is 4 percentage points and is higher for subgroups.

Clinton drew support from 29 percent of the Democrats polled, while former U.S. John Edwards of North Carolina was second with 19 percent and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois was third at 17 percent. Another 17 percent were undecided, with nearly six months remaining until the June primary.

However, 52 percent of all Montanans polled say they have an “unfavorable” impression of Clinton.

“It just confirms what we’ve seen (in earlier polls), that Montana will not vote for Hillary,” said pollster Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon.

Among Republicans, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was favored by 16 percent, followed by former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani at 15 percent, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with 13 percent and former Sen. Fred Thompson with 12 percent. Those results fell within the poll’s margin of error. Nearly a quarter of Republicans are undecided.

“It’s kind of reflecting national polls,” Coker said. “There is no real, clear front-runner. There is a lot of soft support. None of these candidates has fired up the Republican faithful yet.”

The poll also showed that the Montana House could be narrowly divided again in 2009.

Those surveyed were asked if they were more likely to vote Democratic or Republican if the state House race were held today.

The results showed 37 percent favored the Republican candidate, 35 percent supported a Democratic candidate and 28 percent were undecided.