Summary of Findings

On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, Rudy Giuliani’s once solid lead in nationwide polling of Republican voters has vanished. The latest nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press finds about equal levels of support for John McCain (22%), Rudy Giuliani (20%), and Mike Huckabee (17%).

The poll, conducted Dec. 19-30 among 471 Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters nationwide, finds that Giuliani’s support has slipped 13 points since September. Huckabee has gained 13 points over that period, and McCain — who many analysts all but wrote off over the summer — has rebuilt his base nationwide from a low of 16% in September to 22% today.

The drop in support for Giuliani has occurred across all segments of the GOP electorate. While he continues to garner more backing from moderate and liberal Republicans (28%) than from conservatives (15%), both groups show double-digit declines from September. The growth in support for McCain is most notable among moderate and liberal Republicans, where he is up 10 points since September. Huckabee’s gains were strongest among conservative Republicans, where he currently garners as much support at McCain (20%).

Feb. 5 Voters Knotted

The Giuliani campaign is making relatively little effort in Iowa and New Hampshire, instead focusing its resources on primaries to be held at the end of January and on Feb. 5. But among GOP primary voters in those 21 states, Giuliani and McCain each have the support of 21%, with Huckabee at 16% — virtually identical to results nationwide.

Religion has become a larger factor in GOP voter preference as Huckabee has become better known. He currently holds a slim edge among white evangelical Protestants (with 28%, compared with 21% for McCain, 16% for Thompson and 12% for Giuliani). McCain and Giuliani are virtually tied for the lead among white mainline Protestants, while Giuliani continues to lead among white Catholics.

Hillary Maintains Wide National Lead

The Democratic contest has remained largely stable nationwide. Despite state polls that show very close races in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, Hillary Clinton maintains a 20-point lead over Barack Obama among registered Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters nationwide (46% to 26%), with John Edwards holding at 14%.

Clinton continues to benefit from a modest gender gap, drawing somewhat greater support among women (49%) than among men (41%). She also leads Obama among white voters (46%, vs. 22% and 16% for Obama and Edwards, respectively). But Obama matches her among black voters (47% for Obama, 45% for Clinton).