Americans give tepid support to President Obama’s nomination of former Republican senator Chuck Hagel as defense secretary, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, but supporters far outnumber opponents at this early stage.
Fully one in three express no opinion on the matter, highlighting the fact that Hagel is unfamiliar to many despite having served in the U.S. Senate for two terms. The most pronounced opposition to the pick, as in the U.S. Senate, comes from fellow Republicans.
Overall, 42 percent of all Americans support the Hagel pick; 24 percent, are opposed.
Support for the president’s nominee peaks at 61 percent among Democrats, drops to 40 percent among independents and then again to just 28 percent with Republicans. More Republicans (35 percent) oppose Hagel’s selection, with about twice as many holding strongly unfavorable views as hold strongly favorable views.
Still, a substantial proportion of Republicans say they have no opinion on the pick, and nearly as many Republicans support Hagel as oppose him. The numbers suggest the party’s base is hardly as incensed by Hagel’s selection as the GOP’s Senate conference — at least for now.
No group expresses majority opposition to Hagel’s nomination, but Obama’s choice is least popular among core Republican constituencies. Conservative Republicans break against the pick by a margin of 17 percentage points. Opposition hits a high of 41 percent among white evangelical Protestants, a group that supported Mitt Romney by more than 3 to 1 over Obama in November.
Hagel’s uneasy relationship with his own party is far from new, though. When he flirted with an third-party presidential run, a July 2007 Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation-Harvard Survey found half of Republicans said they “definitely would not vote for” him, while just 2 percent expressed definite support.
The new poll was produced for the Post by Capital Insight and conducted Jan. 10-13 among a random national sample of 1,001 adults. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Click here for interactive results and breakdowns by group.