A majority of Republican voters believe free trade has been bad for the U.S. economy, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
However, the same poll indicated that few GOP voters would base their vote on economic policies. And if the primary were held today, a majority of those voters would choose former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani as their nominee for president.
Fifty-nine percent of respondents said foreign trade has been bad for the U.S. economy because imports have reduced demand for American-made goods, a position that runs counter to the typical Republican stance. When asked if the president and Congress should continue cutting taxes, 60% of respondents said yes.
However, when asked how candidates' stances on issues would affect their vote, only 17% of those polled said economic issues like taxes and trade would have an impact. Thirty-two percent chose national defense as the most important factor in deciding who to put in the White House. Domestic issues such as education and health care was most important to 25%, and moral issues like abortion and gay rights followed closely at 23%.
And if the Republican primary were held today, 30% of those polled said they would choose Giuliani, down two points from a month earlier polling, but still ahead of his nearest contender Fred Thompson at 23%. Thompson's rating also dropped slightly from the month-earlier polling at 26%. John McCain and Mitt Romney received 15% and 10% respectively.
Among Giuliani voters, 47% said they would choose John McCain as their second choice, followed by Mitt Romeny at 42% and Fred Thompson at 33%. McCain voters turned to Giuliani as their top second choice at 35%, with Fred Thompson coming in at 21% and Mitt Romney at 18%.
Fred Thompson voters also favored Giuliani, choosing him over McCain 20% to 11% but just squeaking by Romney at 19%. Romney voters, meanwhile, were evenly distributed when asked to make a second choice — 17% choosing Giuliani, 16% McCain and 13% Thompson.
Those polled also chose Giuliani as having the best chance of defeating Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) if she were the Democratic nominee.