The results might have been different had respondents been forced to choose between either issues or character. But this survey allowed people to volunteer any “qualities or characteristics,” and a minority seized on issues. The findings are consistent with an AP-Ipsos poll from September 2004, when 38percent of voters chose honesty as the most important quality when picking a president. That was more than any other factor. At the time of that survey, a majority of voters found Bush to be honest. But in an AP-AOL News poll conducted in January, only 44percent said they thought Bush was honest. His decline in the category of trust is widely attributed to the fallout from the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The drop is most prominent among people 30 to 39, suburban women, married women with children and people with household incomes in the $50,000 to $75,000 bracket. Bush’s collapse in the character test should serve as a warning to the 2008 presidential candidates. Character matters, voters say, and they already are sizing up the field. Among Republican and GOP-leaning voters, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads Arizona Sen. John McCain 35percent to 22percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich had 14percent, followed in the single digits by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas. Among Democrats, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton leads with 38percent, followed by Sen. Barack Obama at 21percent. Former Vice President Al Gore is at 14percent, and 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards is at 10percent. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WASHINGTON – For all the policy blueprints churned out by presidential campaigns, there is this indisputable fact: People care less about issues than they do about a candidate’s character. An Associated Press-Ipsos poll says 55percent of those surveyed consider honesty, integrity and other values of character the most important qualities they look for in a presidential candidate. Just one-third look first to candidates’ stances on issues; even fewer focus foremost on leadership traits, experience or intelligence. “Voters only look at policies as a lens into what type of person the candidate is,” said Ken Mehlman, chairman of President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign. That campaign based its voter targeting and messaging strategies on the character-first theory. The AP-Ipsos poll of 1,001 adults, conducted Monday through Wednesday, found honesty was by far the most popular single trait – volunteered by 41percent of voters in open-ended questioning.