PPP's new national poll finds very close match ups for the general election for President, with Hillary Clinton leading the top 5 Republicans by an average of less than 2 points. The strongest Republican against Clinton, as we've found repeatedly in recent polling, is Marco Rubio. He's the only hopeful with a lead over Clinton at 44/43. Ben Carson also manages a tie at 45/45. Clinton's leads are 46/43 over both Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, and 44/39 over Jeb Bush. This is the 4th straight poll since Thanksgiving where we've found Bush doing the worst of any of the Republicans in head to head match ups.
The Republican Party will have to be very careful to keep Donald Trump happy enough that he sticks by his pledge not to run as an independent in the general election because early indications are that could be nearly lethal to GOP chances of winning. Trump gets 24% as an independent candidate in a match up with Clinton and Rubio, and pushes Clinton from trailing by a point to leading by at 14 at 41/27. He similarly gets 23% in a match up with Clinton and Cruz, and pushes Clinton leading by just 3 points to leading by 16 at 42/26. Trump gets 33-38% of Republican voters in each of those match ups while getting just 9-11% of Democratic voters. He actually leads among independents in the three way contest with Rubio, and basically ties Clinton with them against Cruz.
Paul Ryan is meeting with a lot more goodwill from the public than Mitch McConnell. Voters are evenly divided on his performance as Speaker with 38% approving and 39% disapproving, which grading on a curve are actually tremendous numbers for someone in Congressional leadership these days. McConnell on the other hand has just a 15% approval rating, with 62% of voters unhappy with his job performance. He's at 16/62 even with Republicans- in fact his 17% approval with Democrats is a tick higher. Congress as a body remains ever unpopular with only 13% of voters approving of it to 78% who disapprove. The generic Congressional ballot comes down at 43% Democratic, 43% Republican, reflecting the evenly divided nature of the country. By the way in a year where we have found lots of voters buying into any number of odd schools of thought it's good to know only 7% of Americans think the fact that Paul Ryan is growing a beard is a sign he's converting to Islam, to 82% who don't think that's the case. That's apparently the view of just a very small minority of comments section dwellers.
There's overwhelming support for the concept of barring those on the terror watch list from purchasing guns. 81% of voters nationally support that to only 12% who are opposed. This is not a partisan issue, with 85% of Democrats, 80% of Republicans, and 78% of independents supporting it. There's even stronger support for requiring criminal background checks on all gun sales- 85% of voters support that to just 9% who are opposed with 91% of Democrats, 82% of independents, and 80% of Republicans supportive. These are issues where GOP politicians are very much out of touch with the GOP base.
Another such issue is raising the minimum wage. 72% of voters nationally support increasing the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour, with only 15% believing that it's fine where it is and 9% wanting to eliminate the minimum wage altogether. Even among Republicans there's 57% support for an increase to at least $10 an hour.
The Affordable Care Act continues to become less and less of a political liability for Democrats. We find 41% of voters supporting it now, to only 39% who are opposed. One thing that's really changed is the level of intensity about the issue on each side. It used to be that Republicans were considerably more united in their opposition to it than Democrats were in their support, but that's flipped and now 71% of Democrats are in favor of it to only 64% of Republicans who are against it.