Bush leads GOP field in Virginia, but Clinton ahead for General

| Tom Jensen

PPP’s newest Virginia poll finds Jeb Bush leading the Republican primary field in the state with 18%, followed by Donald Trump and Scott Walker at 14%, and Ben Carson also in double digits at 10%. Rounding out the top ten that’s become important in the context of the upcoming debates are Mike Huckabee at 8%, Marco Rubio at 7%, and Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, and Rand Paul at 5%. Missing the cut for the top ten are Bobby Jindal at 3%, Rick Perry at 2%, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich, and Rick Santorum at 1%, and George Pataki at less than 1%.

Bush’s lead in Virginia reflects the general strength we’ve found for him in the South. Although the polls were conducted prior to Trump’s recent surge he led our most recent Florida and South Carolina polls, and he’d been ahead on our previous two North Carolina surveys before we found Trump leading there last week. Bush’s lead over Trump and Walker in Virginia is based on his appeal to moderate voters- with them he gets 30% compared to only 12% for Trump and 9% for Walker. That helps make up for Bush’s deficit among voters who describe themselves as ‘very conservative’ where he gets 12% compared to 15% for Trump and Walker.

Despite leading in Virginia, Bush continues to struggle some with middling favorability ratings- only 41% of primary voters see him positively to 37% with a negative opinion. Rubio (58/20) and Trump (58/32) have the highest favorability ratings of the Republicans in the state trailed closely by Huckabee (57/27) and Walker (56/16). We consistently find Rubio, Huckabee, and Walker among the most popular Republicans in our polling suggesting they may be well positioned to grow their support at some point in the future.

Only 2 Republicans have negative favorability ratings in our polling. One is Chris Christie, who comes in at 31/50, and who we’ve found to be unpopular pretty much everywhere. The other one though is home state contender Jim Gilmore who only 23% of primary voters see favorably compared to 38% who have a negative opinion of him. Gilmore is only the first choice of 1% of primary voters, and the second choice of another 1%- the numbers border on being embarrassing for him.

On the Democratic side Hillary Clinton is dominant. She gets 64% to 14% for Bernie Sanders, 8% for Jim Webb, 5% for Lincoln Chafee, and 2% for Martin O’Malley. Clinton has 79% support from African Americans, is over 60% with liberals, moderates, men, women, younger voters, and seniors, and is over 50% with whites, Hispanics, and middle aged voters. 

The results aren’t very good news for home state candidate Jim Webb. He isn’t even the most commonly named second choice of voters in the state- Sanders gets 19% on that front with Clinton and Webb both at 13%. And despite having served Virginia in the Senate Webb’s name recognition (71%) barely outpaces that of Sanders (68%). In the wake of his refusal to condemn the Confederate flag Webb does particularly poor with African Americans, getting only 3%. 

Virginia went for Barack Obama by 4-6 points in 2008 and 2012 and Hillary Clinton starts out similarly well positioned in the state, leading all of her potential Republican opponents by somewhere in the 4-12 point range. The GOP hopefuls who come the closest to Clinton are Ben Carson and Marco Rubio who each trail by 4 at 47/43, and Rand Paul and Scott Walker who each trail by 5 at 47/42. The Republican who does the worst in the state is native son Jim Gilmore who trails by 12 at 47/35. Also trailing by double digits are Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee at 49/39. In between are Chris Christie who trails by 6 at 45/39, Carly Fiorina and Ted Cruz who lag by 7 at 46/39 and 48/41 respectively, and Jeb Bush who’s down by 8 at 46/38.

We also tested Bernie Sanders against the leading Republicans- he leads Trump 43/39, but trails Bush 40/39, Walker 39/38, and Rubio 40/38. On average Clinton performs a little under 7 points better than Sanders against the top quartet of GOPers in head to head match ups.

Full results here

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