Trump Still Leads GOP Field But Descent May Be Beginning

| Tom Jensen

PPP’s newest national poll finds that Donald Trump is likely facing at least some fallout from his comments about John McCain over the weekend. Nevertheless we do find him narrowly leading the national field in our survey, which went into the field on Monday. Trump gets 19% to 17% for Scott Walker, 12% for Jeb Bush, 10% for Ben Carson and Marco Rubio, 8% for Mike Huckabee, 4% each for Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, and Rand Paul, 3% each for Chris Christie and John Kasich, 1% for Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum, and less than 1% each for Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, and George Pataki.

Trump’s lead comes despite the fact that only 22% of Republicans agree with the comments he made about John McCain over the weekend compared to 50% who disagree. Despite his overall lead there are some signs that Trump’s comments may have hurt him. For one thing his favorability rating is back down in the 40s, at 48/39. Although it’s not a perfect comparison, our state polls in Virginia (58/32) and North Carolina (55/32) over the previous two weeks had found him with numbers in the mid to upper 50’s. And although it’s an even more imperfect comparison to compare numbers with other polling organizations, Trump’s 2 point advantage is a lot less than the 11 point one had in an ABC/Washington Post poll conducted largely before Trump’s comments about McCain.

Nevertheless Trump is doing well across the GOP electorate. He leads among voters who describe themselves as ‘very conservative’ with 20% to 17% for Walker and 16% for Carson. But he also has the advantage with moderates, getting 22% to 19% for Bush and 13% for Rubio. Additionally Trump has the lead both among primary voters who say their biggest concern is having the candidate who’s the most conservative on the issues (he gets 20% to 16% for Walker, 12% for Huckabee, and 11% for Carson) and with primary voters who say their biggest concern is winning in the general election (19% to 16% for Walker, 14% for Bush, 13% for Rubio, and 10% for Carson.)

He may not quite have as much support as Trump for the nomination, but Walker is the most widely liked of the Republican candidates following his announcement last week. 58% see him favorably to 15% with an unfavorable opinion. Others in the 50s are Marco Rubio (54/19), Ben Carson (53/19), Ted Cruz (51/21), and Rick Perry (50/20). Their popularity positions all of them well to potentially gain some momentum further down the line.

Quick Hits:

-Jeb Bush continues to really struggle with voters on the right. Among ‘very conservative’ primary voters, only 30% see him favorably to 50% with an unfavorable opinion. Only 5% of voters within that group say Bush is their choice for the nomination, putting him in 7th place. That’s the biggest obstacle to his chances of winning the nomination.

-The only candidate who saw a 10 point shift in their favorability either way compared to our poll last month is John Kasich. He now stands at +14 (29/15), compared to just +4 (23/19) a month ago. He is still, along with George Pataki and Jim Gilmore, one of only three candidates with less than 50% name recognition but he is at least making a little bit of progress.

-Since his announcement last month Chris Christie has just become even more unpopular than he was already. Just 25% of Republican primary voters see him favorably to 56% with a negative opinion. He is joined by Lindsey Graham (21/33), George Pataki (12/29), and Jim Gilmore (4/14) as the Republican candidates even Republicans don’t have a favorable opinion of.

-The Republican electorate is obviously very conservative- conservative enough to support Donald Trump for President. But on a couple of key issues we polled, their views are decidedly moderate. 83% support criminal background checks on all gun purchases, compared to 11% opposed to that. And 52% support an increase in the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour. Only 20% favor eliminating the federal minimum wage altogether.

On the Democratic side Hillary Clinton leads with 57% to 22% for Bernie Sanders, 5% for Jim Webb, 3% for Lincoln Chafee, and 2% for Martin O’Malley. This does represent some tightening compared to a month ago- Clinton’s gone from 65% to 57%, with Sanders gaining from 9% to 22%. Martin O’Malley’s announcement bump has also faded, with his support dropping from 5% to 2%. 

Clinton may be up by 35 points instead of 56 this month, but she’s still pretty dominant across demographic lines. She is polling over 60% with liberals and seniors, and over 5o% with moderates, men, women, whites, and younger voters. Her area of greatest strength though is with African Americans, where she gets 82% to 6% for Sanders and 3% for Webb.

Clinton is in pretty good shape when it comes to potential general election match ups as well. She leads all of the potential Republican candidates by anywhere from 3 to 13 points, comparable to a month ago when her advantages over them ranged from 3 to 7 points. The Republican who comes closest to Clinton is Rand Paul, who trails by 3 at 45/42. Also coming close are Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker all of whom trail by an identical 5 point margin at 46/41. 

By far the worst performing Republican against Clinton is Donald Trump, who trails 50/37. The general electorate takes even greater issue with his comments about John McCain than the GOP one, with just 16% of the overall population agreeing with his comments while 60% say they disagree. Trump could definitely make a splash in the general running as an independent at this point though. He gets 23%, taking almost exclusively from Jeb Bush, and leaving Clinton with a 43/25 advantage. Independent voters are a three way tie in that scenario with Clinton and Trump each getting 29% and Bush at 28%. And it’s a measure of Bush’s difficulties on the right that with ‘very conservative’ voters Trump actually gets 44% to 41% for Bush and 6% for Clinton.

Rounding out the match ups with Clinton she leads Mike Huckabee (46/40) by 6, Ben Carson (47/39), Chris Christie (46/38), and Ted Cruz (48/40) all by 8, and Carly Fiorina (47/37) by 10.

We also tested Bernie Sanders against the key Republicans and he trails all of them except Trump. His deficits are 7 points against Jeb Bush (44/37), 5 points against Marco Rubio (41/36), and 1 point against Scott Walker (40/39). Against Trump, Sanders leads 47/37. On average Sanders does 8 points worse than Clinton against the Republicans in these head to head match ups.

Full results here

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