Walker breaks out in national GOP race

| Tom Jensen

PPP’s newest national Republican poll finds a clear leader in the race for the first time: Scott Walker is at 25% to 18% for Ben Carson, 17% for Jeb Bush, and 10% for Mike Huckabee. Rounding out the field of contenders are Chris Christie and Ted Cruz at 5%, Rand Paul at 4%, and Rick Perry and Marco Rubio at 3%.

Walker has more than doubled his support since his 11% standing on our January national poll, and Carson has moved up 3 points.  Bush, Huckabee, Paul, and Perry have largely stayed in place while Cruz has dropped 4 points and Christie has dropped 2 points.

Walker is climbing fast in the polling because of his appeal to the most conservative elements of the Republican electorate. Among ‘very conservative’ voters he leads with 37% to 19% for Carson, 12% for Bush, and 11% for Huckabee. Bush has a similarly large lead over Walker with moderates at 34/12…the problem for Bush though is that there are two times more GOP primary voters who identify as ‘very conservative’ than there are ones who identify as moderates.

Bush is really struggling with conservative voters. Among ‘very conservative’ voters on this poll, just 37% rate Bush favorably to 43% with an unfavorable opinion. By comparison Carson is at 73/2, Walker at 68/3, and Cruz at 68/8 with those folks.

You can really see the divide between Walker and Bush’s support on issues like global warming and evolution. Among primary voters who believe in global warming 37% support Bush to only 2% who favor Walker. The problem for him is that only 25% of GOP voters say they do believe in global warming- and among the 66% who don’t Walker has the 35/10 advantage over Bush. It’s a similar story on evolution. Among voters who believe in evolution Walker and Bush run pretty much even at 24/23. But that’s just 37% of primary voters, and with the other 49% of them who don’t believe in it Walker has a substantial advantage over Bush at 28/13. 

The struggles Bush is having with some Republican primary voters don’t seem to have anything to do with his brother’s legacy. George W. Bush has a 74/21 favorability rating with them, and the closest any of this year’s candidates get to that is a 56% favorability for Mike Huckabee. And the former President has plenty of credibility with conservatives- among those rating themselves as ‘very conservative’ his favorability is 81/14 compared to his brother’s 37/43. It’s Jeb’s record on certain issues rather than his last name that is causing his issues.

One thing that continues to be interesting is that among Tea Party voters Ben Carson is really stealing Ted Cruz and Rand Paul’s thunder. Carson’s favorability with them is 80/3, compared to 70/3 for Cruz and 60/13 for Paul. Although Walker is winning the Tea Party vote, Carson’s 16% is beating out both 10% for Cruz and 5% for Paul. This is something we’re finding pretty much everywhere we poll right now. 

Chris Christie just keeps on becoming more and more unpopular with Republican voters. Only 28% rate him favorably to 45% who have a negative opinion. Christie’s issues with conservatives are nothing new- among ‘very conservative’ voters just 20% rate him favorably to 61% with a negative opinion. But increasingly we’re finding that moderate voters don’t like him anymore either- on this poll just 33% gave him good marks to 38% with a negative opinion.

2015 has been a struggle for Rand Paul in the polls so far. This is the second month in a row he’s come in at 4% nationally, and he’s only registered at 5-7% in our state polls so far this year as well. Over the last year his favorability rating with primary voters nationally has fallen from 58/21 to 42/24. It’s not that he’s had a big uptick in voters disliking him, but the 13% decline in ones who even have an opinion about him suggests he’s not really grabbing the attention of Republican voters in the way the other candidates are.

Republican voters nationally actually have one elected official they like better than any of their potential choices for President- Benjamin Netanyahu has a 57% favorability rating.  Huckabee at 56%, Carson at 54%, and Walker at 51% come closest but none of them are liked by as many voters in their party base as the Israeli Prime Minister.

Full results here

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