The Voters Are Restless

Polling shows that Trump and Clinton hold national-primary leads in a volatile and upset electorate.
By John McLaughlin & Jim McLaughlin – January 21, 2016
The latest results from our national survey of 1,007 likely voters conducted between Thursday, January 14, and Monday, January 18, shows that the voters are very upset and quite unhappy, and they want change. At the top of their respective primaries remain Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
The poll included 457 voters – 383 Democrats and 74 Independents – who would vote in the Democratic primary. It also included 421 voters – 322 Republicans and 98 Independents – who would vote in the Republican primary.
Among Republican primary voters, Trump led with 36 percent followed by Cruz 17 percent, Rubio 11 percent, Carson 9 percent, Bush 6 percent, Paul 5 percent, Christie 4 percent, Kasich 3 percent, Fiorina 2 percent, Huckabee 2 percent, Santorum 1 percent, and 6 percent undecided.
However, virtually all these primary voters had a second choice. Among the total, their second choice was Cruz 22 percent, Rubio 14 percent, Bush 11 percent, Trump 10 percent, Carson 10 percent, Fiorina 6 percent, Christie 6 percent, Huckabee 6 percent, Paul 5 percent, Kasich 2 percent, and Santorum 1 percent. It was clear that Ted Cruz has the most upside potential, followed by Marco Rubio, while only one in ten who currently aren’t voting for Trump see him as a second choice.
The great caveat will be that there is no national primary day. Instead as each state votes, the results could influence the next state primary and the national vote, as candidates gain or lose momentum.

So as the Republicans form their circular firing squad in the final days before the Iowa caucus and the start of the primaries, let’s see where the ricochets, based on national polling, might go.
The leading second choices among the 36 percent who are currently Trump voters are: 39 percent for Cruz, 12 percent for Bush, and 10 percent for Carson. So the main beneficiary of attacks on Trump is Ted Cruz, while a handful votes go to Governor Bush or Dr. Carson.
The leading second choices among the 17 percent who are currently Cruz voters are: 30 percent to Rubio, 21 percent to Trump, 14 percent to Carson, and 13 percent to Fiorina. So if Senator Cruz takes a hit, it mainly helps Senator Rubio and Mr. Trump.
Among the 11 percent who are currently Rubio voters, 32 percent go to Cruz, 14 percent to Fiorina, 12 percent to Carson, and 11 percent to Christie. If Senator Rubio loses support, it helps Cruz most, then the rest scatter among Fiorina, Carson, and Christie.
Among the 9 percent who are Carson voters, their second choice is split almost equally: Cruz 20 percent, Rubio 20 percent, and 18 percent for Trump.
Basically, two-thirds of the second-choice voters for Cruz come from Trump. So you can expect Senator Cruz to continue to engage with Trump to try to make it a one-on-one race.
Most of Marco Rubio’s second-choice voters, 39 percent, come from Cruz, compared with only 16 percent from Trump and 15 percent from Carson. So expect Marco to go after Ted, because once voters leave Trump and go to Cruz, most won’t go back to Trump.
Governor Bush’s best hope to gain second-choice votes, 44 percent, comes from Trump; only 14 percent come from Kasich, 11 percent from Christie and 11 percent from Cruz. Governor Bush will continue to attack Trump even if it mainly benefits Ted Cruz.
Dr. Carson’s second-choice votes come mainly come from Trump (40 percent) and then from Cruz (25 percent). So hard exchanges between Trump and Cruz might benefit Dr. Carson.
Governor Christie’s second-choice votes come 55 percent from Trump, then 20 percent from Rubio. Governor Christie may stay alive as Trump gets attacked.
Among the 6 percent who are currently undecided, there might even be a hidden vote for Trump. 57 percent of the undecided claim that Trump is their second choice.
So even though it looks like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are the main frontrunners, the field is quite volatile, and attacks and mistakes by candidates and their campaigns could have unintended consequences that dislodge first-place votes and raise up nearby contenders.
Most pundits understand the importance of the conservative vote in the Republican primary. Two thirds of the Republican primary voters are conservatives, and they currently vote 35 percent for Trump, 21 percent for Cruz, 13 percent for Rubio, and 11 percent for Carson. Among very conservative voters, Cruz closes, but Trump leads: Trump 38 percent, Cruz 27 percent, Rubio 13 percent, and Carson 12 percent. Trump’s opponents will continue to try to outflank him on the right.
Trump has shown his skill among all voters who use social media. Among the 80 percent who use Facebook, Trump leads with 36 percent, Cruz 14 percent, Rubio 11 percent, and Carson 11 percent.
Beyond ideology, religious attitudes and values play an important role in Republican primaries. Although there are several Catholic candidates in the race – Bush, Rubio, Christie, and Santorum – the Republican party has never nominated a Catholic for president. The 20 percent of Republican primary voters who are Catholic are among Protestant Donald Trump’s best voter groups, as Trump leads with 41 percent, Cruz 17 percent, Rubio 17 percent, Carson 6 percent, Bush 5 percent, Paul 3 percent, Kasich 4 percent, Christie 3 percent, Fiorina 3 percent, Santorum 1 percent and Huckabee 0 percent. Although Rubio rises a bit in this group, the Catholic ethnic vote has been preempted by Presbyterian Trump.
Almost half the primary is not just Protestants, but Evangelical Christians. Among Evangelicals is where Ted Cruz, the son of a Christian preacher, is closing the race: Trump 32 percent, Cruz 24 percent, Carson 10 percent, Rubio 9 percent, Bush 6 percent, Fiorina 4 percent, Paul 3 percent, Christie 3 percent, Kasich 3 percent, Huckabee 3 percent, Santorum 1 percent. This is why the religious demographics of Iowa, South Carolina, and the Southern-dominated “SEC Primary” on March 1 may be fertile territory for Senator Cruz.
Finally, while Trump tells us he loves women, men love him more. Among men, Trump leads with 44 percent, but only 30 percent among women. Among Evangelical women, Cruz ties Trump at 25 percent while Carson gets 14 percent. There are going to be a lot of churches in the Trump-Cruz contest these coming days.
In contrast to the complexity of the Republican primary, the less-populated Democratic primary has Secretary Clinton leading 58 percent to Sanders’s 28 percent and O’Malley’s 1 percent. Only 13 percent are undecided. This is very different from recent published polls in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Hillary Clinton’s strategy of hugging President Obama is working very well for her. Some 77 percent of all Democrats approve of the job Obama is doing as president, and they’re more likely to vote for her over Sanders, 64 percent to 24 percent. Among the 21 percent of Democratic primary voters who disapprove of the job Obama is doing, Clinton and Sanders are tied at 39 percent.
Among affiliated Democrats, Clinton leads 62 percent to 24 percent. Among affiliated Independents who will vote in the Democratic primary, Sanders leads 46 percent to 39 percent. Senator Sanders is bringing unaffiliated liberals into the primary.
However, Clinton’s strategy of hugging Obama allows her to win among liberals 59 percent to 31 percent, among moderates 53 percent to 27 percent, and among the handful of conservatives 73 percent to 17 percent. Even among core liberal-affiliated Democrats, Hillary wins 61 percent to 29 percent. Hillary is protecting her left flank well.
Clinton is not being hurt by Sanders’s class warfare. Among households earning under $60,000 a year Clinton wins 57 percent to 27 percent. Among those earning over $60,000 a year she wins by an almost identical 59 percent to 29 percent. Expect both to be giving out a lot more money in future promises.
Among minority voters, Hillary Clinton runs best: She wins African Americans 70 percent to 16 percent. Among Hispanics she wins 61 percent to 25 percent, and among white voters she wins 51 percent to 35 percent. Getting past Iowa and New Hampshire to the more demographically diverse states of the later primaries should help Hillary Clinton.
Only among voters under 30 years old does Sanders win, 46 percent to 40 percent. Among 30- to 40-year-olds, Clinton wins 60 percent to 32 percent, and among those over 40, she wins by 62 percent to 22 percent.
In spite of Governor O’Malley’s perseverance, the Democratic primary is a two-way race. The overall second choice is Sanders 40 percent, Clinton 20 percent, and O’Malley 12 percent. While 60 percent of the Clinton voters choose Sanders as their second choice, only 9 percent pick O’Malley. Similarly, 62 percent of Sanders voters choose Clinton as their second choice. Only 18 percent choose O’Malley. Governor O’Malley is totally boxed out.
For the November election, among all voters in the poll, the majority still disapproves of the job that President Obama is doing. Only 45 percent approve and 54 percent disapprove. Only 19 percent strongly approve while 38 percent strongly disapprove. The election is still defined by unfavorable attitudes towards President Obama’s policies. Among voters who are undecided in their choice for Congress, only 40 percent approve of Obama’s job, while 58 percent disapprove. If Election Day were today, they could fall three to two for the Republicans for Congress.
Secretary Clinton appears even a little more unpopular than President Obama. Her favorable rating is 40 percent while her unfavorable rating is 55 percent, with 40 percent being very unfavorable. Democrats like her 79 percent to 17 percent, while Independents dislike her 25 percent favorable to 67 percent unfavorable and Republicans really dislike her, 9 percent favorable to 88 percent unfavorable. A Clinton Republican will be a very rare find.
Even though the poll has 6 percent more Democrats than Republicans, the Republicans lead the generic ballot for Congress, 45 percent to 43 percent. However, the lead is soft, with 11 percent of the Republican vote being leaners to only 6 percent of the Democratic vote.
The majority of voters disapprove of Obamacare, 54 percent to only 42 percent who approve. This is the highest disapproval for Obamacare since November of 2014.
Americans want a smaller federal government. The majority of voters favor a smaller federal government with fewer services vs. a larger federal government with more services, 52 percent to 31 percent.
Two in three voters say that the country is on the wrong track, 66 percent to only 29 percent saying the right direction.
The large majority of voters, 58 percent, want the next president and Congress to change direction and move away from the policies of Barack Obama. Only 33 percent would continue the policies of President Obama. Republicans want change 93 percent to 5 percent. Independents want change 66 percent to 20 percent. Even 22 percent of the Democrats would move away from Obama. Only 66 percent of the Democrats would continue his policies. The undecided for Congress want to move away from Obama’s policies 63 percent to 16 percent.
The November trends still favor the Republicans. However, we can expect Secretary Clinton and her allies to try to nationalize her primary while sowing controversy and dissension within the Republican primaries. Don’t be surprised if the Democrats try to elevate an eventual Republican winner with negatives to match Hillary Clinton’s. The volatility and fireworks are just beginning.
– John McLaughlin and Jim McLaughlin are Republican strategists and partners in the national polling firm McLaughlin & Associates. They are not aligned with any presidential candidate or super PAC.
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