In the 2016 presidential contest, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, 24%, and businessman Donald Trump, 23%, are in a close contest for the GOP nomination among Republicans and Republican leaning independents nationally. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, 12%, is in the third position and is the only other GOP contender who receives double-digit support. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, 8%, ties former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, 8%, for fourth place.
When it comes to the candidate the GOP thinks has the best chance of beating the Democratic nominee next November, Trump, 31%, tops the list followed by Ben Carson, 26%, and Marco Rubio, 19%. However, Trump is not necessarily the candidate Republicans and Republican leaning independents want to get the Republican nomination. 37% say they definitely do not want him to be the GOP nominee, and 32% definitely do not want Jeb Bush to be their party’s standard bearer.
When asked whether Republicans and Republican leaning independents like the GOP candidates more or less after hearing more about them, Bush fares the worst of the candidates. 58% say their dislike toward Bush grows the more they learn about him. 49% say the same about Trump, the only other candidate who generates a greater negative than positive reaction. Carson fares the best. About two-thirds, 67%, say they like Carson more after hearing about him. Rubio follows with 58%.
Many Republicans and Republican leaning independents nationally want a nominee who will stand on Republican principles, 59%, similar to the 62% who had this view in August. 39% currently prefer a Republican nominee who can win the White House.
Looking ahead to the general election, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leads all of her potential Republican rivals, but she and Ben Carson are in a virtual dead heat. Clinton has 50% to 48% for Carson. When this question was last reported in August, Clinton, 49%, had a ten point lead over Carson, 39%.
When the Republican field is matched against Bernie Sanders, Sanders leads Fiorina, Trump, Cruz, and Bush by double digits and has majority support. Sanders, 48%, is competitive against Rubio, 45%. Sanders, 45%, also runs closely against Carson, 47%.
“On the eve of the next GOP presidential debate, Jeb Bush needs a reversal of fortune,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “The race for the nomination is very competitive, but he is currently mired in single digits. So far, his standing diminishes more than any of his fellow Republicans as GOP’ers learn more about him.”
- Although Carson and Trump are neck and neck nationally, Carson leads Trump, 28% to 23%, among voters who identify as Republicans, and Trump edges Carson, 24% to 18%, among Republican leaning independents.
- Carson is also ahead of Trump among conservatives, 31% to 19% and those who identify as very conservative, 28% to 19%.
- Trump has a four point edge over Carson, 23% to 19%, among Republicans who describe themselves as moderate.
- Trump leads Carson, 28% to 22%, among Tea Party supporters. A notable 17% back Cruz.
- Carson outpaces Trump, 29% to 17%, among those who earn $50,000 or more annually. In contrast, Trump, 34%, has the advantage over Carson, 17%, among those who make less than $50,000 a year.
- Carson, 33%, has the advantage over Trump, 13%, and Rubio, 12%, among Republicans with a college degree. However, Trump leads Carson, 31% to 17%, among those who are not college graduates.
Assessing the Republican Field
Republicans and Republican leaning independents think Trump, 31%, Carson, 26%, and Rubio, 19%, have the best chance of defeating the Democratic candidate in the general election next November. However, Trump is also the candidate that nearly four in ten GOP’ers say they definitely don’t want to be their party’s nominee. Almost one in three definitely does not what Bush to win the Republican nomination.
67% of GOP voters say they like Carson the more they learn about him, the highest of any of the Republican candidates. Bush is on the opposite end of the spectrum with 58% saying they like Bush less after hearing more about him.
When it comes to what Republicans want in a candidate, nearly six in ten Republican and Republican leaning independents prefer a candidate who stands on Republican principles rather than one who can just win the White House.
- 31% of Republicans and Republican leaning independents think Trump has the best chance at defeating the Democratic candidate. Carson and Rubio follow with 26% and 19%, respectively. 10% think Cruz is the strongest GOP contender while 8% have this view of Bush. One percent believes Fiorina has the best odds at victory.
- 37% of Republicans and Republican leaning independents definitely do not want Trump to be the GOP nominee. Bush follows with 32%. 13% do not want Fiorina to receive the Republican nomination while Cruz and Rubio each have 6% of the Republican electorate who have this view about them. Only 3% do not want Carson to be their party’s nominee.
- Trump is least preferred by 44% of Republican leaning independents, 43% of soft Republicans, and 42% of GOP women.
- 35% of strong Republicans, 40% of Tea Party supporters, and 41% of men definitely do not want to see Bush get the Republican nomination.
- Republicans and Republican leaning independents, 59%, want a candidate who stands on GOP principles. 39% want a candidate who can win.
Carson Competitive Against Clinton and Sanders… Rubio within Striking Distance
Looking at the potential 2016 general election matchups, Carson is the most competitive Republican candidate against either Clinton or Sanders. Carson has chiseled away at Clinton’s once 10 point lead. The two are now in a virtual dead heat with 50% for Clinton and 48% for Carson. Against Sanders, Carson has 47% to 45% for Sanders.
Rubio, 45%, is also competitive against Sanders, 48%. Against Clinton, Rubio trails Clinton by 5 points, 45% to 50%. He previously trailed her by the same margin, 42% to 47%, during the summer.