Interesting Poll Results in South Carolina

Interesting Poll Results in South Carolina February 17, 2016

Public Policy Polling is out with a new poll in South Carolina and they asked some interesting questions that shed light on the campaign as a whole. The obvious is that Trump and Clinton both have huge leads and should win that state in a landslide. But some of the other results are both interesting and important.


For instance, the importance of narrowing the field for Rubio:

There are some reasons within the numbers to think Rubio might put in an unexpectedly strong performance on Saturday night. If voters have to choose just among the top three candidates he finishes in a clear second place with 28% to Trump’s 40% and Cruz’s 22%. Among voters who are either undecided or support one of the also rans- Bush, Carson, Kasich- 37% say they would move to Rubio compared to 19% for Trump and 13% for Cruz if they had to choose one of the top three. So if strategic voting occurs, that’s likely to be to Rubio’s benefit…

There continues to be evidence that the race for the Republican nomination will get a lot tighter down the line as more candidates drop out. Trump leads Rubio only 46/45 in a head to head match up, with supporters of Bush (73/10), Cruz (67/26), Carson (54/34), and Kasich (50/29) all strongly preferring Rubio to Trump if those were their choices. If Rubio can make the race in South Carolina more into a choice between him and Trump he has the potential to end up with a strong second place finish. Trump has wider leads in head to heads with Bush (50/40) and Cruz (48/38).

This is why New Hampshire was so terrible for him and why his robotic performance in the pre-NH debate mattered so much. If he had left New Hampshire with a solid second place, say 16%, and Bush and Kasich had finished in single digits, they are both either out of the race or largely irrelevant. But Rubio’s failure helped Kasich hit 16% and Bush to get over 10%, which keeps them both in the race. As these results show, if they’re out of the race or considered nothing more than hangers-on, Rubio could make himself the anti-Trump and the only real “establishment” alternative.

And this result prompts the question of whether favorability ratings really matter:

One surprising finding from the poll is that Ted Cruz has the worst net favorability rating of the candidates, with 42% of voters seeing him positively to 48% who have a negative opinion of him. He and Jeb Bush (41/43) are the only candidates under water. Showing that popularity isn’t everything Ben Carson is by far the most widely liked hopeful in the state with a 68/23 favorability rating, followed by Rubio at 58/32 and Kasich at 52/29. Trump is only the fourth most well liked at 50/43, but in contrast to the other candidates most of the voters who like him are also planning to vote for him.

Carson’s personal favorability ratings are generally high all over. He’s viewed as very nice and very sincere. But he isn’t getting any votes from that. My suspicion is that favorability matters much less in primaries than it does in the general election, especially among independents. I bet Nate Silver has done a thorough study of this at some point, tracking pre-election favorability ratings with actual results. I’d like to see that analysis.

And then there’s this portrait of what Trump supporters are like:

Trump’s support in South Carolina is built on a base of voters among whom religious and racial intolerance pervades. Among the beliefs of his supporters:

-70% think the Confederate flag should still be flying over the State Capital, to only 20% who agree with it being taken down. In fact 38% of Trump voters say they wish the South had won the Civil War to only 24% glad the North won and 38% who aren’t sure. Overall just 36% of Republican primary voters in the state are glad the North emerged victorious to 30% for the South, but Trump’s the only one whose supporters actually wish the South had won.

-By an 80/9 spread, Trump voters support his proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States. In fact 31% would support a ban on homosexuals entering the United States as well, something no more than 17% of anyone else’s voters think is a good idea. There’s also 62/23 support among Trump voters for creating a national database of Muslims and 40/36 support for shutting down all the mosques in the United States, something no one else’s voters back. Only 44% of Trump voters think the practice of Islam should even be legal at all in the United States, to 33% who think it should be illegal. To put all the views toward Muslims in context though, 32% of Trump voters continue to believe the policy of Japanese internment during World War II was a good one, compared to only 33% who oppose it and 35% who have no opinion one way or another.

That certainly is no surprise. He has worked overtime to win the support of bigots and nativists and that’s what he’s achieved.

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