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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio runs strongest against Clinton, poll shows



From a news release:

BOSTON — A Suffolk University/USA TODAY national poll of likely voters shows former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and businessman Donald Trump solidly ahead in their respective nomination fights eight weeks before the Iowa caucuses. However, Democrat Clinton’s onetime lead in one-to-one matchups against GOP candidates has eroded, and a small polling subsample showed that two-thirds of Trump voters would continue to support him as an independent candidate if he were to leave the Republican Party.

Despite a commanding lead over her Democratic rivals—Clinton (56 percent), Sanders (29 percent) and Martin O’Malley (4 percent), with 11 percent undecided—the race gets much tighter for Clinton in potential head-to-head general election matchups with the four leading Republican candidates, according to the poll. Each of these matchups is a statistical dead heat given the poll’s margin of error:

Marco Rubio (48 percent) tops Clinton (45 percent)

Clinton (48 percent)—Trump (44 percent)

Clinton (46 percent)—Ben Carson (45 percent)

Clinton (47 percent)—Ted Cruz (45 percent)

The gap between the Democratic front-runner and Republican candidates has closed since July, when a Suffolk University-USA Today poll showed Clinton leading Trump by 17 points in a one-to-one matchup, 51 percent to 34 percent. At that time, Bush was her closest rival. He trailed the former New York senator 46 percent to 42 percent, with 13 percent undecided.

Meanwhile, Trump led with 27 percent among likely Republican primary/caucus voters, followed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) at 17 percent; Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) at 16 percent; retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, 10 percent; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, 4 percent; and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tied at 2 percent. All other candidates together totaled 3 percent, and 17 percent were undecided.

“The Republican side is beginning to shake out, at least at the national level,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “Both Senators Cruz and Rubio are vying hard to be the Republican alternative to Trump, but there are seventeen percent undecided still, which keeps the door open for one of the single-digit candidates to make a splash in Iowa or New Hampshire and shake the race up further.”

Cruz was the top “second choice” (22 percent) of all the candidates, followed by Rubio (15 percent), with Carson and Trump tied at 13 percent. The second-choice ballot test is a good indicator of whom Republican voters may switch to as minor candidates drop out.

Rubio tops in favorability

Rubio, meanwhile, was the only major candidate from either political party who had a net positive (+5) favorability rating, with a 41 percent favorable to 36 percent unfavorable rating. The next closest in terms of popularity were President Barack Obama (-1), Ben Carson (-3) and Bernie Sanders (-3). Of the remaining major candidates, Cruz’s net favorability was (-9), Hillary Clinton’s (-15), and Donald Trump’s (-30), an indication of a 30 percent favorable and 60 percent unfavorable rating.

[Last modified: Tuesday, December 8, 2015 2:21pm]


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