Poll: Bush, Trump rising nationally for GOP, but both trail Clinton
WASHINGTON (CNN) — With nearly all of the expected 2016 presidential candidates formally in the race, a new CNN/ORC national poll finds two recent entrants to the GOP field on the rise, while Hillary Clinton maintains her position atop the Democratic field, though holding a slightly slimmer lead.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and businessman Donald Trump top the list of GOP presidential contenders following their back-to-back campaign launches in mid-June, and are the only two Republican candidates holding double-digit support among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.
Clinton, though, continues to lead all GOP candidates in head-to-head general election match-ups.
Bush stands at 19%, up from 13% in May — and his best showing in CNN/ORC polling since December. Trump follows at 12%, up from 3% before his announcement. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (8%), neurosurgeon Ben Carson (7%) and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (7%) round out the top five.
Notably absent from this top five — though statistically speaking not far behind — are Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (6%, down from 14% in May) and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (6%, down slightly from 10%). Both had been top five candidates in each of the last two CNN/ORC polls, and Walker had been in the top five since February.
The poll, conducted just before New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie formally launched his campaign with a rally in Livingston, New Jersey, on Tuesday, also finds that Christie begins his push for the presidency with just 3% support.
The findings suggest Bush is making progress toward being seen as the frontrunner in a field that has long lacked a clear leader. He holds a significant lead over the second-place candidate Trump, is seen as the candidate who could best handle illegal immigration and social issues, and runs about even with Trump and well ahead of the other candidates when Republicans are asked which candidate can best handle the economy.
But there are sticking points for Bush. He fares slightly worse across all three issues tested when only registered voters are considered. Registered voters tend to be more conservative and older than Republicans as a whole, and are more apt to actually vote when the primaries come around.
Looking at how each candidate fares among those subgroups, conservatives split their support between Bush and Trump, 12% back each. Likewise, among voters age 50 or older, 14% support Bush and 14% back Trump. By contrast, among Republicans under age 50, Bush is the only candidate in double-digits with 23%, Trump has just 9% support. And moderate or liberal Republicans back Bush over Trump 27% to 10%.
Trump’s competitiveness among those older and more conservative Republicans also helps explain Walker’s and Rubio’s declines. In April, 16% of Republicans age 50 or older backed Rubio, 14% Walker. Now, Rubio has just 6% among this group and Walker has 7%. Trump grew from 2% in May to 14% now.
Among conservatives in May, Rubio led the field with 15%, Walker was just behind at 14%. Bush had 11%, about the same as in the current poll. Now, Walker has fallen to 8%, and Rubio is down five points to 10%. And Trump has grown from 2% to 12%. Rubio also lost ground among moderate or liberal Republicans, just 1% back Rubio in the new poll, down from 11%.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton continues to hold all the cards. Nationally, she leads all other candidates by more than 40 points, with 57% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents behind her, 16% backing Vice President Joe Biden, 14% Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, 2% Jim Webb and 1% or less for former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee.
The poll holds better news for Biden than it does for Sanders, who has made gains against Clinton in recent polling in Iowa and New Hampshire. But Biden actually tops the list as national Democrats’ second-choice candidate, 35% say he’s their second pick, compared with 14% who say Sanders is.
While both trail Clinton by wide margins on all four candidate attributes tested, Biden tops Sanders on three of them: as the strongest leader in the field, having the best chance to win, and representing the values of Democrats “like yourself.” The two are even in second behind Clinton as the candidate who cares the most about people like you.
The only glimmer of Sanders’ early state appeal in this poll comes when Democrats are asked which of the Democratic candidates best represents the values of Democrats like yourself. On that question, among liberal Democrats, Sanders runs about even with Clinton, with 38% saying Clinton best reflects their values and 35% saying Sanders does. Among moderate Democrats, however, Clinton holds a broad edge, 52% say she best represents their values while just 10% say Sanders does.
Looking ahead to the general election, Clinton continues to hold significant leads over Bush (54% Clinton to 41% Bush) and Christie (56% Clinton to 37% Christie). She has also opened up wide leads over Rubio (56% Clinton to 39% Rubio) and Walker (57% Clinton to 38% Walker), as those two have slipped among independents. Clinton’s clearest advantage, however, is over Donald Trump, 59% say they would vote for Clinton if the 2016 match-up were between her and Trump, 34% say they would back Trump.
The economy, health care and terrorism remain dominant issues in Americans’ minds as the 2016 election gets closer, with 88% calling the economy an extremely or very important issue, 83% rating health care that important and 81% calling terrorism a top issue.
Foreign policy follows, with 71% calling it deeply important, and about 6-in-10 each call illegal immigration (62%) and race relations (61%) important issues. Same-sex marriage rounds out the list with just 41% of Americans saying it’s extremely or very important issue in their 2016 presidential vote.
Overall, the recent Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage and health care have not significantly increased either issue’s salience among the general public. Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, however, 45% now call same-sex marriage an extremely or very important issue, up from 34% in February, and 82% consider health care an important issue to their vote, up from 75% in February.
The CNN/ORC Poll was conducted by telephone June 26-28, among a random national sample of 1,017 adults. The margin of sampling error for results among the full sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points. It is 4.5 points for results among the 490 Democrats and Democratic- leaning independents and 5 points for results among the 407 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.
By Jennifer Agiesta, CNN Polling Director