Sunday, July 28, 2013

Democratic Pollster finds 2016 Republican Candidates Nipping At Hillary's Heels

Photos courtesy of Donkeyhotey

Despite signs of shocking strength in Public Policy Polling 2016 state surveys earlier this year, the unquestionable front-runner for the Democratic nomination is seeing less success at a national level, especially considering the most recent numbers from the left-leaning NC based pollster:

So Gov. Chris Christie, fmr. VP nominee Paul Ryan, and President Bush's brother Jeb are all essentially tied with Hillary Clinton. Marco Rubio is within the margin of error, and Rand Paul is within 10 points of her.

What's going on here? I thought Hillary was unstoppable, poised to not only win by double digits in the general election against all of her potential opponents, but poised to start picking off traditionally red states in a fashion not seen since the '84 Reagan landslide.

In fact, just as recently as May, PPP found a considerably stronger Hillary Clinton that led Marco Rubio and Rand Paul by double-digits, and Chris Christie by 3 points. And in PPP's first 2016 poll from January, Clinton led Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan by 14 points. See the chart below:

But the most recent PPP poll is notable not simply because of how well the Republican candidates perform against Clinton relative to previous PPP surveys, but also how they perform relative to all other 2016 polling to date:

Marist was the last non-PPP pollster to survey the 2016 Presidential race, and they did NOT find any of the Republican candidates tied with Clinton. Christie only managed 41% to Clinton's 47%. And it only gets worse from there for the rest. Paul Ryan, who trailed Hillary Clinton by just two points in the PPP poll, finds himself a whopping 16 points behind the Democratic frontrunner. Jeb Bush trailed Hillary by a 8 points (as opposed to 3 points in the PPP poll), and Rubio, Paul, and Perry were all  down double digits.

Quinnipiac found similar results in late June and May, with Christie down 6 to Clinton, Bush down 8, and Paul down double-digits. And as far back as March, Quinnipiac had Clinton ahead of Christie by 8, Ryan by 12, and Rubio by 16. So as you can see, the recent PPP numbers represent quite a shift from the start of the year.

Pulling back the curtains on the poll results, we see some interesting racial splits among various 2016 match-ups. For example, NONE of the GOP candidates perform as well with white voters as Romney did in 2012, when he defeated Obama 59-39%. In fact, only Chris Christie and Paul Ryan manage to win whites by double digits against Hillary (by 12 and 11 points, respectively), lending credence to the notion advanced by some that Republicans will have trouble repeating their 2012 performance with white voters against a Democrat who is not an African American. Also notable is the fact that Hillary Clinton is able to keep Rand Paul limited to a 6 point advantage (46-40%) among white voters.

But how are the Republicans performing so well against Clinton while still falling short of 2012 numbers with white voters? Believe it or not, it's the non-white voters making Republicans competitive with Hillary. For example, the crosstabs indicate that Jeb Bush, who trails Hillary Clinton overall 44-41%, only trails among Hispanics 51-34%. That's an exponentially better performance among Latinos than Romney saw in 2012, when he lost the group 71-27%. In fact, ALL of the GOP contenders are able to keep Hillary limited to no more than 57% of the Latino vote. Furthermore, ALL GOP contenders keep Hillary limited to no more than 78% of the African American vote, a notable decline from Barack Obama's 93% in 2012 (lending credence to the notion advanced by some that African American support for Democrats will drop in the event the nominee is not African American).

For what it's worth, there appears to be two findings in the crosstabs that benefit each sides' poll standings. For Republicans, it's the fact that PPP finds an electorate that is quite probably more white, and less minority than 2016 will actually be, given past trends. Consider the chart below:

Information courtesy of Best And Krueger's Exit Polls - Surveying the American Electorate, 1972-2010

PPP finds white voters making up 73% of respondents, higher than it was in 2012, while the non-white vote was down compared to 2012.  The finding seems odd when you consider that the white share of the vote has decreased in each election sine 1992, while the Latino vote has increased in each election since 1992. The African American share of the vote has been at 13% for the last two cycles.

The trends seem fairly obvious. As I've argued before on this blog, an electorate that breaks down as 70% white, 13% African American, 12% Latino, 3% Asian, and 2% Other certainly seems like a plausible scenario in 2016.  Below is what the PPP results would have looked like had their racial findings broken down in such a fashion:

Obviously, with less white voters and more minority voters in the electorate, the Democrat is going to benefit, and Hillary is no exception.

The most beneficial poll finding for the Democrats is the D+9 partisan identification finding. PPP currently finds survey respondents identifying as 41% Democrat, 32% Republican, and 26% Independent, or D+9. That's quite the improvement for Democrats since the 2012 election, when the electorate was at D+6, and if it held, would be the largest partisan advantage in a presidential election for either party since 1980, when Democrats outnumbered Republicans at the polls 45-30%.

Just for fun, how would the PPP results have looked had the survey found party I.D. at 38% Democrat, 34% Republican, and 28% Independent (the average partisan identification of voters in the last 3 presidential elections)?

Not surprisingly, the Republicans look stronger than before, with both Christie and Ryan taking insignificant leads over Clinton. Jeb Bush would tie her, and Rubio would trail by 1. 

Though the recent PPP poll is certainly Hillary's worst of the 2016 cycle to date, it's not all bad news for the Democratic frontrunner. Hey, she hasn't trailed a single GOP contender in any 2016 poll taken to date, and that's not insignificant. But the new poll makes one thing clear: Hillary is NOT invincible, and she's polling about even with the top potential GOP candidates.

This begs a question: if PPP is correct, and at this very early stage of the race, the universally known Hillary Clinton is tied or barely ahead of five lesser-known Republican politicians, why all the media/rank-and-file Democratic clamor for a Hillary candidacy?

One more thing. PPP also released a national survey of the 2016 Democratic Primary showing Hillary reaching her lowest level of support yet over the course of seven polls (52%). That's an 11 point drop from her 63% level of support in May.

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