Monday, October 7, 2013

Very Conservative Voters Lift Ted Cruz In Latest Repubilcan Primary Polling

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The 10-month Senator from Texas has made quite the stir in the last few weeks, much to the chagrin of the GOP Establishment upper-brass, yet to the delight of the conservative grassroots. Conducting a 21-hour Senate filibuster can do that to you. And whether by calculated design or not, Cruz has gotten the attention of Republican primary voters, at least according to a recent Public Policy Polling Survey.

In a crowded field of 9 candidates, he manages 20% of the vote, good enough for first place over Rand Paul's 17%, and eight points better than his performance in PPP's last 2016 poll.

Indeed, Cruz's rise has been a fast one, if you buy PPP's numbers. After debuting in their GOP primary polling in mid May at 7% (good enough for 6th place in a 9 candidate field), he jumped to 12% in July. And for the third survey in a row, Cruz gained again, settling at his current 20%.

At that rate, Cruz could be well on his way to a third of the primary vote within the next couple months. Of course, PPP has featured an array of GOP primary leaders since starting their 2016 polling last year (Christie, Rubio, and Rand Paul have all led in the survey at some point), and Cruz's rise may be as temporary as some of theirs. But one thing is for sure: the more self-identified "very conservative" voters showing up in 2016 GOP primary polling, the better for Ted Cruz.

Why is that? Because he's performing really well among this segment of Republican primary voters. He picks up 34%, the largest  percentage obtained by any potential 2016 GOP candidate polled by PPP to date (Marco Rubio won 29% of 'very conservative voters' in a January survey). Not only that, but Cruz towers above the rest of the field in this category, leaving Rand Paul and Paul Ryan far behind in 2nd and third place with 17% and 12%, respectively.

This matters because very conservative voters make up such a large portion of the likely GOP electorate. Consider the table below:

At the time the poll was taken, 'very conservative' respondents made up the largest block of Republican primary voters. In fact, conservative voters in general haven't dropped below 74% of primary voters in a PPP poll yet.

If Cruz is truly able to count on a Republican Primary electorate as conservative as the ones being found by PPP this year, then he certainly would be well positioned against other likely 2016 candidates. Though unfortunately for Cruz and his supporters, past primary exit poll data hasn't found such electorates in Republican presidential primaries from 2012, 2008, 2000, and 1996. Consider the table below:

Math behind the above numbers can be found here.

Moderate/liberal GOP primary voters have made up significantly larger portions of past primary electorates than PPP's been finding this year, while very conservative voters were smaller in number. And if history repeats itself in 2016, it will be Chris Christie, and not Ted Cruz, who becomes the major benefactor.

Christie may not be the most beloved figure on the far right, but self-identified moderate or liberal Republican primary voters like him just fine. Like Ted Cruz with very conservative voters, Chris Christie picks up one-third of moderate/liberal voters (32%). It's just not all that entirely helpful because PPP is finding far less moderate/liberal primary voters than actually showed up in the last four Republican presidential primaries. The table below points out how the PPP poll would have looked had they found a GOP electorate that resembled the 2012 (most recent GOP primary) and 2000 electorates (most moderate/liberal, least very conservative electorate of last four presidential primaries):

Math behind the numbers can be found here.

As you can clearly see, Christie performs stronger in both hypotheticals involving more moderate/liberal GOP primary voters, jumping from 3rd place to tied for 2nd under a 2012 scenario, and even taking the lead under the 2000 scenario.

Who knows whether PPP is picking up on a real-life trend in the Republican Party in which party members have become quite a bit more conservative since 2012. And it's not entirely infeasible - after all, perhaps conservatives are fired up following the 21-hour Senate filibuster, the failed Obamacare defunding effort, and the government shutdown. But if the 2016 GOP electorate looks anything like the last four, Christie may be stronger in a primary than some have speculated.

On a final note, it may be worth noting that Cruz's rapid rise with the Republican grassroots comes with a drawback; national adults as a whole aren't that impressed with him.

The chart below documents every survey of Cruz's national favorability rating this year.

As you can see, his national favorability ratings, while never stellar, have been even less impressive since the Senate filibuster began on September 24, 2013. And a recent Quinnipiac survey showed him trailing Hillary Clinton by a massive margin (54-31%; that same survey also shows Cruz tied with Jeb Bush for 5th place in a GOP primary).

Of course, it's incredibly early, and Cruz is still largely unknown to the American public, filibuster aside. But his rise in Republican circles hasn't come without drawbacks.

UPDATE: On Megyn Kelly's new Fox News show tonight, she reported that a brand new Politico poll finds Senator Ted Cruz's favorable/unfavorable rating in Virginia at 26/45%. That's considerably worse than any of the already poor numbers he's seen since nationally since his filibuster on September 24. I'll reiterate - it seems Cruz's rise within his own party has coincided with a drop nationally.

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