Poll: Early look at 2016 shows 5-way race for GOP nomination

Wednesday, April 3, 2013 - 10:00am

With more than two and a half years to go until the start of the next primary and caucus calendar, there's no front-runner in the battle for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

That's the finding of a new national poll by Quinnipiac University, which also indicates that by a more than two to one margin, GOP voters would prefer a nominee with experience as a governor rather than a senator.

According to the survey, 19% of Republicans and voters who lean towards the GOP say that if their party's primary for president was held today, they'd back Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, with Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, last year's Republican vice presidential nominee, at 17%, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky at 15%, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 14%, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 10%.

Among the other possible GOP White House hopefuls questioned, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal registered at 3%, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker came in at 2%, and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was the pick of 1% of Republican voters. Nearly one in five surveyed were unsure.

One caveat with such polling so early in a presidential campaign cycle is that they are often heavily influenced by name recognition.

"Three years before the nominating process, the Republicans have no clear favorite," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Sen. Marco Rubio benefits from his exposure giving the GOP response to the State of the Union while Congressman Paul Ryan is known as the Republican vice presidential candidate. But history tells us being the running-mate on a losing ticket does not help one's presidential chances. The last three Republicans in that spot were Sarah Palin, Jack Kemp and Dan Quayle, while the Democrats in that role were John Edwards, Joe Lieberman and Lloyd Bentsen."

While there is no front-runner, Republicans by a 59%-23% margin say they would prefer someone with experience as a governor rather than a senator as their party's nominee.

The poll also looks ahead to the 2014 midterm elections, when the GOP will try and recapture the Senate and the Democrats will attempt to re-take the House of Representatives. According to the survey, 43% of all voters questioned said that if the November 2014 elections were held today, they'd vote for the Democratic candidate in their congressional district, with 35% saying they'd support the Republican candidate. The Democrats need a net-gain of 17 seats to recapture the House.

The survey indicates that Congressional Republicans have a 19%-71% approval/disapproval rating, compared to a 34%-59% rating for Democrats in Congress. And the Democratic party has a 38%-44% favorable/unfavorable rating, compared to a 28%-52% rating for the GOP.

"The Republican brand is essentially in the toilet these days, but it's worth remembering the Democrats faced a similar situation in the late 1980s and got their house in order and returned to power in short order,' added Brown.

According to the poll, more people think the Republican Party can do a better job handling the federal deficit and that the Democratic Party can do a better job handling health care, same-sex marriage, and immigration, with voters divided on which party can perform better on the economy, taxes and gun control.

Four in ten said the economy and jobs was the most important issue when it comes to their vote next year for Congress, with one in five listing the budget or budget deficit, another one in five listing health care, 9% saying gun issues and 8% saying taxes.

The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted March 26-April 1, with 1,711 registered voters nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error was plus or minus 2.4 percentage points, with a sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points for questions only of Republicans.

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