(Charleston, West Virginia) – As many of my readers know, I have an addiction to political polling. I just love it. It has so many interesting layers. Of course, the poll the public gets is usually just the “Who’s Winning” data, with little else. But the pollsters ask so much more - much of it very telling. I have a CBS News poll from October that is 40 pages long. It sought to find a lot of significant nuggets and nuance, so let’s “brunch” on that this week:
“Clinton Clamor” – If you think it’s just Republicans who are upset about Hillary Clinton's using a private email server while Secretary of State, guess again. When asked “Do you think it was appropriate or not appropriate for Hillary Clinton to exclusively use a personal email address and server for work while she was Secretary of State?” 71 percent of Republican said “Not Appropriate,” which is no surprise. But by a 48 percent to 41 percent margin, Democrats also said “Not Appropriate!” As for independents – the crucial group needed to win the White House – 72 percent of them responded “Not Appropriate.”
“Love/Hate Relationship” – Donald Trump may be the frontrunner or near the top of the GOP field; but he has that concern about his support being “a mile wide, but only an inch deep,” which can be very worrisome to any campaign. While Trump has a favorable rating among voters at 28 percent, his unfavorable rating stands at 53 percent. By the way, the only other GOP candidate who has a higher negative than positive rating is Jeb Bush. Only 20 percent of voters from all parties rated Bush as “Favorable” while 48 percent rated him “Not Favorable.”
“This Is NEW!!!” – Campaign 2016 is different from all others for a couple of reasons. First, no Presidential campaign has ever started – in earnest – this early. The debates on Fox and CNN have not only been among the highest-rated programs this year; they’ve also been the highest rated in the history of these news networks. Debates on lower-tier channels, such as CNBC and Fox Business Channel, have been huge. Second, voters are engaged. Among all voters, 42 percent say they’ve been paying “a lot” of attention to the campaign. At this point in 2007, only 24 percent said, “a lot.” Today, 71 percent of respondents said the race was “interesting,” compared to only 40 percent at this point in the campaign four years ago!
“This Will Change” – Given the events in Paris on Friday, I suspect the following poll numbers will change and, perhaps, change drastically. When asked what issue voters wanted candidates to discuss most, 24 percent said the economy and jobs; 11 percent said immigration; and just 10 percent said foreign policy. Given the successful attacks against ISIS this week, and the tragic response in Paris, I suspect these numbers will change. Months ago, I predicted national security would wind up the number one issue in campaign 2016. I stand by that.
“Trump, Trumped?” – For all the fanfare and celebrity that surrounds Donald Trump, you have to wonder whether his campaign has the "legs" to run the Presidential gauntlet. As always, a Presidential campaign is a marathon, not a sprint; and that is true for all candidates. If Trump is the nominee, only 29 percent of Republican voters say they will give “enthusiastic support.” Those who would “support with reservations” stand at a whopping 42 percent. And 19 percent of Republicans say they would offer “no support.” Yes, those numbers can change in a year’s time, but I bet these figures are gnawing at Republican Party leaders.
“Character Counts” – So what qualities are we looking for in our new Commander in Chief? Respondents to the CBS News poll were overwhelming on two counts. A full 39 percent said they wanted a candidate who “is honest and trustworthy.” Another 36 percent said they wanted a candidate who “is a strong leader.” Coming in at a distant third place, was 13 percent of the electorate saying they wanted a nominee who “cares about people like me.”
“This is DIFFERENT!” – In many elections, people withhold judgement until late in the campaign. That does not appear to be the case this time – although that could change once we have the party nominees. Right now, only five percent of Democrats say they are still “undecided” about their candidate choice. As for Republicans, a mere 11 percent remain “undecided.” This is a huge difference from previous campaigns.
“What All of This Means” – First, a cautionary note: As I always say, polls are just a “snapshot” of one moment in time. Unexpected events can happen (like the terrorist attacks in Paris); and people can change their minds. Remember, at Christmas of 2007, those leading the polls by wide margins were Republican Rudy Giuliani and Democrat Hillary Clinton, yet neither was nominated.
“Why this Matters” – I’ve never seen a Presidential campaign get so intense so early; and this is the tenth campaign I’ve covered. The debate ratings have floored me, since they are so astronomically high. Yes, the Trump “entertainment” factor was a novelty at first, but now he’s the real deal. This isn’t just a “Survivor” episode anymore; he could actually win. Campaign 2016 continues to astound and fascinate me.
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Photo and polling credit: CBSnews.com