Firstly, a look at the overall race: Ben Carson and Donald Trump are still in a dead heat, well ahead of the rest of the field at 24 percent and 23 percent, respectively. Marco Rubio registers in third at 12 percent, while Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz are tied for a distant fourth at 8 percent. All the other candidates each garnered only 5 percent or lower.
Interestingly, Carson and Trump split this survey group in much the same way they did in the Fox News poll. Trump wins moderates, Tea Party supporters, those making less than $50,000 a year, and those without a college degree, while Carson wins conservatives/very conservatives, non-Tea Party supporters, those making over $50,000, and college graduates. Based on this split, one might expect Trump to be the more attractive general election candidate, with a more moderate, populist appeal. Many Republican voters seem to agree, with a 31 percent plurality saying they believe Trump has the best chance of winning the White House next November, versus only 26 percent for Carson.
However, once again, the rest of the data seem to refute this notion. In head-to-head polling, Trump loses to Hillary Clinton by 15 points, while Carson loses only by 2 points. And when matched up with Clinton, Carson performs better with independents than Trump (48-39), as well as with moderates (45-34), those making less than $50,000 (47-38), and those without a college degree (46-42), all categories where Trump outperforms him among just Republicans. Thus, it would appear, contrary to initial indicators, that Carson actually has better crossover appeal than Trump, as I suggested last week.
New favorability ratings lend further support to this notion. Republican respondents in this survey were asked for several candidates whether they liked or disliked each candidate more the more they heard about them. The candidates performed as follows:
- Ben Carson: +47, 13% unsure
- Marco Rubio: +31, 15% unsure
- Ted Cruz: +20, 19% unsure
- Carly Fiorina: +12, 20% unsure
- Donald Trump: -5, 7% unsure
- Jeb Bush: -26, 10% unsure
Of course, much could still change between now and Iowa, especially with another debate on tap tonight and Carson facing a barrage of negative media, so the usual caveats apply. Nevertheless, at the moment, Ben Carson appears to be the Republicans’ best chance at a 2016 victory.
Paul Dupont is the managing editor for ThePulse2016.com.