2016: Republicans and Democrats prefer what they know

2016: Republicans and Democrats prefer what they know
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2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney is Republicans' top pick for 2016, while Democrats prefer 2008 runner-up Hillary Clinton

Sometime next January (though the exact dates are not yet set), the 2016 presidential primary selection process will begin.   One year before then, partisans on both sides say they prefer what they know to what they don’t – with the GOP 2012 standard bearer and the woman who has been the Democratic frontrunner for years leading as their respective party’s 2016 choices.

The latest Economist/YouGov Poll gives Mitt Romney the lead when registered voters who describe themselves as Republicans are asked who they would like to win the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.  And his margin is wide – more than twice as many Republicans choose him as select the next highest-ranked Republican, Florida Governor Jeb Bush.   When Republicans are asked to choose between Bush and Romney, Romney leads by two to one. 

Good feelings about Romney are near universal among Republicans.  More than eight in ten have a favorable opinion of the former Massachusetts Governor.  Only 12% are not favorable.  Those are the best rankings for any of the possible GOP candidates included in the Economist/YouGov Poll.  The second most popular Republican is 2012’s GOP Vice Presidential nominee, Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan.  But Ryan took himself out of the 2016 competition this past weekend. 

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and Tennessee Senator Rand Paul also do well with Republicans.  All fare better than Bush with GOP identifiers.  In fact, one in four Republicans have an unfavorable opinion of the former Florida Governor.  Only Texas Senator Ted Cruz and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie have higher unfavorable ratings.  26% are unfavorable towards Cruz, and a third are unfavorable towards Christie. 

Republicans are not the only ones who are putting more confidence in those with more name recognition – and those with a longer history in the party.  Democrats, too, seem more comfortable with what they know. This week’s poll was conducted before Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren took herself out of the running for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, but even before that statement, she was trailing the runner-up for the 2008 Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton.  And trailing significantly.

Vice President Joe Biden and other possible Democratic contenders are even farther behind. 

Even though a majority of Democrats have a favorable opinion of Warren, far more give Clinton a favorable rating.  And Clinton’s positives are just about as high among Democratic men as they are among Democratic women. 

The President’s favorable rating from Democrats is only slightly higher than the rating Democrats give Clinton: 87% of Democrats have a favorable opinion of Barack Obama; 11% don’t.  Clinton fares better with Democrats than Romney does with Republicans. 

Clinton and Bush (and to a lesser extent, Romney and Paul) are members of political families.  Romney and Paul’s fathers ran for the White House; Clinton and Bush are related to men who have served as President.  Registered voters in a YouGov Poll conducted earlier this month weren’t sure that made a difference – and those who did were evenly split on whether that made them more (21%) or less (18%) likely to support someone.  

Nearly half agreed that candidates from political dynasties have more experience, but about the same percentage say they have an unfair advantage. 

As for the two most prominent members of political dynasties, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, Clinton would be ahead of Bush among registered voters if a presidential election were being held today.  But one in four voters at the moment don’t support either.

See the full poll results

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.