No favorites among GOP 2016 candidates

February 04, 2015, 8:42 PM GMT+0

Jeb Bush has the highest support among Republicans for a 2016 run, but even then a significant minority of GOP voters oppose his candidacy

More than a dozen Republicans are talking about (or at least not denying they are thinking about) a run for the Presidency in 2016, but Republicans in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll have yet to work up enthusiasm for any of the possibilities. Some – like 2008 Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin – find a majority of Republicans opposed to a run. But Palin is not alone among Republicans possibilities who don’t find much enthusiasm for the 2016 contest among their party members.

Just a third of Republicans favor a run by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, while close to half oppose one. For Rick Santorum, who finished second to Mitt Romney in the 2012 GOP nomination battle and Senator Lindsay Graham, even fewer Republicans want them to run than want Christie to, while just as many Republicans say “no.”

For the most part, Republicans are happy that their party’s 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney, took himself out of the running. Just a third say they wish Romney hadn’t done that.

Romney remains popular with Republicans in general. But his 2012 running mate, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan is even more popular. Republicans are three times more likely to have a favorable than an unfavorable view of Romney; for Ryan, favorable assessments outweigh unfavorable ones by nearly six to one. Still, Republicans agree with Ryan’s decision to take himself out of the 2016 race: just 23% wish he had decided to run, while 43% agree with his decision.

There are some Republicans who get significantly more positive than negative answers when Republicans are asked if each should run. That group includes former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. The balance of assessment for Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Texas Senator Ted Cruz are modestly positive.

It’s notable that about a third of Republicans don’t support runs by Bush, Cruz, and Paul. Only about a quarter oppose runs by Rubio or Walker.

Other possible candidates – some more talked about than doing the talking themselves – get mixed or even negative responses when Republicans are asked if they should run. For businesswoman (and losing 2010 California GOP Senate candidate) Carly Fiorina and Ohio Governor John Kasich, more Republicans don’t want them to run than do (though many have no opinion). For others, the answers on whether they should run are more evenly divided.

Sarah Palin made headlines last week with a speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit that puzzled many, including some conservatives. Palin does get high marks for saying what she really believes – and not just from Republicans. This is very different than the public’s opinion about many politicians, including President Obama, about whom as many say he mostly tells people want they want to hear as think he speaks his mind.

There is a question for many whether Palin, who indicated she might consider running in 2016, is considered qualified for the job. In January 2011, a year before the last presidential election, Republicans in an Economist/YouGov Poll viewed Palin as having the qualifications to be an “effective” President. But that kind of GOP belief in Palin’s abilities no longer exists. In this week’s poll, Republicans are somewhat more likely to think Palin does not have the qualifications to be President as to think she does.

Palin is still liked by Republicans – as are all of the possible candidates asked about in this poll. The positive margins in some cases, however, are relatively narrow. That’s particularly the case for Christie: 48% of Republicans in this poll give Christie a favorable rating, but 40% are unfavorable.

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