The new candidate is popular with certain key groups, such as evangelical Christians and conservative Republicans – but then so are some of his GOP rivals
Freshman Texas Sen. Ted Cruz officially kicked off the 2016 election season on Monday. He announced his candidacy at Liberty University, an institution was founded Rev. Jerry Falwell, and the setting is seen as part of his effort to define himself as candidate of choice for socially conservative primary voters in a crowded GOP field.
Does Ted Cruz have a chance at winning over these voters?
The latest Economist/YouGov poll shows Cruz chose a friendly audience with the students at Liberty University. 42% of self-identified evangelical Christians have a favorable opinion of Cruz, while only 24% see him in a negative light.
But even among socially conservative voters he will face some stiff competition. His net rating of +18 makes him the third-most popular Republican out of the 14 YouGov asks about weekly, behind former neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Arkansas Gov. and ordained Southern Baptist minister Mike Huckabee. Cruz is way ahead of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is sometimes discussed as a favorite for the nomination because of his fundraising prowess and popularity with the Republican establishment. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, another buzzed-about candidate, is not far behind Cruz, at +14.
There is at least one other key area where Cruz does better. The Texas senator draws even with, or even tops Huckabee – and all other GOP 2016 hopefuls – among conservative Republicans. 65% of Americans who identify as both Republican and ideologically conservative like Cruz, against only 7% who do not, giving him a net +58 favorable rating, compared to the +56 rating received by Huckabee and the +53 earned by Walker.
The Tea Party
Cruz rode a wave of Tea Party support to his victory over Republican establishment favorite David Dewhurst in his 2012 GOP primary, and the lawmaker remains popular among Tea Party supporters. He has a +56 favorable rating with this group, tying with Walker (+56) and narrowing ahead of Marco Rubio (+53) and Bobby Jindal (+52). However, Walker has Cruz clearly beat among Tea Party intensity: 44% of this group have a “very” favorable opinion of Walker, versus 32% for Cruz.
Not all Republican primary voters will be socially conservative Tea Party supporters. Nor will all of them even identify as Republicans. Among ideologically moderate independents and Republicans, Ted Cruz comes fourth-to-last, with a -12 rating, though virtually none of the potential Republican candidates are very popular with this group. Only Ben Carson scores a positive rating (+6). Rand Paul gets an even 0.
|Net favorability of 2016 Republican hopefuls…|
|Click headings to sort|
|Evangelical Christians||Conservative Republicans||Tea party supporters||Moderate independents & Republicans|
|Mar. 14-16, 2015|
The net ratings don't show the high number of "not sure" responses that remain for a number of the candidates, particularly individuals like Ohio governor John Kasich and businesswoman Carly Fiorina, whom around half or more of each group were unsure about. Ted Cruz is around the middle of the pack on this measure – around 65-80% of each group has an opinion of him.
Overall, the findings are a mixed bag for the senator from Texas. Cruz starts his campaign in good standing among several important groups within the Republican base. But he will have strong competition from others in his party, and some of these others, like Scott Walker, have also outperformed Cruz in horserace polls and may find it easier to build the sort of Republican establishment support usually essential to winning the party's nomination.
Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.