Divided Republicans: Facing 2016

October 31, 2013, 5:43 PM GMT+0

While Democrats are firmly behind Hillary Clinton, Republicans are more undecided looking ahead to the 2016 election.

Republicans came out of the recent government shutdown divided: many Republicans held negative feelings about their party’s Congressional leadership, and while most said they preferred compromise, they also held negative views about one Republican who did compromise – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. In this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll, the division remains. And when 2016 is mentioned, few Republicans favor one Republican popular with the Democratic and Independent voters a Republican needs to attract to win the Presidency.

Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, all run in double digits in terms of candidacy among Republicans nationally.

Although 17% of registered voters who call themselves Republicans nationally favor New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for their party’s 2016 presidential nomination, putting him in second place among Republicans, he may be the Democrats’ favorite Republican. More than a third of Democrats have a favorable opinion of the Governor, far more than express positive ratings of any of the other Republicans asked about in this poll. He is by far the first choice of Democrats when they are asked whom they would like the GOP to nominate in 2016, but one in three Republicans have an unfavorable view of Christie.

Christie gets more negative assessments from his party than any of the other Republicans who score in double digits in this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll. Fewer than half of Republicans judge him favorably; majorities have a favorable opinion of the other three. More than half of Republicans also view the other candidates positively.

The importance of a GOP nominee who can attract Democratic and Independent voters seems critical: registered voters asked today what they are likely to do in the 2016 election give a generic Democratic candidate a clear lead. While a third choose neither party at this time (it is, after all, three years before the election), 41% pick the Democratic candidate and only 27% the Republican.

That gap may narrow when actual candidates are mentioned.

Right now, Democrats have a clear favorite when asked their presidential preference- former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gets 76% support among those who call themselves Democrats. Vice President Joe Biden runs far behind with 9%.

When Christie is pitted against Clinton, Clinton’s lead is only five points among registered voters. Against Vice President Joe Biden, Christie actually has a 3-point lead, although that is within the poll’s margin of error.

As for Ted Cruz, he closes the generic gap against Joe Biden but not at all against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The Democratic preference for Clinton crosses all subgroups – 73% of Democratic men favor her, as do 78% of women. When asked whether they have a favorable or unfavorable view of the former First Lady, 81% of Democrats are favorable, with nearly two-thirds strongly favorable. Though 70% are favorable towards the Vice-President, just 34% are strongly favorable.

Republicans in Congress continue to have an image problem, even within their own party. Congressional Republicans are viewed less favorably than their Democratic colleagues (even though more than half have a negative view of Democrats, too). A third of Republicans have an unfavorable view of House Republicans, and 40% of Republicans dislike Senate Republicans. Looking ahead to the 2014 Congressional election – now just over a year away – registered voters with a preference choose the Democrats, 44% to 33%. Many, especially independents, aren’t sure.

Few partisans are willing to desert their party in the 2014 Congressional elections, and independents are with a preference are evenly divided, suggesting that the Congressional outcome will be greatly dependent on turnout. But Democrats – at least for now – may have an advantage.

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.

Join YouGov today! Your views can shape the news...