Reputation Audit: Marco Rubio

May 05, 2014, 10:40 AM GMT+0

Public opinion is split on Marco Rubio, but many Americans simply don't know who the Florida Senator even is

Florida Republicans Senator Marco Rubio is less well-known by both Republicans and the public overall than are some other possible GOP presidential contenders: in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll Rubio gets a positive assessment from half of Republicans, but a third of Republicans aren’t able to give him a rating one way or another. And like the other possible candidates measured in recent Economist/YouGov Polls, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Rubio’s ratings from the public overall are mixed to negative.

Of course, one advantage that Rubio may have as a GOP nominee is his potential to capture some Hispanic voters who increasingly have been voting for Democratic candidates (Rubio was born in Miami to immigrants from Cuba). But Hispanics in this poll have not yet decided they like Rubio: more are unfavorable than not. And, like many Americans, nearly a third of Hispanics have yet to form an opinion of Rubio.

As the child of immigrants, Rubio has made news by both crafting immigration reform legislation but then opposing its passage, many say because of pressure from conservative Republicans. However, half of Republicans think Rubio says what he believes – not want he thinks people want to hear. His scores on this measure may not be as positive as those Republicans give Mike Huckabee or Rand Paul, but are on a par with their ratings for Chris Christie, and better than those for Jeb Bush.

For the total public, more are negative than positive on Rubio’s straightforwardness.

Rubio’s immigration positions get few mentions when respondents are asked to take one word to describe Rubio, but the question of his honesty and consistent position-taking (or lack of it) showed up in both the word clouds of those favorable and those unfavorable towards Rubio.

Those with favorable opinions are most likely to describe Rubio as “honest” and “intelligent.” Those with unfavorable opinions call him an “opportunist” and a “hypocrite” along with what they see as other negative qualities (which for some include the label “conservative” and even “Republican”).

There are few mentions of Rubio’s ethnicity from either group, and at least one of the unfavorable respondents thought of Rubio as a “Canadian,” perhaps confusing him with Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada.

Unlike the clear rating of Huckabee as a conservative (six in ten Republicans and a majority of the public overall describe Huckabee that way), images of Rubio’s conservative bona fides are less clear. Just under half (of both Republicans and the public overall) view Rubio as a conservative.

Rubio is slightly less likely to be seen as conservative than Rand Paul is, but is more frequently viewed that way than either Jeb Bush or Christie.

Only 4% of Republicans say they “dislike” Rubio personally. Six in ten like him. But like most of the other possible GOP Republican candidates that have been given a performance audit in the Economist/YouGov Polls, Republicans are less sure that Rubio has the qualifications to serve as President – or whether or not they even want him to run. That is a problem Rubio shares with many other possible GOP candidates. In Rubio’s case, one in four Republicans don’t think he has the qualifications to be President, nearly as many say they would be uneasy with his handling of an international crisis, and just 29% say they want him to run in 2016.

And while there is opposition to his running from the public overall (17% of the public think Rubio should run, 44% do not), there are many – Republicans as well as Democrats – who aren’t sure, perhaps leaving an opening for persuasion should Rubio choose to be a 2016 contender.

Image: Getty

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.