Bush and Huckabee: Moderates and conservatives square off

April 27, 2015, 9:10 PM UTC

Despite appealing to different sections of the Republican party, Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee both enjoy similar levels of GOP support

Although there are already three Republicans who have announced their presidential candidacies for 2016, several others – some with more experience and visibility – are still deciding what to do.  In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, Republicans reported serious concerns about one of them, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. But many in the GOP also have worries about two other potential candidates, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.  

Ideologically, Republicans look at Jeb Bush the same way they view Christie.  Republicans, overwhelmingly conservative themselves, are more likely to view Bush as not conservative as they are to say he is when they are asked directly about Bush’s ideology: half say he is wither a liberal or a moderate.  And nearly as many think he is not conservative enough as to think he is.

Huckabee has no such problem with the Republican base.  Nearly six in ten Republicans call him a conservative. 

Huckabee has another strength:  his perceived honesty.  Nearly half of Republicans (44%) believe Huckabee has more honesty and integrity than most people in public life.  Just 26% of Republicans say this about Jeb Bush.  Honesty is also the dominant characteristic Republicans focus on when asked to describe Huckabee in a single word. 

The words Republicans use to describe Bush are ideological – with “moderate” and “liberal”: combined outweighing conservative – and many simply think of the former Florida Governor as a “Bush.”

In this week’s poll, Bush remains one of the top Republican contenders for registered voters who call themselves Republican, but the top is crowded with five other possibilities: Wisconsin Governor Scott5 Walker, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Tennessee Senator Rand Paul, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.  Huckabee is further back.   And most Republicans have claimed they would be generally satisfied even if no more than the three announced GOP candidates (Paul, Cruz and Rubio) were the only GOP contenders. 

Both Bush and Huckabee have been in national politics longer than the three announced candidates, and they are generally better-known.  Republicans also attribute more experience and strength to them.  More than two in three Republicans say each man is a strong leader, and a majority believes each is qualified to serve as President. 

Electability is a problem for all the announced candidates.  On this characteristic, Bush has an advantage.  Half the Republicans say Bush is a likely winner.  Only a quarter of Republicans think Huckabee would be likely to win the Presidency (lower than the percentage who said this last week about Paul and Rubio).  Bush gets the best results for any Republican so far in Economist/YouGov polls.

However, Bush and Huckabee have negative images among the overall public.  Half have an unfavorable view of Bush, and 42% are unfavorable towards Huckabee. 

Republicans, of course, like them both. But, as in the case of Christie, there are significant minorities of Republicans who don’t.  A third of Republicans have a negative view of Bush; a quarter don’t like Huckabee.     

See the full poll results

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.