Most Republican voters want someone from outside of the political establishment to win their party's nomination for the presidential election

Republicans haven’t lost their appetite for presidential debates: two in three Republicans claim they will be watching on Wednesday night, about the same percentage that said they would watch the first two GOP debates.  Half of Republicans in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll say they are very interested in the debate, and one in four believe debate performances will be very important in deciding how they will vote in their party’s nominating competitions. 

What will Republicans be looking for in the debates?  Two in three Republicans believe it’s more important to find a candidate who agrees with them on the issues than to have a nominee who can win a general election. Democrats are also looking for the same thing – issue similarity is more important to them than electability.

But Republicans part ways with Democrats when it comes to what issues matter most. Although the CNBC debate is meant to focus on economic issues, two in three Republicans agree that foreign policy issues are very important in determining their vote next year: the fight against ISIS, as well as the Iran nuclear deal. Republicans also name immigration reform and the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as very important.  57% name tax reform. 

The biggest issues for Democrats are quite different: economic inequality, guns, climate change, and money in politics. Only tax reform interests both parties equally.

Democrats and Republicans also differ on the importance of a candidate’s experience within the political system. For Democrats, experience is a positive; for Republicans it is a negative. Of course, the major Democratic candidates have been elected officials, while the top two Republicans have never been elected to political office. 

The Republicans horserace continues to be dominated by businessman Donald Trump and neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Trump is still the leader in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, with Carson in second place. Florida Senator Marco Rubio is the highest ranked Republican elected official. Those three are the only Republican candidates who score in double digits with registered voters who think of themselves as Republicans. 

Trump and Carson are effectively tied when first and second choice preferences are combined. 43% of Republicans choose Trump first or second; 42% say Carson is their first or second choice. Rubio is far behind those two, but runs ahead of Jeb Bush, his Florida colleague. 

The Economist/YouGov Poll includes the responses of 2,000 adults nationwide. The larger sample size means there are about 500 self-identified Republicans, and it is possible to look at subgroups within the party. Trump runs equally well with men and women, though his first choice margin over Carson is bigger among men than it is with women. Carson runs ahead of Trump in the Midwest; Trump leads in all other regions. 

41% of Republicans this week believe Trump is their party’s likely nominee. And three in four Republicans think he can defeat the Democratic nominee, whomever that is. But Trump is not the only Republicans thought of as a possible fall winner. As many think Carson could win as think Trump can; Majorities of Republicans also see Rubio and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush as possible winners. 

See the Economist/YouGov results

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.

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