New Poll: Trump Leads Post-Debate; Fiorina, Rubio, Carson, and Cruz Rise

Echelon Insights
Aug 12, 2015 · 4 min read

Before last week’s Fox News debate, we polled 860 likely Republican primary voters using Google Consumer Surveys. Today, we’re releasing our post-debate survey. At the top, the race remains basically unchanged. Donald Trump is in the #1 spot, taking 29% support. But there’s been significant movement elsewhere in the top tier.

Compared to our pre-debate survey, Trump drops 3 points. Gaining in support are Carly Fiorina (+6), Marco Rubio (+4), Ben Carson (+3), and Ted Cruz (+2). Scott Walker and Jeb Bush dropped 5 points and 4 points respectively, while other candidates come in within a percentage point of their previous showing.

How much of this movement was attributable to the debate itself? We asked respondents whether they had watched the debate (55% said they had) or watched coverage (20% said they had), or had not watched at all (25%). We then broke down responses on the ballot test by these levels of viewership. Here’s what we found:

Amongst the candidates who posted gains in our post-debate survey, Rubio, Fiorina, and Cruz polled higher among debate viewers than non-viewers, while results on this score were mixed for Ben Carson. In Fiorina’s case, the difference was stark: she ties for 2nd at 12% amongst debate viewers, while taking 4% amongst non-viewers. It now seems clear that her exclusion from the main debate stage was fortuitous, giving her a chance to stand out in the 5 p.m. debate. If these trends continue, she’s likely to make the main stage in the September 26th CNN debate.

We also took a look at support for candidates by ideology. In the survey, participants were asked to rate themselves, from very liberal to very conservative, on both social and economic issues. Those who rated themselves conservative or very conservative on both sets of issues were classified as Traditional Conservatives (47% of respondents), while those who rated themselves from slightly conservative to liberal on both social and economic issues were grouped as Centrists (32% of respondents). People who were conservative or very conservative on economic issues but no more than slightly conservative on social issues were grouped as Libertarians (17% of respondents). A further 5% were conservative or very conservative on social issues, and no more than slightly conservative on economic issues; this group was too small to allow for meaningful analysis.

Post-debate, Trump leads across the three main groups, but the configuration of candidates beneath him changes by group. Amongst Traditional Conservatives, Ted Cruz runs second (at 13%), followed by Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina at 11%. Among Centrists, Jeb Bush runs second at 12%, with no other candidate breaking double digits. Amongst Libertarians, Bush and Rubio are tied for second place at 11%. Rand Paul runs behind in this group, at 7%.

We also updated the scatterplot we used in our first survey to plot the ideology of supporters of various candidates. Ted Cruz is the major candidate with the most socially and fiscally conservative supporters, while Chris Christie’s supporters are now left-of-center on social issues.

Another important way at looking at the race at this early stage is by asking people who they think is likely to win the nomination. Here too, Donald Trump comes out on top, at 29%, but it’s a closer race between him and Jeb Bush, at 20%. Coming in third is Marco Rubio; 9% of respondents believe he will win the GOP nomination.

We see a clear ideological divide in assessments of Bush’s chances, and to some extent Trump’s. Traditional Conservatives are more than twice as likely to name Trump as the likely winner over any other candidate. Centrists are slightly more likely to believe Trump rather than Bush will win the nomination (29% to 25%), and Libertarians are most likely to name Bush the likely winner, at 30%, to 23% for Trump.

How confident are the candidates’ own supporters in their likelihood to win? It turns out that Trump and Bush supporters are much more confident than supporters of the rest of the field; fully 74% and 72% of their supporters respectively believe their candidate will be the nominee.

Supporter confidence levels can be grouped into three tiers, a top tier with Trump and Bush at confidence levels of 70%; a second tier with Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Marco Rubio, whose supporters are around 45% confident in their likelihood to win the nomination; in the third tier are candidates whose supporters are less than 40% confident in their candidate’s eventual likelihood of winning, ranging from Chris Christie at 35% to Rand Paul at 21%.

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Echelon Indicators

Data, trends, and analysis from the team at Echelon Insights