Monmouth Poll: Christie’s numbers drop, Bush leads, Trump gets a bump

The latest Monmouth University Poll of Republican voters nationwide found significant bumps, both in the vote choice question and candidate favorability, for Jeb Bush and Donald Trump since they threw their hats into the rings.  Bobby Jindal has made no headway since he entered the race, and Chris Christie may actually be losing ground since his announcement.  Despite Trump’s surge, the poll also found that many GOP voters are not taking his candidacy seriously.

When Republicans are asked who they would support for the GOP nomination for president, Jeb Bush nominally leads the pack with 15%, followed by Donald Trump at 13%, and Ted Cruz at 9%.  The next group of candidates includes Scott Walker (7%) – who is formally announcing today – Mike Huckabee (7%), Marco Rubio (6%), Ben Carson (6%), and Rand Paul (6%).  The rest of the field garners no more than 2% of the vote, including Rick Perry (2%), Chris Christie (2%), Bobby Jindal (2%), Rick Santorum (2%), Carly Fiorina (1%), and John Kasich (1%), Lindsey Graham and George Pataki earn less than a half a percentage point.  Jim Gilmore, who expressed his intent to enter the race in early August and is included in the Monmouth University Poll for the first time, has no support.  Another 18% of GOP voters say they still are unsure of who they will support for the party’s nomination.

Four candidates have entered the race since the last Monmouth poll was taken in June.  Of these, Jeb Bush’s support increased 6 points from 9% and Donald Trump’s support increased 11 points from 2%.  Bobby Jindal’s support remains unchanged from 1% and Chris Christie’s support has dropped two points from 4%.  While Christie’s two-point drop may be statistically insignificant it could be meaningful if other polls also place him out of the top ten, and thus off the stage for the first debate next month.  Among the rest of the field, Ted Cruz’s support has increased by 4 points from 5% in June while Ben Carson’s has dropped by 5 points from 11%.  Support for the other candidates has changed by no more than three points since the last Monmouth University Poll.

“The biggest poll bump over the past few weeks has been for Donald Trump.  But you’ve got to wonder if his support has already plateaued since many Republican voters don’t view him as a serious candidate,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

The poll asked GOP voters whether any of the Republican candidates in the presidential race are doing it more to get themselves publicity than to make a serious run for the office.  While one third (32% said no and 1-in-5 (21%) were unsure, nearly 4-in-10 (39%) named Donald Trump as a candidate who is in it more for the publicity.  Chris Christie is named by 9% and Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee are each named by 5%.  [Note: poll respondents could name more than one person for this question.]

For the most part, the poll did not find significant shifts in the Republican field’s favorability ratings.  Exceptions to this include recent entrants, Bush, Trump, and Jindal, as well as Santorum.  Chris Christie’s voter rating dropped by a small amount since he announced.

Jeb Bush now garners a solid 50% favorable to 30% unfavorable rating among his party’s electorate.  This marks an improvement over his narrowly positive 40% to 35% rating in June.  Bush also gets net positive ratings from very conservative Republicans (48% to 41%) and Tea Party supporters (45% to 40%).  In prior polls, Bush held net negative ratings with these two important voting blocs.

Trump’s voter rating has gone from a decidedly negative 20% favorable and 55% unfavorable in June to just a narrowly negative 40% favorable and 41% unfavorable rating now.  He has also made an incredible surge among the Tea Party supporters – flipping his decidedly net negative 20% to 55% rating with this group to a decidedly positive 56% favorable to 26% unfavorable rating now.

“It looks like Tea Party voters are really responding to Trump’s aggressive illegal immigrant message,” said Murray.

Bobby Jindal’s net rating has also improved, from 27% favorable and 16% unfavorable in June to 35% favorable and 15% unfavorable now.  Still, half of GOP voters feel they don’t know enough about Jindal to give him an evaluation, which is unchanged from prior polls.

Rick Santorum is the only other candidate who enjoyed a significant improvement in his net rating since June, now standing at 40% favorable and 18% unfavorable compared to 33% favorable and 22% unfavorable last month.

Chris Christie’s rating has declined slightly to 25% favorable and 45% unfavorable.  This is not statistically significant when compared to his June 26% to 43% rating, but his standing among Republican voters has dropped in every poll since December 2014, when it stood at a nominally positive 36% favorable and 34% unfavorable.

Candidates who have maintained their net positive ratings since June are Marco Rubio at 53% favorable to 19% unfavorable, Mike Huckabee at 53% to 23%, Ted Cruz at 48% to 16%, Ben Carson at 48% to 11%, Rick Perry at 45% to 21%, Rand Paul at 44% to 26%, Scott Walker at 42% to 11%, Carly Fiorina at 30% to 18%, and John Kasich at 19% to 16%.  Candidates whose net negative ratings haven’t budged are Lindsey Graham at 17% to 33% and George Pataki at 13% to 31%.  Jim Gilmore enters the race with the lowest name recognition of the field and a negative 6% favorable to 14% unfavorable rating.

The poll also found that Republican voters are divided on how the large field of 2016 contenders might impact their party.  One third (34%) say the number of candidates in the race is good for the party and a similar 39% say it is bad for the party, while 22% say it has no impact.  Ideological moderates are more likely to say the impact will be bad (40%) rather than good (24%) for the party when compared to conservatives (36% good and 39% bad).

“Moderates may make up a small proportion of the GOP primary electorate, but their opinions could provide a window on how independents may view the Republican brand in November 2016 based on this field,” said Murray.

The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from July 9 to 12, 2015 with 1,001 adults in the United States.   This release is based on a sample of 336 registered voters who identify themselves as Republicans or lean toward the Republican Party.  This voter sample has a margin of error of +5.4 percent.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.