When asked to name their top choice for 2016, Republicans and Republican-leaning voters volunteer a large field of contenders, with none breaking away from the pack. Although Paul Ryan is not on voters’ radar for the “horse race” question, he far outpaces the field when it comes to candidate favorability. The Monmouth University Poll also finds that most GOP voters are at least somewhat willing to give a little on the issues in order to support a candidate with the best shot at winning the White House.
When asked to name who they would like to see as the party’s nominee for president, Republicans and Republican leaning voters volunteer more than a dozen names, with none exceeding 10% support. Contenders include Mitt Romney (8%), Ben Carson (7%), Chris Christie (7%), Jeb Bush (6%), Ted Cruz (5%), Rand Paul (5%), Mike Huckabee (3%), Scott Walker (3%), Bobby Jindal (2%), Rick Perry (2%), Marco Rubio (2%), and Rick Santorum (1%).
The poll question asked survey participants to name a preference without providing a list of suggested candidates. A majority are able to volunteer a choice more than a year before the first official nominating contest. Another 37% say they are undecided at this stage and 8% report that they do not plan to support any Republican candidate in 2016.
Favored contenders for the GOP nomination among self-identified Tea Party supporters include Ben Carson (13%), Ted Cruz (10%), and Mitt Romney (9%). Among Republicans who are not aligned with the Tea Party, 9% prefer Chris Christie, 7% name Jeb Bush, and 7% pick Mitt Romney as their choice for 2016.
“The Republican field is wide open, with different factions of the party circling around very different candidates,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, New Jersey. “This could lead to a bruising nominating contest, but most GOP voters say they are at least somewhat willing to put their ideological preferences aside in order to get behind the most electable candidate.”
The Monmouth University Poll found that a majority (57%) of Republicans and Republican leaning voters say they are willing to support a candidate they don’t fully agree with on the issues in order to nominate someone who would have the best shot at winning the White House. This includes 12% who are very willing and 45% who are somewhat willing. Another 18% are not too willing to do this and 22% are not at all willing. Slightly more Tea Party-aligned voters (66%) than non-Tea Party supporters (54%) claim they are willing to consider electability over ideology.
“The willingness of Tea Party supporters to prioritize electability may depend on which candidate they are being asked to support. Some seem to be more palatable than others,” said Murray. “Two of the most talked about possibilities, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, are viewed negatively by a significant number of Tea party voters.”
The poll asked Republican voters for their general impression of 15 potential candidates for the party’s presidential nomination in 2016. Wisconsin Congressman, and the 2012 nominee for Vice President, Paul Ryan has the strongest net positive personal rating among his party’s voters while New Jersey Governor Chis Christie has the weakest rating among top tier candidates, particularly with Tea Party supporters.
Overall, Chris Christie gets a favorable rating from 36% of GOP voters and an unfavorable rating from a similar 34%. He does better among those who are not aligned with the Tea Party – 41% favorable to 27% unfavorable, but is viewed negatively by Tea Party supporters – 27% favorable to 46% unfavorable. Christie is the only candidate tested in the poll with an “upside down” rating among Tea Party-aligned Republicans.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is another high-profile contender who gets mixed ratings from Republican voters – 39% favorable to 30% unfavorable. Tea Party supporters are evenly divided on Bush – 39% positive to 38% negative, while those unaligned with the Tea Party give him a more positive 39% favorable to 24% unfavorable rating.
Paul Ryan, on the other hand, garners an overall favorable rating from 50% GOP voters and an unfavorable rating from just 11% of party voters – for a net positive evaluation of 39 percentage points. This is even better than the net rating received by former Massachusetts Governor and 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney – who gets a 55% favorable to 30% unfavorable for a net positive score of 25 points.
Other potential 2016 candidates who have net positive ratings of 22 to 24 points include: Texas Governor Rick Perry (43% favorable to 20% unfavorable), Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (42% to 18%), former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee (45% to 22%), Texas Senator Ted Cruz (39% to 15%), and Florida Senator Marco Rubio (38% to 16%).