Trump’s Lead: Real or “Trumped Up”

Dec. 8, 2015 — As expressed in recent individual interviews, there is at least one major point that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), and ex-Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) agree upon. That is, Donald Trump will not become the 2016 Republican presidential nominee. Such has been the conventional political wisdom for some time, but new national polling is again showing Trump gaining steam, not just on the ballot tests but also on the underlying issue and leadership questions.

The new CNN/ORC poll (Nov. 27-Dec. 1; 1,020 adults; 930 registered voters; 403 Democratic primary voters and Independents who say they lean Democrat, 445 Republican primary voters and Independents who say they lean Republican), for example, gives Trump a commanding 36-16-14-12 percent lead over Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Dr. Ben Carson, respectively. All of the other candidates fall to four percent or below. Bush’s three percent support figure is his worst showing in any poll since the campaign began.

The good news for Trump is his substantial lead among Republican polling respondents appears verifiable. What is likely more encouraging is his dominance pertaining to questions about key issue management.

According to CNN/ORC, when asked who would best handle the economy, a whopping 55 percent of Republican respondents answered the New York international businessman as compared to nine percent who believe Cruz would be best, and seven percent who tabbed Rubio and Carson. In battling illegal immigration, 48 percent believe Trump would do the best job with Rubio at distant second with 14 percent. In terms of handling the federal budget, 51 percent have the most confidence in Trump while 10 percent said Cruz.

Foreign policy responses get a bit closer. Here, 30 percent believe Trump would best manage American foreign policy. Cruz is next at 17 percent, with Rubio close behind at a 14 percent confidence factor.

Trump again dominates when asked about who would best deal with ISIS. He records a 46 percent response from the polling sample about this subject matter compared to Cruz’s 15 percent. Rubio was a distant third at only eight percent.

Perhaps most importantly, a majority of the GOP sample, 52 percent, believe Trump has the best chance to win the election. Sen. Rubio, with 15 percent, is second on this question, followed by Cruz’s 11 percent, and Dr. Carson’s 10 percent.

But, as with most of the national polls, the CNN/ORC sample size is a woefully small universe (455 Republican likely primary voters and Independents who say they lean Republican) upon which to base major conclusions. The polls have value in that most of them are producing similar results; hence, the combined data provide us a sense that the vast majority of polls are at least within the ballpark of accuracy.

Though polls, like the just-released CNN/ORC survey, suggest Trump is paramount, he is nowhere close to the 50 percent figure. In contrast to polling, it becomes mandatory for a candidate to receive an absolute majority of the delegate votes once actual ballot casting begins. Trump is not close to securing such a support figure. And, if he isn’t, then who is? The answer is no one.

Much will happen to change the campaign perspective when voters begin actively participating in February. The trends we see now might be worthy of discussion, but conclusions will drastically modify when millions of individuals actually cast ballots as opposed to the several hundred who answer multiple survey questions.

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