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Monmouth University Polling Institute

House Speakership Shadows GOP 2016

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

GOP voters dissatisfied with own leaders in Congress

West Long Branch, NJ  - The latest Monmouth University Poll of Republican voters nationwide finds no movement in the GOP presidential nomination contest.  However, the results suggest that voter dissatisfaction with the party's Congressional leadership has cast a shadow over the 2016 race.  With no end in sight for the selection of a new House Speaker, GOP voters are divided over how much influence the conservative Freedom Caucus should wield in Congress.

When Republicans and Republican-leaning voters are asked who they would support for the GOP nomination for president, Donald Trump continues to lead the pack at 28%, Ben Carson remains in second at 18%, and Ted Cruz holds third at 10%.  They are followed by Carly Fiorina (6%), Marco Rubio (6%), Jeb Bush (5%), Mike Huckabee (4%), Rand Paul (4%), and Chris Christie (3%).  None of the other six candidates garners more than one percent support.

These results have changed little from Monmouth's September poll, with most candidates' support shifting by no more than 2 percentage points, which is well within the poll's margin of error.  Jeb Bush's standing, however, has slipped in every Monmouth University Poll  taken since the summer and is now a significant 10 points lower than it was in July.

The poll also tracked the favorability ratings of the top six candidates and found that Bush is the only one who has taken a significant turn for the worse.  His current rating stands at a negative 37% favorable and 44% unfavorable.  He held a 41% - 39% split decision last month and had a much more positive 52% - 30% rating back in August.

"The money train may be chugging along for the Bush campaign, but the polling train has been steadily losing steam," said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

Favorable opinions of the other five candidates shifted only slightly over the past month.  Donald Trump holds a 52% favorable and 33% unfavorable rating, down from his campaign high of 59% - 29% last month.  Ben Carson has a 65% favorable and 11% unfavorable rating, compared to 67% - 6% in September.  Ted Cruz stands at 50% favorable and 23% unfavorable, compared to 52% - 14% in August, which was Monmouth's last poll reading of the Texas senator.  Carly Fiorina holds a 46% favorable and 22% unfavorable rating, compared to 43% - 13% last month.  Marco Rubio has a 49% favorable and 16% unfavorable rating, compared to 54% - 11% in August.

Overall, the three GOP candidates who have never held political office continue to command a majority of support among Republican voters - combining for 52% in the current poll.  Ted Cruz, while a U.S. Senator, could also be considered more of an outsider than insider.  That leaves the 11 "establishment" candidates with just 25% support among them.

In this context, then, it is not surprising that more Republican voters say that the national Republican Party does a bad job (50%) representing their concerns than say it does a good job (41%).  One problem for the national GOP is that this attitude spans the ideological spectrum, including Republicans who call themselves very conservative voters (51% bad job to 39% good job), somewhat conservative (48% to 43%), and moderate to liberal (51% to 41%).  Tea Party supporters (59% bad job to 32% good job) are even more likely than Republicans who have a neutral or negative view of the movement (46% bad job to 46% good job) to feel the national GOP does not represent their concerns.

This attitude extends to the base's view of the party leadership in Washington.  A majority of 57% are dissatisfied with the Republican leaders in Congress - including 29% who are very dissatisfied and 28% who are somewhat dissatisfied.  Only 42% are satisfied, including just 5% who are very satisfied and 37% who are somewhat satisfied.  Majorities of all ideological groups are dissatisfied.

"The turmoil over selecting a new Speaker of the House reflects an unhappy party base.  Because this disaffection reaches every corner of the GOP electorate, there is no clear indication about which route the party should take to right this ship," said Murray.

The conservative Freedom Caucus stymied a smooth transition after John Boehner's surprise resignation announcement last month.  However, somewhat more Republican voters say that the Freedom Caucus and similar conservative members of Congress have too little (39%) rather than too much (25%) power, with another 21% saying they have the right amount of influence.

The poll offers some contradictory advice for party leaders on how to handle this group - 39% of GOP voters say the Republican Congressional leadership should stand up to the Freedom Caucus more, while 35% say it should do more of what the Freedom Caucus wants.  Not surprisingly, there is a strong ideological divide in this opinion - 47% of very conservative voters say the GOP leadership should give in more to the Freedom Caucus while 52% of moderate to liberal Republicans say the leadership should stand up to the caucus.

A slight majority (52%) of Republican voters believe that the moderate and conservative wings of the Republican Party in Congress will be able to work together in the coming year - but only 7% say this is very likely, with most (45%) saying it is just somewhat likely.  More than 4-in-10 say the two wings working together is either not too likely (30%) or not at all likely (13%).

 With the House in an uproar, there has been a lot of pressure on Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan to take the reins of the speakership.  Nearly half (45%) of Republican voters think he would be a good choice for the job and just 13% feel he would be a bad choice, with 42% offering no opinion.  The prospect of a "Speaker Ryan" receives positive marks from both conservative (46% good to 13% bad) and moderate (44% good to 11% bad) voters in the party.

The Monmouth University Poll  was conducted by telephone from October 15 to 18, 2015 with 1,012 adults in the United States.  This release is based on a sample of 348 registered voters who identify themselves as Republicans or lean toward the Republican Party.  This voter sample has a margin of error of ± 5.3 percent.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

The questions referred to in this release are as follows:

1.             I know the 2016 election is far away, but who would you support for the Republican nomination for president if the candidates were – [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

2.        I’m going to read you a few names of people who are running for president in 2016.  Please tell me if your general impression of each is favorable or unfavorable, or if you don’t really have an opinion.  [NAMES WERE ROTATED]

3.        Overall, is the national Republican Party doing a good job or bad job representing the concerns of voters like you?

4.        How satisfied are you with the Republican leaders in Congress – are you very satisfied, somewhat satisfied, somewhat dissatisfied, or very dissatisfied?

5.        Do you think the more conservative members of the Republican Party, such as the Freedom Caucus, have too much, too little, or the right amount of power in Congress? 

6.        Should the Republican leadership in Congress do more of what the Freedom Caucus wants or stand up more to the Freedom Caucus? 

7.        How likely is it that the moderate wing and the conservative wing of the Republican Party in Congress will be able to work together in the coming year – very likely, somewhat likely, not too likely, or not at all likely? 

8.        Do you think Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan would be a good choice or bad choice for Speaker of the House, or do you have no opinion? 

The Monmouth University Poll was sponsored and conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute from October 15 to 18, 2015 with a national random sample of 1,012 adults age 18 and older.  This includes 712 contacted by a live interviewer on a landline telephone and 300 contacted by a live interviewer on a cell phone, in English.  Monmouth is responsible for all aspects of the survey design, data weighting and analysis. Final sample is weighted for region, age, education, gender and race based on US Census information.  Data collection support provided by Braun Research (field) and SSI (RDD sample).  The results in this poll release are based on a subsample of 348 registered voters who identify themselves as Republicans or lean toward the Republican Party.  For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the error attributable to sampling has a maximum margin of plus or minus 5.3 percentage points (unadjusted for sample design).  Sampling error can be larger for sub-groups (see table below).  In addition to sampling error, one should bear in mind that question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of opinion polls.

Click on pdf file link below for full methodology and results by key demographic groups.

Download this Poll Report with all tables

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- Monmouth University Polling Institute