Trump mocks disabled reporter yet rises in the polls. How come? Update: Cruz leads in two Iowa polls. Analysis.
Donald Trump continues to make outrageous statements. Last week he mocked a reporter with a disability that doesn’t permit him to control his arms. In doing so, Trump crossed a line of decency that has been well established. This week, on Fox News (Fox & Friends), he ignored the Geneva Convention that the U.S. has long supported, and urged the killing of families of ISIS terrorists. “When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” he argued. No more concern for “collateral damage.” Instead, target them! On December 7, he proposed keeping all Muslims from coming into the country. By definition that would keep out the representatives of our allied countries in the regions: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and the Gulf States. One outrageous statement, generally thought to be offensive to most Americans, after another. Mainstream Republican politicians have long shuddered at the prospect of a Trump candidacy, feeling that not only would he lose, but he would take down other Republican candidates with him. They have been waiting longer than they expected to see their prediction of Trump’s candidacy imploding. Prominent conservatives, such as William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, have joined an unusually large number of poll respondents who say they wouldn’t vote for Trump if he should win their party’s nomination. Trump has consistently done worse than the other leading Republican hopefuls in poll match-ups against Hillary Clinton.
I am neither Republican or a politician, but as them, I, too, have been expecting the polls to reflect a Republican electorate’s rejection of Trump’s behavior, which has been variously, and often, described as: ‘bombastic,’ ‘boorish,’ ‘self-centered,’ ‘insulting,’ ‘narcissistic,’ ‘paranoid,’ and that of a ‘bully.’ And yet he continued to lead the rest of the field in poll after poll. Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, there had been no new poll releases until Wednesday, December 3. Then, Quinnipiac released the first national poll that followed Trump’s mocking of the handicapped reporter. Rather than losing support, it showed him leading his nearest competitor by 10 points. On Thursday, December 4, a state poll from New Hampshire, taken by the Democratic affiliated PPP showed him leading there by 14 points. On December 4 CNN/ORC released a poll showing an even higher number for Donald Trump–36 percent, 20 points higher than his nearest competitor, Ted Cruz. It should be noted that CNN’s poll has consistently shown Trump’s numbers higher than the other major polling organizations. Still, his numbers with them were 9 points higher than just two weeks ago. They too found concern with “Terrorism” on the increase. The “outlier” nature of the CNN polls seemed to be reinforced by the December 7 IBD/TIPP poll which showed him nearer the mean of polls at 27 percent, up 12 points from Dr. Carson, who in turn was closely followed by Rubio and Cruz. News reports astonishingly screamed” “Trump Surges.” How could this be? What does it portend? Is it too early in the election cycle to draw conclusions? Indeed, did Trump’s CNN numbers really show a “surge” or does the new IBD data finally evidence a wearying of the Republican electorate with his “shtick?”
Source: You-tube–as presented
First of all Trump’s numbers didn’t reflect a new “surge” in his popular appeal as much as it did a fall-off of support for Carson. Dr. Carson, with his foreign policy inexperience showing, buttressed by some of his “off the wall” beliefs, such as that the pyramids were built by the biblical Joseph to store grain for the “seven lean years,” sustained a huge decline–he dropped 10 points off of his prior Quinnipiac Poll showing. In the previous month’s poll, he had been in a virtual tie with Trump. The latter, whose numbers in national polls have stalled, for some time, in the 23 to 27 percent range, in the Quinnipiac poll merely picked up a few percentage points from Dr. Carson’s decline, without breaking out of his long standing Republican voter support range. Cruz and Rubio also showed 3 point “surges,” as compared to the previous Quinnipiac poll–no doubt also at Dr. Carson’s expense. In the CNN poll, Dr. Carson’s support dwindled 8 percentage points t place him third at 14 percent, below Cruz, whose numbers from the previous CNN poll did surge to 16 percent (CNN’s numbers for Cruz were outliers on the low side in their previous polls), and Rubio, too, rose from 8 percent to 12 percent. So all three, in this poll, as in the Quinnipiac poll, picked up 4 points each from Carson’s former numbers–however Trump somehow garnered an additional 5 points to account, in total, for his 9 point rise. CNN, in early September, had outlier numbers for Trump then at 32 percent. The following poll by them had Trump back down to the mainstream polling range at 24 percent. We will have to see more data from national polls to feel comfortable with CNN’s 36 percent number for Trump. Interestingly, Cruz passed Trump in the December 7 Monmouth poll, 27 percent to 22 percent, with Rubio third at 17 percent. Cruz’s climb in Iowa was foretold earlier as he moved up to within 2 points of Trump in November 24th’s Quinnipiac Iowa poll. Monmouth, on December 7, found Cruz on top of Trump in Iowa 24 percent to 19 percent, with Rubio close behind at 17 percent. Once gain CNN provided outlier numbers*, also on December 7, showing Trump actually increasing his lead in Iowa, 33 percent to 20 percent for Cruz. Nationally, as we have seen, Cruz is either tied with Dr. Carson for third place, slightly behind Rubio, or in second place by a narrow margin over Rubio and a fading Carson. None of the other candidates have made any waves to date.
To place Trump’s poll numbers in perspective, it takes fifty percent plus one of the delegates to win the Republican nomination. Trump’s twenties numbers fall far short of that amount. CNN’s outlier number of 36 percent, if valid, would get him closer. Yet Trump still shows lower than his main competitors when respondents who supported other candidates were asked to name their second choice. Furthermore, he has very high “unfavorables,” and prominent conservatives, such as Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, have joined in with the large number of Republicans who say they couldn’t vote for him if he became their party’s nominee.
Is there a possible path for Trump to get close enough to that magic 50 percent level to where some candidates might be tempted to throw in with him for political gain? Yes, if the CNN number is confirmed in other polls, which thus far it hasn’t, and if Terrorism continues at the forefront of the news, as it certainly is now, what with Paris and San Bernardino dominating the news. It appears that some voters are attracted to his forceful certainty, and, in comparison to the other hopefuls, view him as a “strong leader.” Continuing terrorist fears could conceivably turn that perception into some degree of direct support from candidates perceived of as weaker. In the Quinnipiac poll, 29 percent those Republican respondents who named “terrorism” as their primary concern supported Trump. Nineteen percent supported Dr. Carson, 18 percent were for Marco Rubio, and 16 percent chose Ted Cruz. The rest of the field were far behind in this dimension. Even if the security situation calms down, there is a remote scenario whereby Trump could reach the magic 50 percent plus one level. If Dr. Carson’s candidacy continues to implode, it’s possible that Trump might inherit some of the latter’s support as Quinnipiac’s data showed that 24 percent of voters who identified themselves as “White Born-Again Evangelists,” already support Trump. Ironically, Trump’s highest support, 34 percent, comes from people who identify themselves as “Moderate-Liberal” Republicans. Since 25 percent of the people who say they are “Very Conservative,” also support Trump, there is, at this time, some ideological disconnect in voter preferences. Worth noting from these data is that “No-no one,” gets somewhat over 30 percent in all but one of the categories, suggesting that significant changes are still likely as we approach the actual voting. The most likely scenario for Trump to get over 50 percent would be if Cruz felt that he couldn’t win and threw his support to Trump. Cruz, it will be remembered, has been the only hopeful not to attack Trump for what I’ve called his “Donaldisms.” A, perhaps, more likely scenario would be for Trump to go back to his core low-to-mid twenties numbers, and, concluding that he couldn’t win, throw his support behind Cruz–though his ego might not permit him accepting a loss. A third-party or write-in limited candidacy must be considered a possibility. By being the only Republican hopeful to refuse to criticize Trump’s outrageous statements, including this last one about banning all Muslims from entering the country, Cruz obviously hopes to become Trump supporters’ fallback candidate. This probably will work in Iowa, given it’s high very conservative and Evangelical Christian numbers of voters, but I’d expect the strategy to backfire in the northwest and western states.
By now most of you have heard over and over how fluid polls are this early in the election cycle. We are all reminded that this time in the past election cycle, Newt Gingrich led the polls; Mayor Giuliani led early in in the 2008 primary season. Nevertheless, we are approaching the time where some other candidacy will have to get some traction, if Trump’s early leads are to be overcome. How soon? Thanksgiving usually marks the beginning of the beginning. By three weeks following that holiday, political scientists start giving the polls more credence.
The following graphic about the predictive value of individual state polls–based on data from the past two election cycles–illustrates why:
Source: Real Clear Politics: David Byler. November
- Outlier numbers are well outside the range of the other polls. Since polling organisations make different assumptions, such as what constitutes the likely voter, what percentage of cell phones should be included in the samples, and use different polling techniques, such as automated versus live questioners, outlier numbers are generally discarded. For that reason, Real Clear Politics also gives an average of polls. The only reason we don’t present their averages is because they include numbers that aren’t current, something crucial, in our opinion, in fluid primary races. This is exacerbated during periods of critical news events, such as at this time.