We have the usual caveats that apply here to all PPP polls, but in defense of PPP, they had Trump at 34%, right in line with everyone else who polled at the time. PPP now finds the race to be fundamentally changed, with Trump dropping to 25%, just barely ahead of Cruz at 21%. The real surprise in this poll is that Rubio is in third at 21%. Carson clocks in at 11%, and everyone else is below 5%.
PPP’s findings confirm that Rubio gained by far the largest bump from Iowa, even though he finished third. Cruz’s support, as compared to the previous PPP poll, barely went up, from 18% to 21%. Rubio, though, appears to have gained an 8% bounce from Iowa, bringing him up from 13% to 21%. The most interesting thing the poll shows, though, is that Rubio stands the most to benefit from a rapidly shrinking field:
Things also bode well for Rubio as the field gets smaller in the coming weeks. In a four candidate field he gets 32% to 31% for Trump, 23% for Cruz, and 8% for Bush. In a three candidate field he gets 34% to 33% for Trump and 25% for Cruz. And in head to heads he leads both Trump (52/40) and Cruz (46/40). As other candidates drop out of the race Rubio is the most likely destination of their supporters.
Cruz is actually pretty steady in his national standing even after his surprise victory in Iowa. His 21% standing is up just slightly from 18% in December and his favorability rating is basically unchanged- it was 59/27 then and it’s 58/28 now. One thing Cruz has going for him is that when you combine first and second choices he comes out ahead with 41% to 36% for Rubio, and 32% for Trump. That’s another metric indicating the difficulty Trump may have in growing his support. Additionally Trump trails Cruz 47/41 head to head, which bodes poorly for him if they end up being the finalists.
There’s good news in this poll for both Rubio and Cruz, and an increasing avalanche of bad news for Trump. Trump’s favorability nationally has long been in the toilet, but it had remained stubbornly high in the GOP, at least until recent weeks:
Trump’s 25% standing reflects a 9 point drop from our last national poll, which was taken the week before Christmas. It reflects an overall decline in Trump’s popularity with GOP voters. Trump’s favorability has dropped a net 17 points, from a previous +24 standing at 58/34 to now just +7 at 48/41.Trump is particularly starting to struggle on the right- he’s dropped to 3rd place with ‘very conservative’ voters at 19% with Cruz at 34% and Rubio at 22% outpacing him with that group. He does still lead with moderates and ‘somewhat conservative’ voters to give him the overall advantage.
Personally, I won’t believe the Trump campaign is dead until the final delegate tally is announced in Cleveland, but it’s an encouraging sign that the race will actually come down to two conservative candidates.