Carson and Trump Nearly Tied in Saint Leo University Polling Institute National Survey

October 28, 2015

In advance of the third Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado Boulder on October 28, the Saint Leo University Polling Institute released a new national poll showing retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson basically tied with billionaire businessman Donald Trump as the leading presidential candidate among likely Republican voters.

On the Democratic side, likely voters nationally again put Hillary Clinton in the lead. Just as the poll was being completed, Vice President Joe Biden announced he will not seek the Democratic nomination.

The poll was conducted October 17-22, 2015, after the Republican debates on August 6 and September 16, and the first Democratic debate which occurred on October 13. In all, Saint Leo surveyed more than 1,000 adults. The number of likely Republican voters nationally who completed the poll was 225, yielding a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points on results. Democratic likely voters included nationally numbered 259, also yielding a margin of error of plus or minus 6 percentage points on the results.

Carson Makes Impressive Show in Crowded National Field

Among likely Republican voters nationwide, those polled said their favored candidate was: Donald Trump (22.7 percent); retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (22.2 percent); U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, (11.1 percent); and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (8.4 percent).

“We’re starting to see some ‘Trump fatigue’ setting in,” said Frank Orlando, instructor of political science at Saint Leo University. “Donald Trump thrives on the media attention. With the lull between debates and his upcoming ‘Saturday Night Live’ appearance (November 7), the soft-spoken, ‘anti-Trump’ candidate Ben Carson, has emerged as a viable candidate,” said Orlando.

Democratic Politics Continue to Favor Clinton

Among the likely Democratic voters nationwide, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton drew 54.8 percent of the respondents’ support. Since Vice President Joe Biden announced on October 21 that he will not run for president, the 15.8 percent of Democratic likely voters who favored him will likely become Clinton supporters, Orlando said. U.S. Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders was selected by 12 percent of the likely Democratic voters.

“Hillary’s still the horse in the Democratic race, and I think that [Vice President] Biden’s support will now gravitate to her,” stated Saint Leo’s Orlando. “It (Biden’s support) won’t jump to Bernie Sanders as he’s more of an anti-establishment candidate. At the same time, Sanders needs to be more aggressive in his attack on Clinton and increase his rhetoric.”

Head-to-Head Match-Ups Show Clinton as the Winner

The survey also asked 764 likely voters whom they would select for president given a variety of Republican candidates opposing Hillary Clinton. The results showed Clinton surpassed the leading Republicans. The margin of error for responses is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Democratic Candidate Percent Republican Candidate Percent
Hillary Clinton 47.0 Donald Trump 37.9
Hillary Clinton 45.8 Ben Carson 41.5
Hillary Clinton 45.8 Marco Rubio 39.1
Hillary Clinton 44.7 Jeb Bush 34.2
Hillary Clinton 47.4 Carly Fiorina 36.4

This set of numbers will shift with time, Orlando said. “Hillary Clinton has already begun to consolidate support among Democrats, so this lead over her Republican challengers makes sense. Once the GOP settles on a candidate, you can expect that candidate’s numbers to increase as well."

Florida Results Surprising

Among Florida likely Republican voters, Donald Trump is first (25.8 percent). Trump was followed in Florida by Senator Rubio (21.5 percent); then former Governor Jeb Bush (15.3 percent); and then Carson (14.7 percent). The margin of error was 7 percentage points, based on a sample of 163 respondents.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has a substantial lead (50.9 percent). Senator Sanders pulled 13.3 percent. (Vice President Biden had 15.2 percent.) The margin of error for this question was plus or minus 7 percentage points, based on a sample of 165 likely Democratic voters in the state.

Below are the results in tabular form.

Republican Candidates Florida Likely Voters Percent
Businessman Donald Trump 25.8
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida 21.5
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush 15.3
Dr. Ben Carson 14.7
Unsure / Don’t Know 5.5


Democratic Candidates Florida Likely Voters Percent
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 50.9
Vice President Joe Biden 15.2
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont 13.3
Unsure/Don’t Know 8.5

“Donald Trump is also leading in Florida, but more surprisingly, Jeb Bush is way down by 10 percent vs. Trump,” remarked Orlando. “Amazingly, he’s not even second with Marco Rubio ahead of him by 6 points. For someone [Bush] who was the governor of the state and still maintains his home here, that is pretty telling about his campaign.” (Rubio, Trump, and Carson all have ties to the Sunshine State with residences and/or property in Florida, Orlando noted).

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can be found here: You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.