Clinton, Trump Maintaining Leads, Likely To Win Florida Primary Races

March 11, 2016

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute Friday released special surveys conducted on the Florida presidential primary races this week, and found frontrunners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton leading in their respective races. The latest survey reflects the sentiments of voters who are nearby and highly influential; candidates are now campaigning hard ahead of the Tuesday, March 15 primary—including in the pivotal Interstate 4 corridor from Tampa to Orlando. The east-to-west swath includes the main campus of Saint Leo University, whose faculty members guide the Saint Leo University Polling Institute and analyze results. 

In the online survey, conducted March 8 and 9 of 500 likely Republican voters, billionaire businessman Donald Trump has the support of 41.4 percent of likely Republican primary voters.

Florida’s own U.S. Senator Marco Rubio trailed behind, attracting just 22.8 percent of the respondents.

As for the other GOP candidates, 12.4 percent of the Republican respondents favored U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, and 10.8 percent will vote for Ohio Governor John Kasich. Another 12.6 percent said they are undecided.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute also polled 500 likely Florida Democratic voters during the same two days, and found U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton strongly in the lead with 59.4 percent selecting her over U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Sanders supporters amounted to 27 percent of those polled, meaning he was more than 32 points behind Clinton. The proportion of undecided Democrats was 13.6 percent. 

Each poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Republicans Futures Examined

Political science Instructor Frank Orlando said upon reviewing the GOP contest that the trailing Marco Rubio is under intense pressure in his home state. “If he loses Tuesday, he’s effectively done,” said Orlando. “Even if he wins, the road is still very difficult, but one could see him gaining some momentum back and surviving the process.  He needs to use Thursday night’s debate performance and all the ground game he can manage to change the tide in a hurry.”

Trump’s results showed broad appeal, but more so among men, particularly among white males, than among women. In the poll, 47.3 percent of males said they would vote for Trump compared to 34.2 percent of females. “If he does end up being the Republican nominee, we might witness the greatest gender gap in recorded history,” said Orlando. “This is especially true if we look at the fact that only 54.7 percent of Republican women polled would vote for Donald Trump if he were to win the nomination compared to 76 percent of the men. In fact, 15 percent of the Republican women in Florida would resort to voting for the Democratic candidate.”

The poll specifically asked all the GOP likely voters how they would respond if Trump wins the party nomination. Two-thirds, exactly 66.6 percent, said they would vote for Trump in the general election if he wins the nomination, while 11.2 percent will choose the Democratic nominee. Another 15.2 percent said they were not sure, and the balance, 7 percent, said they would not cast a vote for a presidential candidate.

Considering these factors, Saint Leo history Professor Douglas Astolfi commented “if Florida is the bellwether we think it is, then the Democratic nominee is likely to win the election.” But he noted that this assumes a portion of the GOP electorate will in fact stay away from the election or vote for the Democratic candidate.

Clinton Holds Advantages in Florida

On the Democratic side, Orlando sees Clinton’s poll results foreshadowing victory in the Florida primary. Even though Sanders scored a surprise victory over Clinton in the Michigan Democratic primary on March 8, Saint Leo’s poll does not suggest a repeat of that is likely to occur in Florida. “Being down by 32 is quite a mountain to climb,” Orlando said. “Also, Florida has a higher minority population and a larger proportion of older voters. Both of these things help Clinton. From what our poll is showing, she’s winning across the board here, and after Michigan, we will be less likely to see complacency set in among her campaign or supporters.”

For more detailed poll results and news releases, see http://polls.saintleo.edu.