Survey Suggests Democratic Presidential Candidates Have an Edge over GOP

March 23, 2016

A new survey just released by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute shows that more voters nationally and in Florida liked the Democratic candidates for president more than the GOP contenders.

The national online poll of 1,015 adults presented the likely voters in the group with a hypothetical head-to-head race between former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Republican businessman Donald Trump. Clinton collected 47.7 percent of the vote, comfortably topping the 38.4 percent who preferred Trump.

When Trump was matched against Democratic contender U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, 51.1 percent said they would select Sanders, while 37.4 percent said they would vote for the billionaire.

The national poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points, meaning the results could be off by 3 points in either direction. Data was collected March 13 to March 17, 2016. The Florida presidential primaries for both parties fell during that period, on March 15. That evening U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida withdrew from the Republican race, following a disappointing showing in his home state.

In Florida, the institute collected opinions from a separate base of 540 adults. When likely voters in the group were asked whether they would prefer Clinton or Trump, 51.7 percent favored Clinton over Trump’s 34.2 percent, in a pattern similar to the national results. When the likely voters were asked whether they would prefer Sanders or Trump, 52.1 percent selected Sanders, and 35.4 percent selected Trump.

As Marco Rubio was still in the race at the time the poll was open for questions, the institute also asked how voters felt about the Florida senator compared to both Clinton and Sanders. It turns out that Clinton was favored by 50.3 percent of the respondents, compared to 37.9 percent selecting Rubio. As for Sanders versus Rubio, 47.3 percent preferred Sanders and 40.1 percent said they wanted Rubio.

Frank Orlando, political science instructor at Saint Leo, said: “Head-to-head, it looks like a good start for the Democrats. They’ve taken advantage of the fact that the GOP race is beset by a perceived dysfunction. Still,” Orlando continued, “it’s a long way from November, and the parties haven’t crystallized completely behind their nominee yet. It’s going to get closer as the campaigns focus their attacks on their opponent in the general election.”

Another Florida Race

The polling institute also fielded questions in Florida about who Democrats and Republicans would favor to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Rubio. Party primaries will be held August 30 to determine each party’s candidate. So far, more than half the respondents in both parties said they simply don’t know. Sitting congressional representatives have the most favor among the handful running on each side.

Among Republicans, Jacksonville-area U.S. Representative Ron DeSantis attracted 11.1 percent of the 189 likely voters, compared to Pinellas County Congressman David Jolly’s 10.1 percent. For all practical purposes, that is a statistical tie. Florida Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera, who has been in office just two years, was selected by 7.4 percent of the likely voters. Two other candidates polled in the low single digits.

On the Democratic side, Patrick Murphy held the lead with 19.9 percent and Alan Grayson followed at 16.7 percent. Murphy, an accountant, has been in Congress since 2013 representing Miami. Grayson is a three-term congressman from Orlando and an attorney. Two other candidates polled in the low single digits.

Response to Spiritual Leader

On another topic, the polling institute asked the response base about Pope Francis. Nationally, 68.4 percent of the respondents view him favorably, as 88.1 percent of Catholics do. Also, about one in five Americans are aware of his new book, the first published since he became pontiff. It is calledThe Name of God is Mercy.Some people are reading in groups at their churches or book clubs.

Dr. Marc Pugliese, Saint Leo assistant professor of theology and religion, has read the book and found it inspirational, and of potential interest to a broad range of Americans. It “contains themes that would resonate with both conservatives and liberals,” he said.