Heading into next Tuesday’s Florida primary, Donald Trump continues to lead his three major opponents in this crucial winner-take-all-delegate contest, according to a Suffolk University poll of likely Republican primary voters.
Trump (36 percent) holds a 9-point lead over Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (27 percent), for whom the Sunshine State primary is a must win.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has 19 percent, followed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich at 10 percent. Eight percent were undecided. There are 14 candidates listed on the official Florida Republican primary ballot.
Florida is a state that allows early voting, which takes place from March 5-12, 2016. Among those who have already voted, Trump led Rubio 39 percent to 27 percent, with Cruz receiving 16 percent and Kasich 14 percent.
Among voters who said they were very likely to cast a ballot on March 15, Trump gets 35 percent, Rubio 27 percent, Cruz 20 percent, Kasich 9 percent and 8 percent remain undecided.
“Ted Cruz is killing Marco Rubio’s chances of winning his home state,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “It appears that Cruz won’t be able to vault over both Rubio and Trump, but Cruz is attracting enough Florida voters to keep Rubio from beating Trump in this winner-take-all contest.”
Although no longer a candidate, nearly 29 percent said that they would vote for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush if he were still in the race – a number that would be competitive with the frontrunners.
Cruz seen as most conservative
Cruz was the top second-choice candidate and was seen as the most conservative of the remaining candidates with 45 percent, far ahead of Rubio and Kasich who tied at 14 percent. Only 10 percent saw Trump as the most conservative. Trump was seen as the least conservative by 54 percent followed by Rubio (15 percent), Kasich (8 percent) and Cruz (4 percent). Trump (47 percent) was also seen as the candidate who has the best chance of defeating Hillary Clinton in November, followed by Cruz (19 percent), Rubio (15 percent) and Kasich (4 percent).
Most Republican Florida voters are not bothered by Trump’s financial contributions to Hillary Clinton, despite his debate opponents bringing them up repeatedly. Just 30 percent said that those contributions bothered them while 67 percent said they did not.
Recently, former Republican nominee Mitt Romney tried to insert his influence into the Republican race by warning voters to choose someone other than Trump. But Florida GOP voters are not having it, with 76 percent saying that Romney should stay out of the 2016 race while 17 percent responded that Romney’s recent participation will make the nomination process better.
Romney’s popularity has suffered as well. The 2012 Republican nominee has a 38 percent favorable rating and 51 percent unfavorable. He is the only Republican figure in the poll who is disliked more than liked. When likely voters were asked if Romney’s endorsement of a candidate will make them more or less likely to support that candidate, 14 percent said more likely, 35 percent said less likely, and 46 percent said no difference.
“Florida Republicans are telling the former Massachusetts governor that his time has passed and that he should stay out of the 2016 race because he could have a negative effect on the process,” Paleologos said.
In an early defection warning sign, Donald Trump voters said that if their candidate were prevented from getting the GOP nomination due to collusion by a Cruz, Rubio, and Kasich alliance, 5 percent would vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton in November, while 14 percent would vote for an independent candidate, 11 percent would not cast a ballot for president, and 19 percent weren’t sure what they would do.
Issues of voter concern
Florida Republican primary voters said their most important issues were terrorism/national security (28 percent) and jobs/economy (27 percent), followed by illegal immigration (12 percent) and reducing the national debt (10 percent).
History of Florida Republican primary polling
In the 2012 Florida Republican primary, the final Suffolk University poll predicted Mitt Romney to finish first with 47 percent followed by Newt Gingrich at 27 percent and Rick Santorum with 12 percent. The final results were Romney 46 percent, Gingrich 32 percent and Santorum 13 percent.
The statewide survey of 500 likely Florida Republican presidential primary voters was conducted March 7-9, 2016, using live telephone interviews and a split sample of landline and cell phone numbers. The margin of error is +/-4.4 percentage points at a 95 percent level of confidence. Marginals and full cross-tabulation data are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website: www.suffolk.edu/SUPRC. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310, firstname.lastname@example.org.