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Ben Carson Nearly Tied with Frontrunner Trump

Ben Carson Nearly Ties with Frontrunner Trump Nationally Among Likely GOP Voters, while Jeb Bush Trails, Nationally and in Florida


Tightening of Democratic Field Helps Already-Strong Clinton; Any Break-Away Move by Trump from the GOP Field Would Boost Clinton’s Advantage    


SAINT LEO, FL – Retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson has basically tied with billionaire businessman Donald Trump as the leading presidential candidate among likely Republican voters surveyed nationally by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute.


Meanwhile 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 run for 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); former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (8.4 percent); former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina (5.8 percent); and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas (4.0 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.


Interestingly, Orlando noted, when support for Carson, Trump, and Fiorina are combined, 51 percent of the national likely Republicans voters support non-politicians. Orlando interpreted the collective sentiment as a signal that: “These voters would rather have people with no specific plans than people who they are afraid would let them down.”


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."


Three-Way Contest Would Divide GOP Vote to Clinton’s Advantage

The survey went on to ask 764 likely voters nationally whom they would support if Donald Trump should decide to run as an independent candidate, creating a three-way field. (Trump signed a pledge in September saying he would not make such a run, but the polling institute wanted to gauge public sentiment along these lines). Results showed Hillary Clinton would clearly be in an extraordinary position to win the presidency. The margin of error for responses to this question is also plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.


Democratic          Percent      Republican        Percent        Independent        Percent

 Candidate                              Candidate                               Candidate                           

Hillary Clinton       42.7          Jeb Bush             22.8            Donald Trump       24.2

Hillary Clinton       43.7          Carly Fiorina        22.6            Donald Trump       23.8

Hillary Clinton       43.1          Ben Carson         27.9            Donald Trump       20.2

Hillary Clinton       43.7          Marco Rubio        24.6            Donald Trump       22.9

Hillary Clinton       44.9          Ted Cruz             18.6            Donald Trump        24.1


“Donald Trump’s hard core support is locked up. The 25 percent of voters who support him will back him even if he doesn't have the GOP label, said Saint Leo’s Orlando. “However, for the 75 percent who aren’t supporting Trump, he may not be their second choice if he were to run as an Independent.” 


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


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


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.


About the Saint Leo University Polling Institute/Methodology

This Saint Leo University poll sampled opinions of 1,005 adults approximately proportional to state population contribution nationwide. The survey was conducted between October 17 and 22, 2015 using an online survey instrument. The margin of error on political questions (of likely voters only) is approximately 3 percent +/- with a 95 percent confidence level on a composite basis. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 dollar deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.

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