Donald Trump Leads In Another Poll, But How Long Can It Really Last?

Donald Trump leads in a new national poll, but a deeper look at the numbers suggests that this Trump Bubble can't last for very much longer.

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A new USA Today/Suffolk University Poll shows that Donald Trump’s surge in the polls is showing signs of stopping just yet, but there are signs that he may be close to peaking:

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump has surged to the top of a crowded Republican presidential field, a USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds, but the brash billionaire is also the weakest competitor among the top seven GOP candidates against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

In the nationwide survey, Trump leads at 17% and former Florida governor Jeb Bush is second at 14%, the only competitors who reach double digits. Trump’s edge, which is within the poll’s margin of error, is one more sign that his ​harsh rhetoric about immigration and toward his rivals has struck a chord with some voters.

“He’s got some backbone,” Steve Fusaro, 59, of San Clemente, Calif., who was among those polled, said approvingly in a follow-up interview. “We need a businessman.”

But Buxton McGuckin, 19, of Columbia, S.C., who supports Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, expresses alarm at the potential repercussions of Trump’s words. “I know he’s a conservative and Republican but I mean … the (stuff) that comes out of his mouth,” the audio engineer says.

Trump has gained 6 percentage points since the USA TODAY/Suffolk Poll taken in June; Bush’s support has stayed steady.

he survey of 1,000 adults, taken by landline and cellphone Thursday through Sunday, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The sample of 349 likely Republican primary and caucus voters has an error margin of +/-5.25 points.

Trump’s strengths and his weaknesses are on display.

While he leads the GOP field, he fares the worst of seven hopefuls in hypothetical head-to-heads against former secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic nominee. Bush, the strongest candidate against Clinton, lags by four points nationwide, 46%-42%. Trump trails by 17 points, 51%-34%.

That’s a wider margin than Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (down 6 points), former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (8 points), Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (9 points), Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (10 points) and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (13 points).


Nearly half of all those surveyed, 48%, say Trump’s comments about illegal immigrants, including characterizing Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers, matter a lot to their vote. Just 15% say the comments make them more likely to support him; 48% say they make them less likely.

“We’ve seen Donald Trump make it to the top, but the question is can he stay on top,” says David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “In 2012, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain led the GOP primary field briefly but only to fade.”

When the first and second choices of Republicans are combined — an indication of how things might sort out when the field eventually gets smaller — Trump does a bit less well. Bush is at 14% and Trump at 13%. Rubio and Walker are supported by 10%, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz by 6% and Carson by 5%.


Trump is the best-known of the Republican contenders. Just 2% of those surveyed have never heard of him, compared with 27% who have never heard of Walker and 16% who haven’t heard of Rubio. But Trump also is viewed the most negatively of all.

In the poll, 61% have an unfavorable impression of him and 23% a favorable one, a net-negative rating of 38 points. Bush’s favorable-unfavorable rating is 35%-42%.

The full numbers in the poll for the Republican race are as follows; Donald Trump 17% Jeb Bush 14%, Scott Walker 8%, Ted Cruz 6% Marco Rubio 5%, Ben Carson 4%, Mike Huckabee 4%, Rand Paul 4%, Chris Christie 3%, Rick Perry 1%, Rick  Santorum, Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal, and John Kasich all at 1%, and Lindsey Graham at 0%. Trump’s lead is, it’s worth noting, within the margin of error however it is consistent with other recent polls which have shown him gaining support to some degree ever since he entered the Presidential race last month. Because of that surge, he is now in second place behind Jeb Bush in the RealClearPolitics polling average, which suggests strongly that his place in the upcoming debates in August and September is likely to be secure. Other candidates, such as Rick Santorum, Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal, John Kaisch, Lindsey Graham, and George Pataki cannot say the same thing since all six of them fall below the “top ten” cut off that both CNN and Fox News have established for debate invitations and none of them seems likely to gain enough support to get over that barrier in just the next three weeks or so.

As for Trump, one does have to wonder how much longer this is going to last. In that regard, it’s worth keeping in mind that Trump’s “surge” in the polls is being exaggerated to some degree by a number of factors, including some that are unique to this cycle’s Republican field.

First of all, the fact that the field itself is so large means that it doesn’t really take very much any one candidate to end up becoming the leader for a temporary period of time. This poll puts Trump at 17%, that means that some 83% of the Republicans polled support someone other than him. Factor into that his incredibly high negatives, and it seems obvious that he is nearing his peak in the polls. Indeed, it’s worth noting that when Trump was briefly flirting with the idea of running for President in 2012 he was also polling in the general range of 15-19% in national polls. That was a ceiling that he never got beyond, and it suggests that he may be near to top of his support levels this time too. Second, while the headlines reporting this latest poll will say that Trump is in the lead, this lead is within the poll’s margin of error, meaning that his actual level of support could actually be well below where this particular poll happened to show it. Finally, this poll repeats something that we have seen with virtually every other poll that has been conducted since Trump entered the race, namely that he is both the best known Republican running, for obvious reasons, and he is the most disliked Republican running. Other polls have shown that he is the one candidate that the vast majority of Republicans say they would never consider voting for. This would suggest that he’s nearing the point where the number of voters he can actually bring to his side is shrinking while his continued bombastic statements are turning off more and more people. If that’s true, then this Trump bubble can’t last for very long. Trump may continue to rise for a while longer, and he may get a boost from the first debate in August, but just the Republicans turned away from the likes of Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain in 2011, they’re eventually going to give up the Trump and concentrate on the serious candidates.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. James Pearce says:

    In the nationwide survey, Trump leads at 17% and former Florida governor Jeb Bush is second at 14%, the only competitors who reach double digits.

    Trump may be “leading” here, but what this poll essentially means is that a resounding majority of the Republican electorate doesn’t support him.

    With leads like that….

  2. Rob Prather says:

    I think he scares the Republicans because he might make a third party run. I doubt it, but who knows.

  3. Hal_10000 says:

    The person who should be celebrating here is Jeb. Trump is sucking all the oxygen out of the room, keeping the other challengers from gaining any ground. The establishment is now likely to flock to Jeb as the non-crazy candidate.

    So … ugh. Clinton v. Bush again.

  4. JohnMcC says:

    Funny how certain numbers keep coming up in American politics. Trump gets 17% and Perot got 19%. I wonder what the internals of those two constituencies look like?!

  5. C. Clavin says:

    So Trump puts up a twitter thing (tweeted? twated?) about Leadership…only it had an image of Nazi reenactors…so he blames an intern for the f’up. Now that’s Leadership, Trump style.
    Donald Trump…The hair face of today’s Republican party.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    As long as he makes it to those first 2 debates, I can die a happy man. Thank you, Donald.

  7. Ron Beasley says:

    On his program this evening Ed Schultz said he had seen a bumper sticker that read

    Support Trump – Why Be Only Half Crazy.

    We used to joke about the phrase “this is good news for John McCain/Mitt Romney. In this case I think Trump is indeed good news for Jeb Bush.

  8. de stijl says:

    But Buxton McGuckin, 19, of Columbia, S.C.

    This cannot be a real person.

    That is a Thomas Pynchon name.

    An Onion name. Headline: “Area Man Nonplussed By Trump”

  9. michael reynolds says:


    The establishment is now likely to flock to Jeb as the non-crazy candidate.

    Except support isn’t flowing to Jeb, not so far. Nor is it coalescing around Walker or Rubio. It’s just sort of forming a big, hovering cloud of possibilities. I think you may be right, eventually, but in a world of billionaire backers, I’m not sure what the establishment is any more. I mean, if the establishment had any real power they’d have long-since knocked off Trump and Huckabee and a few others.

    I make it about a third of the polled going for one of the loons – Trump, Carson, Huckabee, etc. And about the same backing one of the marginally more sane candidates. If crazy Doc Carson drops out tomorrow, who gets his people, Jeb or Trump? I’d guess 70/30 Trump.

    The establishment – if it still exists – will have no influence on the crazies. So what do they do? Try to push Walker or Rubio or Paul out of the game to make way for Jeb? Not before Super Tuesday, I’d just about guarantee you. And if Walker’s taken Iowa and come in 3rd in NH and SC and then carried one or two states on Super T, how you going to get him to quit?

    Meanwhile with every sub-20 poll Jeb gets he looks less and less interesting. He starts to look like that last doughnut in the box, like maybe there’s something wrong with him.

  10. Scott F. says:


    This is the best part – Trump in the debates. Get out the popcorn.

  11. Tyrell says:

    He always gets a lot of attention and then heads out the door.

  12. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    He starts to look like that last doughnut in the box, like maybe there’s something wrong with him.

    There is something wrong with him. His dad and brother were the last two Republican presidents. He’s also painfully out of touch with the base when it comes to Hispanics.

    The only thing going for him at this point is the “electability” argument and that’s not going to win him any fans from the Tea Party right.

  13. Tony W says:

    How long can it last? All the way to the convention when he shows up with his delegates and makes demands representing the base. This is the party Republicans signed up for when they made a deal with the devil. Let ’em fry.

  14. CSK says:

    Go over to if you want a taste of how the “base” feels about Trump. They adore him. They worship him the way they worshipped Cruz last month, and Palin before that. He’s gonna prevent America from being flooded by hordes of brown-skinned people.

  15. C. Clavin says:

    Still waiting for you to back-up your claim of Iranian leadership threatening the US, Iraq, and Israel with nuclear war during the negotiations.
    Or an admission that you were full of it.
    In case you forgot:

  16. DrDaveT says:


    Go over to if you want a taste of […]

    Jesus Haploid Christ, man. Now what am I going to use for eyes?

    I mean,

    IDEOLOGICAL EXAMPLE: The IRS weaponization of government against people, as within the Lois Lerner IRS scandal, is an issue which Trump can breech.

    This is a parody site, right? Like The Onion? Please?

    (Although The Onion would presumably employ someone who knows the difference between breech and breach…)

  17. CSK says:


    No, it’s not a parody site. It’s the hangout of the “base” and self-styled “principled conservatives.” They think “The National Review” is in the same ideological league as “The Nation.”

  18. stonetools says:

    I’m hoping it lasts till November 2016. Hey, buffoons need representation too. Donald,if you are reading, you can use that as your campaign slogan. You’re welcome.

  19. SenyorDave says:

    @CSK: I’m starting to think Trump is Palin if she had been a billionaire (or at the very least a multimillionaire). Also, he has a 3-digit IQ (perhaps barely) vs. her 2-digit one. He has some of the same qualities as a candidate, all showmanship, no real positions on issues or even attempts to have coherent policy. Add to that the incessant dog whistles to the extreme right wing elements of the party. The GOP has earned the Donald, if they were in any way a responsible party he could not have found a niche.

  20. CSK says:


    Oh, I agree absolutely. They appeal to the exact same constituency. For a while there, it seemed Ted Cruz was poised to assume Palin’s position as the Savior of the Republic, but Trump, being even louder and more abrasive, elbowed him aside.

    And it’s no coincidence that Trump and Palin are reality show stars. That’s been the principal occupation of either for the past eight years.

    (Cruz, I think, is waiting in the wings to collect Trump’s supporters when Trump bails/flames out of contention.)

  21. Mr. Prosser says:

    @michael reynolds:” Nor is it coalescing around Walker or Rubio. It’s just sort of forming a big, hovering cloud of possibilities.” Excellent metaphor, perhaps we can call the whole thing Schrodinger’s Candidates.

  22. Pete S says:

    I am surprised that it is only 17%. I don’t see what some of the other fringe candidates have to offer the Republican base that he doesn’t? Except maybe messages from a different mother ship?

  23. Davebo says:

    If Donald is still in the race after July 22 I’ll be amazed.

    I’m hoping he is, but I doubt it.

  24. grumpy realist says:

    @stonetools: Oh c’mon, we already know what Trump’s motto has to be, as stated by another OTB member:

    We Shall Overcomb

  25. al-Ameda says:

    I’m a liberal, and I say go Donald go …
    I hope he’s in it for the long run.

  26. Facebones says:

    @Tony W: I sincerely hope Rubio or Jeb! has to beg him for his candidates in order to get the nomination.

    (I also hope the Swedish Bikini Team’s bus will breakdown in front of my house. Both are equally as likely to happen.)

  27. HarvardLaw92 says:


    What else would you expect from Jonah Goldberg’s mother?

    (I shyt you not …)