Trump and the Polls

He's second in national polls!

Trump AnnouncementMuch is being made (understandably) about the fact that Donald Trump is doing well in current polling of GOP presidential contenders.  For example, WaPo rounds up some recent numbers:

In Iowa, Trump is tied with Ben Carson for second place behind Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker with 10 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday. In New Hampshire, a CNN-WMUR poll last week had Trump in second place behind former Florida governor Jeb Bush with 11 percent.

Trump also comes in second behind Bush in a new national CNN-ORC poll released Wednesday.

A few thoughts:

1)  Fragmentation:  a large number of candidates means a great deal of likely fragmentation.  If we look at the CNN poll noted above, respondents were read a list of 16 names (and had two other options of “none” and “no opinion”).  When it is all said and done such a list, especially roughly half a year before any votes will be cast, should be expected to produce a great deal of fragmentation (especially in the absence of an overwhelming front-runner).

2)  12%:  Note that his second place standing is only 12% support (and Jeb is number one with 19%).  This is a function of the aforementioned fragmentation, but the number itself is worth considering: the press focuses on “second,” but 12% is far more worthy of consideration as it means that 88% of support is elsewhere.  When considering these kinds of polls at this stage of the game the truly relevant question is not “What are candidate X’s numbers?” but “Are candidate X’s numbers closer to a floor or a ceiling?”  I would wager that while Jeb’s 19% is a starting spot while Trump’s 12% is far closer to peaking than he is anything else.

3)  MOE:  keep in mind that the margin of error is +/- 5% and Trump has 12% of support in the poll.  As such, Trump’s actual level of support could place him in the lead or he could be deep down in the pack somewhere.

4)  Name recognition:  if someone is read a list of 16 names there is going to be a bias towards the most recognizable names.  The top two in the poll (Bush and Trump) have, without a doubt, the most recognizable names in the poll.

In other words, while “second place”  sounds impressive (or distressing, depending on your point of view), it is actually a lot less significant than it seems, especially at this stage of the process.  Trump will fade–he is currently an unsustainable sideshow.

If anything, his fellow Republicans are going to seek to take him out because he created any world of headaches.  Note the following from George Will:

“Picture him on stage in [the GOP debate in] Cleveland,” Will said on Fox News Sunday this morning. “He says something hideously inflammatory — which is all he knows how to say — and then what do the other nine people on stage do? Do they either become complicit in what he said by their silence, or do they all have to attack him? The debate gets hijacked. The process gets hijacked. At the end of the day he is a one-man Todd Akin. He’s Todd Akin with ten different facets.”

Akin derailed the GOP’s 2012 efforts to retake the Senate when his comments about “legitimate rape” not only cost him a Senate seat but played right into the Democrats’ War on Women narrative.

As for Trump, Will added that his antics were indistinguishable from those of a “Democratic mole” sent to wreak havoc upon the Republican field.

Trump is ultimately bad for the GOP and they know it.

Keep in mind: Trump is a novelty candidate and  we are in the part of the campaign season in which novelty candidates have the chance to thrive.  The only interesting part of the Trump candidacies will be to see how the other candidates react to his nonsense (a la Will’s observation above) because that will give us all a good idea what those candidates think about their own voters.

One thing is for sure:  Trump is not helping with the GOP’s Hispanic problem, but he does provide an opening for Jeb and Rubio on that topic and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

At any rate:  enjoy the sideshow while it lasts if one is into that sort of thing.  It won’t last.  The only question in my mind is how long until the fade.


FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. CSK says:

    Trump is boasting that he’s Number One in an average of 105 polls, beating Jeb Bush by .3%.

  2. John P. says:

    I strongly suspect that Trump will drop out of the race when he no longer can get extensions to the deadline to filing personal financial statements with the FEC. Most financial industry observers (myself included) are confident that Trump’s actual net worth is far less than the numbers he says, and are also far less than the sycophantic business press (i.e., the Forbes 400 list) reports. Even with the recent rise in Manhattan real estate, I don’t think Trump is even a billionaire. Revelation of the likely significant gap between his claimed net worth and the actual numbers will diminish his appeal to many supporters.

    On the other hand, I think many people are responding positively to Trump as they do to other fringe candidates because they think liberals are “scared” of him. And they feel that anything liberals are “afraid” of is the best possible thing. That sentiment among the Tea Party crowd could keep Trump in the race for a bit longer than many political observers might believe.

    That reflex, to mistake liberals’ laughter at and derision of a candidate (think: Sarah Palin) for fear, and thus as something to try to cultivate actively, keeps the far-right branch of the GOP turned inwards and continues to damage the GOP’s electoral prospects in national elections.

    I thus believe that even if Trump is peaking in the numbers at 12% of support, he can continue to be a far greater thorn in the side of the GOP than many people might expect.

  3. humanoid.panda says:

    The problem is really not Trump, but that Trump represents the high octane version of the media diet on which 30-40% of the GOP primary voters live on. He surely won’t win the nomination, and probably won’t make it to Iowa. However, those 30-40% are still going to be there.

  4. EddieInCA says:

    I mean this withl 100% sincerity:

    Donald Trump’s candidacy will be good for the nation. It wont’ be good for the GOP, but something, someone, has to rip the facade off of what has been the GOP for the last 22 years.

    Donald Trump will do that. He will blare loudly that ACTUAL GOP thoughts and policies – without moderating them at all for simple human decency.

    Immigration – He’s with the GOP base.
    Taxes – He’s with the GOP base.
    Foreign Policy – He’s with the GOP base.
    Obama hatred – He’s with the GOP base.

    That’s enough. I’m surprised how many friends I have – otherwise rational friends – say things like “Trump is just saying it like it is.” That these friends are supporting Trump tells me that Trump probably has more support than many of us think is even possible. He doesn’t and never will have enough to win, but it’s bad news for the GOP.

    Ultimately, whatever gets the crazies out of the GOP, or which causes them to branch off to form another party, is a good thing for the country.

  5. CSK says:

    @John P.:

    The people who respond most positively to Trump, to use your words, are the same people who thought Ted Cruz was their savior last week, and Scott Walker the week before that, and Sarah Palin the week before that.

  6. humanoid.panda says:

    @John P.:

    I thus believe that even if Trump is peaking in the numbers at 12% of support, he can continue to be a far greater thorn in the side of the GOP than many people might expect.

    Yep. Another factor to consider: Trump clearly has some form of narcissistic personality disorder (the man spends day picking up random Twitter fights!). Even if the whole things started like a stunt, it’s very plausible the combination of the ego stroke of being no. 1 in polls for a second, and the ego blows of the GOP establishment uniting to dispatch will make his stay in the race, or even do an independent run…

  7. ernieyeball says:

    3) MOE:..

    At first I thought this was a reference to Moe Mentum. Does the Donald know him?
    Or maybe Trump knows these 5 guys.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    I’m willing to wholeheartedly support an independent run by Trump. But it’s just too great to ever happen.

    On the other hand. . . Trump has miscalculated badly. “Trump” is a brand and that brand is bleeding out. He’s being dropped faster than the Confederate flag. He’ll never get another network gig and folks who want a luxury condo are not going to want to admit they live in a Trump-themed place.

    He’s made the mistake outsiders generally make when entering politics. They think they’ve experienced scrutiny and criticism, but political scrutiny is orders of magnitude more harsh than anything even a loud-mouthed fraud like Trump has ever experienced. The Donald is The Done as a brand once this race is over, he’ll just be TMZ fodder, no better than a one-off Kardashian.

    So, from his position he may see no better alternative than to double down in politics. A third party Trump would continue to wield power and continue to draw cameras. If he could get even 3 or 4 points in the general election he could tell himself he punished the GOP for rejecting him.

  9. Mu says:

    I just wonder if Trump, as CEO of Trump Inc., will sue Trump, the campaign, for damaging the Trump business brand.

  10. Paul Hooson says:

    A top businessman like Donald Trump should hold much more moderate and intelligent views. His views on Hispanics are very ignorant and racist for some business leader like Trump to hold.

  11. JohnMcC says:

    Visiting the comment threads at various RWNJ sites as I do from time to time I can report that there is considerable support for The Donald. “I like Cruz but Trump is saying out loud what we all think” sort of sums it up. Those fellows (and they’re ALL fellows AFAICT) expect the Repub “establishment” to knock him off and are hoping against hope that he’ll make a so-called ‘third party’ run. There are lots of references to the ‘Perot route’. As long as he wants to play he’ll have an audience. And even if he’s not a billionaire I doubt the lack of money will make him quit doing what he wants.

  12. CSK says:

    @Paul Hooson:

    As a top businessman, Trump should know that you can’t build a 1575 mile wall on the southern border and make Mexico pay for it. But he said he’d do it, and the dopes ate it up.

    Who knows what Trump actually believes in other than his own bank accounts?

  13. anjin-san says:


    As a top businessman

    Trump is a “top businessman” – what do you base that on?

  14. CSK says:


    I didn’t. I was repeating Paul Hooson’s characterization of Trump as a “top businessman,” and responding to it.

  15. anjin-san says:


    Ah. It would be interesting to read an in depth analysis of Trump’s business career. On the surface, it seems that he is second generation wealth, a relentless and successful self-promoter, and good at emerging from failures relatively unscathed. It he really a talented businessman though?

  16. says:

    I see his support ceiling in the 20 – 30% range of Republican voters, there is still a lot of stupid fragmented between a bunch of candidates and if he stays in the field long enough it could easily consolidate on him, or any of the other clown candidates. There is a large part of Republican electorate that either hates the government or think it doesn’t matter who’s in charge and would be willing to put him there. (Yes some of the Democratic electorate is the same way.)

    I don’t see it happening though because I agree with John P in that I don’t think he makes it to FEC filings; too much risk he’ll get tangled up with defrauding the FEC or, worse, the IRS and end up in jail. As such I don’t think he hurts the GOP any more than he already has; as soon as he drops out his backers pretends that it never happened and the real candidates look like they were reasonable all along. The only way he actually implodes the Republican party is if he actually wins the nomination.

    He isn’t particularly going to hurt himself either – not in the long run – he has too much experience playing this game, too much name/media attention – best we can hope for is a year or two of relative quiet and then he’ll latch on to some mini/faux-scandal of someone (next president, UN, media figure… doesn’t much matter) and get right back to where he is now.

  17. edmondo says:


    and good at emerging from failures relatively unscathed. It he really a talented businessman though?

    Four separate BKs will do that for you.

  18. grumpy realist says:

    @Paul Hooson: Well, if you want to draw from that the conclusion that Trump isn’t a top businessman, I’ll go along with you….

    He’s a second-rate carny man who invested in casinos and real estate based on the inheritance he got from his father, and has managed to make himself a celebrity (meaning: someone famous for being famous) so his “brand” supposedly is worth something. He’s always been more enamored of his ego than actual good business strategy, and now he’s taken what’s probably one step too far.

    (How do you go bankrupt as a casino owner? Boggles the mind!)

  19. Tyrell says:

    @Paul Hooson: Most of the talk around here on the radio and coffee shops is that people don’t like Trump but agree with what he is saying.

  20. @Tyrell: Odds are good that any number of people agree with what he is saying. However, are there enough to get him nominated (or to even be competitive)? That’s the question.

    Funny you should mention radio, as he is spouting off far more like a talk radio host than a series presidential candidate.

  21. EddieInCA says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Funny you should mention radio, as he is spouting off far more like a talk radio host than a series presidential candidate.

    Given how many times he’s threatened to actually run, that sentence is accurate.

  22. anjin-san says:


    a talk radio host

    Probably an attractive option for him at this point. He is damaged goods as far as television is concerned, but much of the base eats his message up. One thing is for sure, he needs to have his ego stroked constantly. A radio show might be a good way to accomplish that.

  23. Tyrell says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I would lay down some money that Trump won’t be around for the debates. He hollars fire, and heads out the door. He is late on this issue about the crime problems with some of the illegal immigrants. This issue has been brought up before, and results from some of the Mexican authorities emptying over crowded jails and chasing them up here. The people and police in the southwest report that it is a big problem, with many young people and children who cross the border are often the victims.
    This murder in San Francisco is a sad thing. This man was captured and released five times – someone needs to be held accountable, someone high up, not just a local police officer. Also, the sanctuary laws should be looked at, and Governor Brown could help things by getting rid of those kind of laws: no one should be allowed to give cover or protection to murderers and other criminals.
    No, the Mexican people and most of them in this country are honest, hard working people.

  24. michael reynolds says:


    This issue has been brought up before, and results from some of the Mexican authorities emptying over crowded jails and chasing them up here.

    Jesus Christ, dude, before you climb up on your high horse about Mexican crime, ask yourself where the Mexican gangs are getting their money and their guns. WE are the ones shoveling drug money into Mexico by the truck load. WE are the ones selling them guns. WE are motivating and arming the drug gangs that are threatening the Mexican government and massacring hundreds of Mexican citizens.

    The hypocrisy of the Trump-Tyrell position is just astounding.

  25. anjin-san says:


    This murder in San Francisco is a sad thing.

    Yes it is. Politicizing it is sad too.

  26. Console says:

    Kind of drives me nuts. GOP candidate says some pretty blatantly racist things, is number 2 in polling and the media glosses over it like this doesn’t say anything about the republican party. Somehow we can’t treat Trump like a legitimate candidate because good forbid we associate conservatism with white supremacy.

    Then you get people like Tyrell talking this mumble mouth BS as though one crime in San Franciso really says something about FOURTEEN MILLION PEOPLE. Stop making excuses for racist nonsense.

    And I haven’t even touched on the fact that most of this stuff actually has statistics behind it and it damn sure doesn’t say what Trump is trying to say.

  27. Lenoxus says:

    George Will:

    At the end of the day he is a one-man Todd Akin.

    I like this phrase. It implies that Todd Akin himself, despite being one man, doesn’t qualify for the position. Like when a celebrity loses their own lookalike contest.

    @EddieInCA: For Trump (or any equivalently extreme candidate) to win the nomination would also be good for the GOP, in the long term.

    Whoever wins the nomination will still probably lose to Clinton. If it’s someone sensible, the base will, as it did with McCain and Romney, blame the loss on moderation. (Rather than, respectively, choosing Palin and the 47% remark, not to mention factors beyond their control like GW Bush’s unpopularity and Obama’s relative popularity.) But if November 2016 sees a massive Ted Cruz loss, maybe it will knock them into political reality.

    Unfortunately, despite being large enough to have an influence in the process, the hardcore portion of the base can’t actually anoint anyone on their own. So we’ll probably keep seeing vaguely moderate if somewhat awful nominees, rather than a breaking of the fever. (Also, even if Cruz won the nomination, after he lost the election the base would probably just cite all the ways he moderated to compete with Clinton — say, a quote about not wanting to burn Obamacare to the ground or something — as proof that he became the RINO that all Americans secretly despise.)

  28. Kylopod says:


    Also, even if Cruz won the nomination, after he lost the election the base would probably just cite all the ways he moderated to compete with Clinton

    Exactly. If you look at the last election, none of the non-Romneys that the right turned to had anything approaching an ideologically pure record–certainly not the two candidates who ended up winning primaries, Santorum and Gingrich, both of whom had supported the idea of a health insurance mandate, among other things.

    And of course, there’s the Donald, past supporter of “Canadian-style” health care, a fairly recent convert to anti-abortion views, donor to more Democrats than Republicans. The idea that nominating him would possibly give the right a reality check is almost as absurd as the idea that he would ever be nominated in the first place.

    The perfect right-wing candidate is sort of like a quantum particle: as soon as you look at it, it’s no longer there.

  29. OzarkHillbilly says:


    This issue has been brought up before, and results from some of the Mexican authorities emptying over crowded jails and chasing them up here.

    Oh BullHockey. Where did you pull this supposed fact out of? Oh yeah, Brietbarts long decomposed lower orifice. And it stinks just as bad too.

  30. mantis says:


    The other day he explained how he gets all his news from talk radio and gossip at the diner, so no real surprise.

  31. Dr. Barnes says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Can be more Intellectually Dishonest? Your statement is quite amusing. It truly is an amazing reflexive denial by a fascist liberal. You blame everyone except the criminals.

    Comrade, you might though have a slight point which is validated by the Fast & Furious program.
    Maybe we are to blame them if we gave them the guns. Huh?!

  32. michael reynolds says:

    @Dr. Barnes:

    Gosh, so vacant despite the “Dr.” in front of your name. A quick cut and paste of an old non-scandal and you think you’ve refuted something.

    The criminals, you idiot, are American drug users who create the market. Obviously the Mexican suppliers are also criminals, and yet that doesn’t alter the fact that you need both a willing seller and a willing buyer and we are the world’s most willing buyer.

    Right? Want to refute that? Doctor?

    How about this?

    An average of 253,000 weapons purchased in the United States head south of the border each year, according to the study by four scholars at the University of San Diego’s Trans-Border Institute and the Igarape Institute, a research center in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

    Profit margins at many gun stores are razor thin, and thousands of U.S. gun vendors would go out of business without the illicit traffic to Mexico, said Topher McDougal, an economist educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who’s one of the study’s authors.

    The study’s conclusions are likely to add to controversy over what role U.S. weapons smugglers play in Mexico’s drug violence. Mexican officials have long blamed lax gun laws in the United States for the availability of weapons in Mexico, which has only one gun store and considers gun ownership a privilege, not a right.

    The value of the annual smuggling trade is $127.2 million, says the study, “The Way of the Gun: Estimating Firearms Traffic Across the U.S.-Mexico Border.”

    The traffic is reflected in the disproportionately high number of federally licensed firearms dealers along the U.S. side of the border, said Robert Muggah, another of the four scholars. Of the 51,300 retail gun shops in the United States that hold federal licenses, some 6,700 of them are concentrated in the four U.S. states that border Mexico, Muggah said. On average, there are more than three gun dealers for every mile of the 1,970-mile border between the countries.

    “The Mexican demand explains that abundance and the successful nature of the business,” Muggah said.

    You gun cultists want to jump up on your racist soap box and denounce Mexicans? Try denouncing your fellow Americans for sucking drugs up by the ton and your fellow gun cultists for supplying the weaponry.

    Hypocrite. Oh, sorry, Dr. Hypocrite.

  33. Dr. Barnes says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Why don’t you admit what you wrote is bullshit? Illegal immigrants murder innocent Americans and you find a way to condone it. It sure did not take you long to call me a Racist. IS that all you have, Fascist? Keep leading the angry PC mob that is intolerant of everyones beliefs except your own.

    Tell me, is it the gun elitists fault too that blacks kill blacks every day in Chicago?? Whose fault is that anyway? I dont see white people buying drugs on the South Side.

  34. michael reynolds says:

    @Dr. Barnes:

    Gun elitists? Hah. Nice try. The word is cultists. As in, irrational beliefs taken to even more irrational extremes. Or you could just say “nuts.”

    And of course you’re a racist. You started in on Mexicans and moved on to African-Americans, spouting the usual brainless swill you clowns pick up on right-wing sites whose business is feeding intellectually deficient folks who imagine that calling themselves “Dr.” will somehow distract readers from noticing that they’re really quite stupid.

  35. Dr. Barnes says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Your Are a funny guy.. Everyone knows you are the Real Racist my friend. You hate everyone who doesnt agree with you. Re- Read your posts and you will see you are a pretty intolerant guy who doesn’t understand or have time to relate to another opinion. I guess millions of us are racists because we dont want Mexican criminals invading our country. We also hate blacks too because we allow them to kill each other in every urban city. btw, just how many blacks live in your segregated neighborhood, hypocrite??

    btw, Remember that incident in Baltimore a few months ago?? You were leading the lynch mob against the police. Have some self respect already and stop with the bullshit. You ignore facts to make your silly arguments.

  36. Kylopod says:

    @Dr. Barnes:

    Everyone knows you are the Real Racist my friend. You hate everyone who doesnt agree with you.

    I think you should consult the dictionary. In none of which I am aware is “racist” defined as “someone who hates everyone who does not agree with him.”

  37. Tony W says:

    @Kylopod: I don’t think he’s that kind of Dr. – more like Dr. Suess or Dr. Pepper.

  38. Kylopod says:

    @Tony W: Why insult Dr. Seuss and Dr. Pepper like that?