The Republican Candidates Donald Trump Has Hurt the Most
Donald Trump is hurting all his fellow Republican presidential candidates, though some more than others. Rick Perry, who suspended his campaignon Friday, is at the top of that list but is far from alone.
To assess the flow of support among the many candidates since Mr. Trump entered the race in June, I turned to panel data collected by the survey research firm YouGov. In August, the firm re-interviewed 1,418 people it first interviewed in May.
Because the first wave of interviews was done before it was known Mr. Trump would declare, nearly every Republican in the survey had an initial preference for someone other than him; in fact, the survey didn’t even ask about him. The results from the second survey, done in August, reveal whether voters 1) stuck with their initial choice; 2) moved to someone else; 3) moved to Mr. Trump.
Of the 608 Republicans in the survey, 54 percent moved off their initial choice — 20 percent to Mr. Trump and 34 percent to one of the other candidates.
The survey also revealed information about Mr. Trump’s supporters. Voters who moved his way were less educated and older than those who stayed with their initial choice or those who switched to another candidate. They were also more likely to describe themselves as conservatives, but not strong ones. Going to church regularly made people less likely to switch to Mr. Trump, but being Tea Party members made them slightly more likely to do so.
These voters came to Mr. Trump from all of the other candidates, but a disproportionate share of voters for Mr. Perry and Chris Christie abandoned them for Mr. Trump. Mr. Perry lost more than 60 percent of his May support to Mr. Trump, perhaps a harbinger of things to come.
Mr. Christie lost 57 percent. In contrast, Jeb Bush lost only 14 percent of his early support to Mr. Trump, the least of any candidate. (Granted, Mr. Christie and Mr. Perry did not start with large numbers of voters in this survey, so any defections made a bigger dent in their shares.)
The survey also asked people to choose a runner-up for their vote in the primary. Among those whose first choice was Mr. Trump, some said they would return to the candidate they sided with in May. Nearly 60 percent of the Ted Cruz supporters from May who switched to Mr. Trump said they would return to Mr. Cruz if their first choice were eliminated. Mr. Christie and Mr. Bush would get about a third of their straying voters back, while Mike Huckabee and Mr. Perry would see less than a fifth come home.
Scott Walker, who had emerged as an early strong contender for the nomination, lost 21 percent of his initial support to Mr. Trump, and 32 percent of them said they would come back.
Whose voters were the most loyal? Almost 70 percent of John Kasich’s supporters from the spring stuck with him through the summer. Rand Paul, Mr. Cruz and Mr. Bush also held on to 40 to 50 percent of their early fans.
If Mr. Trump left the race tomorrow, this survey finds that the biggest share of his supporters would go to Ben Carson, who would collect 18 percent of Mr. Trump’s current supporters. Carly Fiorina is next in line, followed by Mr. Cruz and Mr. Rubio, each garnering around 12 percent of Mr. Trump’s voters.
All of this shifting by voters among the candidates underscores a clear pattern in primaries: They are volatile. Primary campaigns are a lot more dynamic than general election campaigns, mainly because of the lack of party identification as an organizing force and the importance of news media coverage in shaping people’s choices.