A new poll released today from NBC/WSJ has Hillary Clinton leading the two Republican front runners Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. The same poll has Clinton losing to Marco Rubio and Ben Carson, but Carson and Rubio are both trailing Cruz and Trump by a wide margin in the race for the Republican Party nomination according to a Real Clear Politics average of six polls.
According to the poll Clinton is leading with 50 percent of the general electorate vote compared to 40 percent for Trump. That is by far the widest lead Clinton holds over any of the major Republican candidates. Clinton also defeat Ted Cruz, though that race is much closer. Clinton garners 48 percent of the general electorate vote compared to 45 percent for Cruz.
The poll does not have Clinton performing as well against Marco Rubio and Ben Carson. Rubio performs best against Clinton, defeating her by three points with 48 percent of the vote compared to 45 percent for Clinton. Ben Carson is in a virtual tie with Clinton, gaining 47 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 46 percent.
Recent polls of the race for the Republican Party have Donald Trump and Ted Cruz as the two dominant leaders. The RCP average of national polls gives Trump 29.8 percent support and Cruz has 16.7 percent support. Cruz has been surging recently, particularly in Iowa where some polls have him leading Trump and the RCP average now has Cruz as the favorite.
The second tier of candidates trailing Trump and Cruz consists of Marco Rubio and Ben Carson. Rubio currently hold 13.8 percent support according to the RCP average of national polls. Rubio is seen as the leading moderate in the race, but has failed to gain significant traction as Trump and Cruz dominate the Republican base. Carson has seen his support fall off dramatically over the last month. In early November Carson was competitive with Trump, with both polling in the mid twenties. Since that time Carson’s number have continually gone down and he now polls at just 13.2 percent in the most recent RCP national average.
The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted from December 6-December 9, 2015. The sample includes 1,000 adult Americans nationwide and has a margin-of-error of +/- 3.36 percentage points. The sample included both landline and cell phone respondents.
Analyst Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight gives NBC/WSJ a D+ rating in his ranking of pollsters based on partially on NBC/WSJ’s performance over 23 released surveys.
The NBC/WSJ poll matches up well with other polls that show Clinton performing best versus Trump and Cruz and the worst against Rubio. Three other polls released in late November/early December each gave Clinton a lead over Trump. A CNN poll gave Clinton a lead of 3 points, a USA Today/Suffolk poll gave Clinton a lead of 4 points, and a Quinnipiac poll gave Clinton a lead of 6 points.
An RCP average of four polls gives Clinton a 3.2 percentage point edge on Cruz, with the three polls mentioned above all giving Clinton a lead of 2-5 points over Cruz.
An RCP average of four polls gives Rubio a 1.5 percentage point edge versus Clinton, with every poll but the Quinnipiac poll giving Rubio a lead of 1-3 points. The Quinnipiac poll has Clinton defeating Rubio by 1 point.
Finally, against Carson the polls are mixed and the RCP average has Clinton and Carson tied..
It appears that Donald Trump’s position on issues like immigration are winning him the support of a large block of voters in the Republican primary, but losing him enough votes among the general electorate to lose to Clinton. Like Trump, Cruz appeals to hardline conservatives, but he has managed to alienate less general electorate voters than Trump.
Marco Rubio is seen as the more moderate candidate among the Republican candidates, and while he beats Clinton he is currently trailing badly to Trump and Cruz in the Republican primary. Rubio and Carson also benefit from receiving the largest percentage of the non-white vote against Clinton compared to all the other candidates. The Republicans may find themselves in a catch-22 in which a candidate must move so far to the right to win the the nomination that the winner makes himself unelectable in the general election.