Is This Why Trump Has Such a Huge Lead in the Polls?
Policy + Politics

Is This Why Trump Has Such a Huge Lead in the Polls?

REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Donald Trump, the billionaire former reality television star currently leading the Republican presidential primary race got some good news Friday, in the form of a national CNN/ORC poll that has him dominating the field with 36 percent support – 20 percentage points higher than his closest challenger. The poll also shows that Trump runs significantly stronger among less-educated, less-affluent voters, and performs particularly well among voters in the 50-64 age range.

The poll also showed Trump dominating his rivals when Republican voters were asked which candidate is best suited to handle a variety of issues. From the economy to foreign policy, from immigration to ISIS, Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters far and away say they prefer Trump, in some cases by 30- and 40-percentage point margins.

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“Trump’s support is heavily concentrated among non-college educated Republicans and those who only lean Republican and thus are less inclined to show up and vote in primaries and caucuses,” Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics said via email.

“The key question is: Will the currently fragmented college-educated half of the GOP coalesce around another candidate (say, Rubio) eventually?” Sabato continued. “If they do, they can stop Trump. If they stay fractured, then they may very well have to deal with the November consequences of a Trump nomination—and that won’t be pretty.”

While Trump’s support on the issues tends to be strongest among the less-educated and less-affluent, it isn’t limited to that group.

For example, when asked straight up who they would be voting for, 36 percent of all Republicans in the survey said Trump. However, among those without a college degree, 46 percent said they would support the real estate mogul. Only 18 percent of college graduates, by contrast, said they would vote for Trump. (It is important to note that, in the U.S., people without a college degree represent 68 percent of the population over 25 years of age.)

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Trump’s support is also higher among voters who earn less than $50,000 a year, at 40 percent. He gets 33 percent of the vote from those who earn more than that.

Other data in the polls suggests that at this stage of the campaign voters haven’t completely thought through their choices and preferences.

For example, a central facet of Trump’s plan for dealing with illegal immigration is the mass deportation of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country. In the survey, 53 percent of Republicans said that they believe the government should attempt to deport everyone living in the country illegally. However, when asked if they believe it would be possible for the government to deport all of those people, 73 percent of Republicans responding said, no, it wouldn’t be possible.

So, more than half of GOP voters in the survey want the government to embark on a plan that nearly three-quarters of GOP voters believe is literally impossible to execute. What that suggests is that there are a lot of voters out there who haven’t really started looking closely at the issues.

That may explain why Trump, the author of the immigration plan that the vast majority of Republican voters say is impossible, was the overwhelming favorite among GOP voters when they were asked which candidate can “best handle” illegal immigration. Trump took 48 percent of voters, with his nearest rival, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, getting 14 percent.

Trump may or may not continue to hold such a massive lead in the GOP primary, but it seems likely that at least some voters will adjust their preferences to bring them in line with basic logic sometime before the voting starts.