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Republican Candidates' Images Across GOP Segments

Republican Candidates' Images Across GOP Segments

by James Bird and Frank Newport

A special Gallup analysis of how Republicans and Republican-leaning independents feel about the leading Republican presidential candidates shows each has a unique fan base within the party. As one example, Republican women view most GOP candidates more favorably than do Republican men, but the opposite is true for Donald Trump, who is the only candidate to do better among men. As another example, Jeb Bush and Chris Christie are the only two candidates whose image is significantly worse among very conservative Republicans than among moderates and liberals.

These and numerous other insights are evident in the following graphic showing how nine Republican candidates fare with different groups of Republicans.


These results are based on interviews conducted Aug. 1-Oct. 6, 2015, with each major GOP candidate rated as favorable or unfavorable by about 4,900 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. A multivariate statistical analysis was used to determine the relative relationship between the demographic and other characteristics of these Republicans and their ratings of each candidate, while simultaneously taking into account the effect of all other characteristics. The circles on the graph represent those subgroups of Republicans which, compared with a reference group as detailed in the footnotes, have significantly higher or lower favorability ratings of each candidate.

Key findings by category include the following:


Christie's favorable rating is much less positive in the Midwest, South and West compared with the reference category of Republicans living in the East. Christie is from the East, and while both Carson and Trump join Christie in living in Eastern states, but only Christie gets much lower ratings in all of the non-Eastern regions. Trump receives lower ratings in the Midwest and in the West, while Carson's image is not significantly different across any of the regions compared with the East.

Kasich, governor of a Midwestern state, receives much lower favorable ratings in the South, while his ratings in the Midwest are not significantly different from those in the East. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz gets much higher ratings in the South, while Huckabee and Bush, both former Southern state governors, also get higher ratings in that region.


Republican women are generally more favorable toward many of the candidates than are Republican men, particularly Carson, Cruz, Kasich and Bush.

Trump provides the one exception to this pattern; he is the only candidate that Republican men view more favorably than Republican women.


Three candidates -- Christie, Huckabee and Trump -- receive much higher favorable ratings across all groups of Republicans aged 30 and older compared with the reference category of Republicans aged 18 to 29. Fiorina gets strongly higher ratings among those aged 50 and older, with Kasich doing much better among those aged 65 and older.

The only exception to the general pattern by which older Republicans view the candidates more favorably is Bush, whose favorable ratings are much lower among 30- to 49-year-olds than among the 18 to 29 age group.

Race and Ethnicity

Only 4% of Republicans interviewed in this Aug. 1-Oct. 6 time period identified as non-Hispanic black, and 8% as Hispanic, both significantly lower than the percentage of each population group in the general population.

Compared with white Republicans, this small group of blacks within the Republican ranks give much lower ratings to Cruz, Bush and Trump. Ben Carson is the only black GOP candidate, but his favorable image is no different among black than among white Republicans.

Hispanics are strongly higher in their favorable ratings of Bush, who speaks fluent Spanish and whose wife is originally from Mexico, and Rubio, whose parents are Cuban. Hispanics are also higher in their rating of Mike Huckabee. Ted Cruz's father is Cuban, but his image among Hispanic Republicans is no different than among whites.

Notably, Hispanics have strongly lower ratings of Trump. Trump has made strong statements about immigration and immigration policy during his campaign and, at one point, his remarks about the type of people who illegally cross the southern border to come into the U.S. were perceived by some as insulting to all Mexicans.

Education and Income

Trump's image is much less positive among Republicans who are college graduates and those with a postgraduate education than among the reference category of those with a high school degree or less. Huckabee also receives much lower ratings among postgraduates, while Cruz's ratings are somewhat lower among this group.

In all other instances, Republicans with education beyond high school tend to give more favorable ratings to the candidates or to be no different in their ratings. Bush, Rubio and Kasich are notable for doing better among both college graduates and those with a postgraduate education.

John Kasich receives strongly higher favorable ratings among each of the three income categories of $24,000 and above compared with lower-income Republicans, while Trump gets at least somewhat more positive ratings among each of these higher income groups. Carson and Christie receive higher ratings from Republicans with more than $90,000.


Republicans who are moderately or highly religious -- based on how often they attend church and whether religion is important to them -- are more positive about several of the candidates than the reference group of nonreligious Republicans. The four candidates who get the highest favorable ratings among the most religious group include Huckabee, Cruz, Rubio and Bush. Huckabee, a former minister, is the only candidate who receives a much higher rating among both the moderate and the very religious segments.

None of the candidates receive significantly lower favorability scores among more religious Republicans than among those who are not religious.


Republicans who are conservative and, in particular, very conservative, tend to be more positive about many of the candidates, compared with the reference group of moderate/liberal Republicans. Overall, six of the nine candidates -- Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump -- are rated much more positively by very conservative Republicans than by those who are moderate/liberal.

The key exceptions to this pattern are New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, both of whom conservative Republicans are much less likely to rate favorably.

Bottom Line

The ways in which Republicans view the major presidential candidates differ significantly across demographic categories within the party. Several of the candidates have strengths and weaknesses that will clearly affect their strategies and abilities to gain votes as actual primary voting begins next February.

One important example is ideology. These results show that very conservative Republicans are more positive about many of the candidates, but that Chris Christie and Jeb Bush are clear exceptions to this tendency. This could have consequences in primary voting if highly conservative Republicans are those most likely to turn out and vote. Another example is provided by ethnic differences. Though Hispanic Republicans may not be a large part of the GOP primary voting population, the fact that Bush and Rubio do well, and Trump does poorly among this group could have consequences further down the line if one of these three were to gain the Republican nomination.

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