Ted Cruz gains ground in latest WORLD survey

Campaign 2016 | But Marco Rubio still holds a commanding lead among evangelical insiders
by J.C. Derrick
Posted 11/19/15, 06:54 am

WASHINGTON—Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, surged in WORLD’s November evangelical insiders survey, cutting into the sizeable lead held by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

The findings are part of a monthly survey of 103 evangelical leaders and influencers, 88 of whom participated in November. The results are not scientific or representative of all evangelicals but offer a glimpse into how a group of influential evangelicals are leaning in the 2016 presidential race.

This month, Rubio’s first-choice support rose slightly to almost 45 percent, but shifting second-choice support caused his combined percentage to dip from 66 percent to 63 percent. It’s the first time Rubio’s overall support has dropped since WORLD’s survey began in July.

Cruz has finished second to Rubio in first-place votes the last three months, but his support had remained relatively static. In November, he broke away from the pack, claiming more than 25 percent of first-choice votes, up 8 points from October.

“I think you’re starting to see [the Republican] base come home to coalesce behind one of its own,” said survey participant Steve Deace, an Iowa radio talk show host who endorsed Cruz in August. Deace called Cruz the only candidate who has “consistently and unashamedly stood for biblical values,” citing his willingness to sign the National Organization for Marriage candidate pledge.

WORLD’s November survey produced other positive news for Cruz: The number of participants who indicated they would not consider him dropped to 17 percent from 25 percent last month, moving him from fifth to third place. Less than 5 percent said they would not vote for Rubio, and 9 percent said they would not consider voting for former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, the only other candidate besides Rubio to receive progressively more support in the first four surveys, saw his upward movement come to an end. Carson lost almost half his overall support—from 17 percent to 9 percent—and those who said they would not consider him increased from 19 percent to 29 percent.

Carson has endured lingering questions about his personal story, but likely more relevant are several recent stumbles on foreign policy. This week The New York Times reported that Carson’s foreign policy advisers say the candidate has had a difficult time grasping the intricate details and dynamics of the international stage.

Rubio (34 percent) and Cruz (29 percent) fared best in a new survey question asking respondents who they trust most to handle national security and foreign policy issues. Although both are young, freshman senators, they have shown strong command of international issues during the four GOP debates.

Respondents chose former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (15 percent) as the third most-trusted candidate on national security and foreign policy. Bush also finished third overall with a combined 23 percent of first- and second-choice selections, tied with Fiorina, who regained some of her lost support from October’s survey.

Billionaire businessman Donald Trump, who still sits at or near the top of the GOP field in most national polls, again finished with less than 5 percent of combined support.

WORLD conducted the survey Nov. 13–18—the immediate aftermath of the ISIS terrorist attacks in Paris. While domestic religious liberty (67 percent) and abortion (52 percent) remained atop the list of election issues, national security/terrorism jumped to third place (34 percent). When combined with foreign policy (19 percent), the two categories move slightly ahead of abortion for second place.

Even if security issues continue to rise in significance, survey participant Emily Buchanan, executive director of the Susan B. Anthony List, said pro-life groups will ensure abortion is a defining issue in the 2016 election.

“By the end of the year, we should be hitting 10,000 doors a week in each state,” she said. “Life will absolutely be a key factor, and we have the perfect contrast shaping up between the Democrat and Republican nominees on the abortion issue.”

Deace predicted domestic and national security concerns will collapse into a single issue: Which candidate is most prepared to protect the American way of life from enemies—both foreign and domestic.

Note: Participants in this survey may endorse or volunteer for a presidential candidate’s campaign but not work for one in a paid capacity. Last week, Eric Teetsel, whom WORLD quoted in the September survey report, resigned his position as executive director of the Manhattan Declaration to take a job with the Rubio campaign. A new evangelical leader has taken his place in the survey. 

WORLD’s survey of evangelical leaders and insiders

1. If the presidential election were today, which declared candidate do you prefer?

Marco Rubio, 44.8%, 39

Ted Cruz, 25.3%, 22

Jeb Bush, 8.1%, 7

Carly Fiorina, 8.1%, 7

Ben Carson, 3.5%, 3

Bobby Jindal*, 2.3%, 2

John Kasich, 2.3%, 2

Hillary Clinton, 1.2%, 1

Mike Huckabee, 1.2%, 1

Rand Paul, 1.2%, 1

Donald Trump, 1.2%, 1

Undecided, 1.2%, 1

Chris Christie, 0.0%, 0

Lindsey Graham, 0.0%, 0

Martin O’Malley, 0.0%, 0

Bernie Sanders, 0.0%, 0

Rick Santorum, 0.0%, 0

Answered: 87 

Skipped: 1

2. On a scale of 1-to-5, how excited are you about this candidate?

1-Disappointed, 1.2%, 1

2-Lukewarm, 1.2%, 1

3-Satisfied, 9.2%, 8

4-Happy, 60.9%, 53

5-Elated, 27.6%, 24

Average response: 4.13

Answered: 87

Skipped: 1

3. Who is your second choice?

Marco Rubio, 18.6%, 16

Jeb Bush, 15.1%, 13

Ted Cruz, 15.1%, 13

Carly Fiorina, 15.1%, 13

John Kasich, 7.0%, 6

Ben Carson, 5.8%, 5

Bobby Jindal*, 5.8%, 5

Mike Huckabee, 3.5%, 3

Donald Trump, 3.5%, 3

Chris Christie, 2.3%, 2

Martin O’Malley, 2.3%, 2

Hillary Clinton, 1.2%, 1

Rand Paul, 1.2%, 1

Bernie Sanders, 1.2%, 1

Rick Santorum, 1.2%, 1

Undecided, 1.2%, 1

Lindsey Graham, 0.0%, 0

Answered: 86

Skipped: 2

4. According to a RealClearPolitics average of recent polls, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio are the top five contenders for the GOP nomination for president. Which of these candidates do you prefer?

Marco Rubio, 54.0%, 47

Ted Cruz, 28.7%, 25

Jeb Bush, 11.5%, 10

Ben Carson, 3.5%, 3

Donald Trump, 2.3%, 2

Answered: 87

Skipped: 1

5. Who will you absolutely not vote for in the primaries? (Check as many as apply.)

Bernie Sanders, 93.1%, 81

Hillary Clinton, 89.7%, 78

Martin O’Malley, 86.2%, 75

Donald Trump, 75.9%, 66

John Kasich, 64.4%, 56

Lindsey Graham, 60.9%, 53

Rand Paul, 60.9%, 53

Chris Christie, 44.8%, 39

Rick Santorum, 39.1%, 34

Jeb Bush, 34.5%, 30

Mike Huckabee, 31.0%, 27

Ben Carson, 28.7%, 25

Bobby Jindal*, 21.8%, 19

Ted Cruz, 17.2%, 15

Carly Fiorina, 9.2%, 8

Marco Rubio, 4.6%, 4

Answered: 87

Skipped: 1

6. What are the top three issues you will consider when selecting a candidate? (Please check only three.)

Religious freedom (domestic), 67.1%, 59

Abortion, 52.3%, 46

National security/terrorism, 34.1%, 30

Marriage and family issues, 27.3%, 24

Supreme Court nominations, 25.0%, 22

Economy/jobs, 21.6%, 19

Foreign policy, 19.3%, 17

Federal debt/deficit, 18.2%, 16

Immigration, 13.6%, 12

Religious freedom (international), 4.6%, 4

Taxes, 4.6%, 4

Education, 3.4%, 3

Environment/pollution, 3.4%, 3

Poverty, 3.4%, 3

Race relations, 2.3%, 2

Healthcare/Affordable Care Act, 1.1%, 1

Crime, 0.0%, 0

Answered: 88

Skipped: 0

7. Based on this survey and national polls, it appears foreign policy/national security will play a larger role in the 2016 election than they did in 2008 and 2012. Which candidate do you most trust to handle foreign policy/national security?

Marco Rubio, 34.5%, 30

Ted Cruz, 28.7%, 25

Jeb Bush, 14.9%, 13

Carly Fiorina, 6.9%, 6

Hillary Clinton, 4.6%, 4

Rand Paul, 3.5%, 3

Donald Trump, 2.3%, 2

Mike Huckabee, 1.2%, 1

Bobby Jindal*, 1.2%, 1

John Kasich, 1.2%, 1

Rick Santorum, 1.2%, 1

Ben Carson, 0.0%, 0

Chris Christie, 0.0%, 0

Lindsey Graham, 0.0%, 0

Martin O’Malley, 0.0%, 0

Bernie Sanders, 0.0%, 0

Answered: 87

Skipped: 1

Graphs by David Freeland.

J.C. Derrick

J.C. is WORLD’s deputy chief content officer and WORLD Radio’s managing editor based in Dallas. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.

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