Cruz dominates latest WORLD survey

Campaign 2016 | Evangelical insiders say they’ll go with a third-party candidate if faced with a choice of Clinton and Trump in November
by J.C. Derrick
Posted 3/22/16, 08:01 am

WASHINGTON—Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, dominated WORLD’s ninth evangelical insiders survey, which found a large majority of participants ready to vote for a third-party candidate if Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination.

The new findings are part of a monthly survey of 103 evangelical leaders and influencers, 81 of whom participated in March. The results are not scientific or representative of all evangelicals but provide a glimpse into how some influential evangelicals are leaning in the 2016 presidential race.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida came out on top in the first eight surveys, but after his exit from the race last week, nearly all of his support went Cruz’s way, with 76 percent of survey respondents naming the senator from Texas as their first choice for president.

“It’s time for conservatives to unite around Ted Cruz as the GOP nominee,” said survey participant Michael Quinn Sullivan, president of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. “We don’t need a candidate whose unrighteous anger appeals to the lowest common denominator.”

John Kasich came in second in WORLD’s survey with 15 percent of respondents naming the Ohio governor as their first choice and 51 percent making him their second pick. Despite the shrinking field of GOP candidates, Trump continued to flounder in the survey, receiving the first-choice support of only 5 percent of respondents, while 13 percent made the billionaire businessman their second choice.

After months of optimism, enthusiasm took a sharp dive among survey participants: About 46 percent now say they are disappointed, lukewarm, or only satisfied with their preferred candidate. A slight majority of the evangelical insiders surveyed said they would write in a name or abstain from voting if Trump and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton are the only options on the November ballot.

“The real threat to the GOP, if Trump is the nominee, is not that conservatives will vote for a third-party candidate, it is that they won’t vote,” said survey participant Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, who urged conservatives to coalesce around Cruz. “The conservative, values-oriented voters who unfortunately stayed home in 2008 and 2012 should be Exhibit A.”

In the event a conservative third-party challenger arises amid a Clinton-Trump general election, nearly 80 percent said they would consider the outside candidate. Of those, more than 50 percent said they would, on principle, vote for a third-party candidate who had no chance to win.

Among possible third-party options, survey participants chose two of the most outspoken Trump critics: first-term Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry tallied roughly 35 percent apiece. Only five participants chose former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republican Party’s 2012 nominee and another outspoken critic of the current GOP front-runner.

If an open GOP convention occurs this summer in Cleveland, 50 percent of survey respondents said delegates should choose the best candidate for the party, even if it’s someone who wasn’t previously in the race.

The top three election issues selected by survey respondents remained unchanged from February: More than half cited domestic religious liberty (60 percent), abortion (56 percent), and Supreme Court nominations (55 percent).

WORLD’s survey of evangelical leaders and insiders

The complete results from the March 22 survey

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

Ted Cruz, 76.0%, 60

John Kasich, 15.2%, 12

Donald Trump, 5.1%, 4

Hillary Clinton, 1.3%, 1

Bernie Sanders, 1.3%, 1

Third-party/write-in, 1.3%, 1

Answered: 79

Skipped: 2

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

1-Disappointed, 6.2%, 5

2-Lukewarm, 14.8%, 12

3-Satisfied, 24.7%, 20

4-Happy, 38.3%, 31

5-Elated, 16.1%, 13

Average response: 3.43

Answered: 81

Skipped: 0

3. Who is your second choice?

John Kasich, 50.7%, 38

Third-party/write-in, 29.3%, 22

Donald Trump, 13.3%, 10

Ted Cruz, 5.3%, 4

Hillary Clinton, 1.3%, 1

Bernie Sanders, 0.0%, 0 

Answered: 75

Skipped: 6

4. How would you like to see the Republican Party handle a potential open convention?

The delegates should pick the best candidate for the party, even if it’s someone who was not previously running, 50.0%, 40

Only make sure one of the top two primary candidates is on the ticket, 26.3%, 21

Nominate the top candidate for president and let him choose his vice president, 23.8%, 19

Answered: 80

Skipped: 1

5. If Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump represent the major parties in November, would you support a conservative third-party challenger?

Yes, on principle, even if the candidate had no chance to win, 50.7%, 39

Yes, but only if the candidate had a chance to win, 28.6%, 22

No, I would vote for Trump, 19.5%, 15

No, I would vote for Clinton, 1.3%, 1

Answered: 77

Skipped: 4

6. The following are actual or potential third-party options. Which do you prefer?

Ben Sasse, 35.6%, 26

Rick Perry, 34.3%, 25

No one specified, 10.9%, 8

Mitt Romney, 6.9%, 5

Paul Ryan,* 3.4%, 2.5

Marco Rubio,* 3.4%, 2.5

Rick Santorum,* 1.4%, 1

Ted Cruz,* 1.4%, 1

Scott Walker,* 1.4%, 1

Mitch Daniels,* 0.7%, 0.5

John Kasich,* 0.7%, 0.5

Gary Johnson (currently running on Libertarian ticket), 0.0%, 0

*Write-in choice (Note: Some respondents split their choice between two candidates)

Answered: 73

Skipped: 8

7. In a Trump-Clinton scenario with no significant third-party challenge, what would you do?

Write in a name, 41.6%, 32

Vote for Trump, 37.7%, 29

Abstain from voting, 14.3%, 11

Vote for Clinton, 6.5%, 5 

Answered: 77

Skipped: 4

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

Religious freedom (domestic), 60.3%, 47

Abortion, 56.4%, 44

Supreme Court nominations, 55.1%, 43

National security/terrorism, 26.9%, 21

Foreign policy, 21.8%, 17

Economy/jobs, 16.7%, 13

Federal debt/deficit, 15.4%, 12

Marriage and family issues, 15.4%, 12

Immigration, 10.3%, 8

Religious freedom (international), 9.0%, 7

Candidate civility, 6.4%, 5

Healthcare/Affordable Care Act, 3.9%, 3

Poverty, 2.6%, 2

Education, 1.3%, 1

Race relations, 1.3%, 1

Taxes, 1.3%, 1

Crime, 0.0%, 0

Environment/pollution, 0.0%, 0

Answered: 78

Skipped: 3

J.C. Derrick

J.C. is WORLD Radio’s managing editor. He spent 10 years covering sports, higher education, and politics for the Longview News-Journal and other newspapers in Texas before joining WORLD in 2012 and eventually becoming WORLD’s Washington Bureau chief. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.

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  • Duncan McPherson
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    When Romney won over Santorum who more clearly represented evangelical beliefs, evangelicals pouted and took to social media to throw personal attacks because the nominee was not enough like us. Well, we got a frontrunner who is like us now. When he doesn't win he pouts and takes to social media to throw personal attacks.

  • VSKluth's picture
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    My vote will be on God's records in heaven, as far as I'm concerned.  (Yes, I understand the alien righteousness of Jesus Christ.) What evidence will heaven have showing my support for the right person?

  • Doug Adee
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Ted Cruz keeps saying a vote for Kasich is a vote for Trump. In fact, when it comes to the remaining primaries, a vote for Trump is a vote for Hillary. shows both Hillary and Sanders soundly trouncing Trump in November. That's why it's essential that the remaining states' primaries reject Donald Trump and at least let the GOP convention choose the GOP candidate. It's also essential that, even if Donald Trump has substantially more delegates than any other candidate that the GOP choose a candidate that has the best chance of winning in November and make the best president, even if that person did not previously declare themselves in the running or if they had declared but subsequently dropped out of the race. Even though right now the candidates with the most delegates are Trump and Cruz, neither, in my opinion, would make the best GOP candidate. Even though current polls show Cruz ahead of Clinton, the margin is miniscule. Additionally, Ted Cruz has too many enemies in the GOP, and his ideas are too irrational, particularly when it comes to facing ISIS, that I think the Democrat candidate would eat his lunch next November on the terrorism issue. Ted and Trump both have pathetic understandings of Muslims, foreign affairs, and the use of military, and having either as Commander In Chief would be extremely risky. The best candidates, in my opinion, to represent the GOP are Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Jeb Bush and Jim DeMint. We absolutely cannot have Romney or McCain again.

  • Gregory P
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Some people argue that evangelicals who did not vote or support Mitt Romney in 2012 were to blame.  However, Romney had sided with the Massachusetts supreme court against the laws and constitution of Massachusetts and ordered clerks to issue licenses for weddings between people of the same sex.  He had instituted government required health care that ended up paying for abortions.  And there were other matters beyond just his belief in and advocacy of Mormonism that should have concerned any Bible believing Christian.  As for the impracticality of third parties, Ross Perot started a party in an election cycle, with very little but money, and opposition to NAFTA, and he got a significant number of votes.  Many think of Lincoln as a Republican President, and for most of His presidency he was, but he was re-elected as a candidate of the newly formed National Union Party.  In a time of crisis, if Bible believing Christians united behind solid principles they could nominate a credible candidate and vote in enough numbers to defeat the Republican and Democrat candidates.  I am not saying this is likely.  It would help to have a significant number believing in the sovereignty of God to overcome overwhelming odds.  As for hoping that Trump will go along with enough Republicans to "have things go our way," for years we have had Republican majorities in Congress, and yet they continue to grant money to Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider.  And where is the Republican candidate to stand up against the concept of judicial supremacy or sovereignty?  The First Amendment of the Constitution states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."  There is no mention of the Supreme Court in this amendment because the Supreme Court is not authorized by the Constitution to make laws.  The Supreme Court and other courts are subject to the Constitution as are the other branches of government.  The Ninth Amendment states: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."  Can you find where in the Constitution the Supreme Court or courts can prohibit the free exercise of religion?  Yet the courts have done just that.  I have not found where the Constitution gave the Supreme Court the authority to redefine marriage.  In the arguments for the erroneously decided Roe v Wade decision, Justice Blackmun acknowledged that if the fetus was acknowledged as a person then the case for abortion would collapse "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."  The Supreme Court of 1973 arbitrarily assigned that pre-born human beings were not persons.  Some legislators and citizens have proposed laws that identify as persons human beings from biological beginning (human fertilization of a human egg) to natural death.           

  • ProfessorMoon's picture
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Thus far it has been the "pragmatic" voters in many Bible belt states who gave Trump his delegate lead over Cruz.  I wonder if any of the brethren wish they could rescind their early votes.  Count me among those who will vote principle.

  • Allen Johnson
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Two points. First, the "choice" of the unnamed evangelical Christian leaders who tell us who God's candidate is (or isn't). What is the criteria for selecting those 103? Second, in the past this was much easier for the 103.  God runs a candidate (Republican) and Satan runs a candidate (Democrat).  This year is confusing.Jesus had a choice, too. Satan led him to a high mountain where he could see in a flash of time all the kingdoms of the world and their power (military, wealth, prestige). Satan said it was his to give (Luke 4), and Jesus could have it all if he would bow to Satan.My sense right now is that the United States is entering into a time of God's judgment. A president will not bail us out but might be a sign of this impending judgment. Or, maybe the citizenry, beginning with the Christians, liberal and conservative, can repent.

  • doc327hank
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    If Trump wins, he is going to have a shock.  He will have to deal with a Board of Directors - 435 members.  He has never had a Board like this: one that he doesn't fully control.  If he stays in character, and does not understand that what worked for him before will not work with Congress , I would not be surprised if he were impeached and thrown out of office  within a year, maybe 6 months.  Regardless of who the majority is in each house.    But I also suspect Trump will not win against Hilary.   I am hoping I do not have to see that particular contest.

  • doc327hank
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    XIon has a real good point.  But I think the Devil doesn't care!  It's like the choice of having strychnine in your mashed potatoes, or Sarin dissolved in your drink.   The US economy is probably in a death spiral  (just started) and I doubt either could/would do anything to fix that, while the US still continues to muddle along, and while there is still some chance. And with that, I can only see bad choices/decisions made by both candidates, with respect tot he economy and especially other areas. .   But  Boy Scout hits the one thing that is still in play.  Do we go with someone who we know would pick bad nominations, or do we pick someone who we hope might pick less bad nominations.   Is Hope a strategy?  Will this Hope work out as well as the last time, 8 years ago?    Is Donald (or Hilary) God's method of punishing the US, since exile isn't really practical for the US at present?  Is this Phase 2 of God's punishment? 

  • JSchultz
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    In every election I have had to choose between the better of two evils.  So, contrary to BoyScout I favor the formation of a conservative third party.  The time to start one is not a year or six months before an election; but immediately following it; a third party could break the deadlock in Washington.  But PLEASE VOTE, even though you may have to hold your nose to do so; and please do not waste your vote on a write in candidate that cannot win.  REMEMBER SCOTUS.

  • DBMiller
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

     Irealthoughts, true, Trump may prove hostile to much or all we believe in, but Hillary will without question. However, many if not most of the apparatchik Trump brings in will be from the Republican side, which means many will have values we agree with, and will operate (imperfectly, as all sinners do) with some positive principles. Further, a republican president should bring in republican legislators on his coat tails, so we have a reasonable hope that just and fiscally responsible laws will be more likely. If Trump winds up winning the primary battle, we will have to decide between a potential and a certain evil, requiring a vote for Trump lest we be complicit in electing that evil woman. However, we really do need to get behind Cruz even at this late date. I think he recognizes his status as a redeemed sinner, and we will always be able to quibble about something in his past or in his leadership as president (I.e., we shouldn't beatify him), but he knows and supports our constitution, and seems genuine in placing his personal faith in Christ, and in committing to live and govern IAW biblically based principles. 

  • Trumpetly Speaking
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    The present two parties were formed during the election campaign between Adams and Jefferson.  The Republican party as we know it was formed during the election campaign of Abraham Lincoln.  Elections refine our process.  The issues before our country cannot be reduced to a single one however that may simplify our decision.  We live in tumultuous times, and we need to use our heads and our hearts in the same way those who fought, and died for our country did.  May we rise to the occasion and retain the uniquely effective form of government they gave us.  We need a great leader.  Our best and brightest hope was Marco Rubio.  Next to him is Sen. Sasse.  I will write in a principled leader before I will vote for the downfall of our great American form of government which I believe both Trump and Clinton represent.

  • Laura W
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Look at previous surveys--they didn't agree on the best candidate, but now that the field has narrowed considerably, the choice is more clear.

  • Joe
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    It should be emphasized that this article is reporting on a survey of "evangelical leaders and insiders".  Where were these so-called leaders a few months ago when some support for Cruz could have tipped the scales in a meaningful way?

  • JSpear
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    I'm not going to stay home if it comes down to Trump v. Hillary, but I'll write somebody in.  If that turns out to help Hillary win, so be it.  Trump is no better than Hillary in my mind.

  • lrealthoughts
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Sanman101,Comparing Donald Trump and Jimmy Carter is comparing apples and oranges.  Yes, Carter was definitely a poor president, but to his credit he didn't engage in continual personal attacks against his opponents or never gave any indication of a willingness to use illegal and strongman tactics (which Trump has done repeatedly) to get his way.  My perspective, is that to cast a vote for either a left wing radical (Hillary or Bernie) or a right wing radical (Trump) are both morally problematic.

  • sanman101
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    I agree with BoyScout.  Staying home is not an option.  And lrealthoughts, many people voted for Jimmy Carter because he was a good Christian man, but he turned out to be a terrible president.  Yes, Trump lacks excellent moral character and he wouldn't be my first choice, but God can use him for good.  We have no guarantee who would be a great president, but I think we have a better shot with Trump than anyone the Dems put up.  (I'm still holding out hope for Cruz.)

  • revduke's picture
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    This poll has been great at picking people who eventually get out of the race. 

  • Xion's picture
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    There is a lot of debate among Christians about whether to vote for the lesser of two evils, or throw away one's vote as a matter of conscience.  What would Jesus do?  He spoke of two kingdoms and had downright little involvement with the earthly one.  America is not a Christian nation despite what Peter Marshall says.  It is not a city on a hill.  The devil is in charge of all the kingdoms of this world.  And so, which candidate would the devil least want to win?