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
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
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
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
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
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)
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
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
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.