Strong headwinds of unpopularity continue to hobble leading Republicans Donald Trump and Ted Cruz with the public at-large, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
By contrast, most Republicans see Trump and Cruz in a favorable light - 56 and 58 percent, respectively - while John Kasich is less popular among fellow partisans (47 percent) despite receiving the best ratings among the broader electorate.
The poll finds Trump suffering little damage from recent controversies over punishments for women who have abortions and the arrest of his campaign manager, though the real-estate mogul’s ratings are still in the doldrums.
Thirty-one percent of Americans have a favorable view of Trump while 67 percent are unfavorable -- nearly identical to an early March Post-ABC poll which found he would be the most disliked major-party nominee since at least 1984. Over half the public (53 percent) continues to see Trump in a “strongly unfavorable” light, ticking down from 56 percent last month.
Cruz fares better with 36 percent favorable and 53 percent unfavorable among the public at-large; his strongly unfavorable mark is 20 percentage-points below Trump’s level (33 percent for Cruz vs. 53 percent for Trump). Kasich receives an even split on this basic measure of popularity -- 39 favorable and 39 percent unfavorable, while over one-fifth report no opinion of him (22 percent).
Trump and Cruz are both less popular than Mitt Romney at this point in the 2012 campaign, a year in which the eventual Republican nominee was haunted by weak personal ratings. In mid-April 2012, 40 percent had a favorable view of Romney while 48 percent were unfavorable. Romney trailed President Obama on this measure, one factor in Obama’s re-election despite his own mediocre job ratings.
The results portend a general election where both parties’ presidential nominees are disliked by most Americans. While the latest poll did not ask about Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, a March Post-ABC poll found 46 percent rated her favorably while 52 percent saw her unfavorably. “Strongly” unfavorable ratings of the former secretary of state outnumbered strongly positive views by a 17-point margin (41 to 24 percent).
Republicans also face a challenge unifying their party around an acceptable candidate at July’s convention, with the Post-ABC poll finding Cruz boosters have mixed views of Trump and vice versa.
Among Republicans who rate Cruz favorably, 46 percent have a favorable view of Trump while 52 percent see him unfavorably. Trump supporters are similarly mixed on Cruz, with 48 percent seeing him positively and 51 percent negatively. Nearly 3 in 10 Republicans only have a favorable impression of Trump, disliking both Cruz and Kasich.
The poll finds a persistent significant gender gap in Republicans’ views of Trump, with 64 percent of Republican men rating him positively compared with 47 percent of GOP women. The gap is slightly smaller than in March, though it contrasts with Cruz and Kasich who receive similar ratings among both Republican men and women.
Trump’s exceptionally high negative ratings are driven by negative impressions from across the political spectrum, but pose different levels of danger to him in a general election setting. For instance, his 87 percent unfavorable rating among self-identified Democrats is not very worrisome for his candidacy, as Republican presidential nominees rarely win much support among Democratic voters in general elections.
Yet Trump also continues to receive strongly negative ratings among several key voting blocs that are at least partly up for grabs this year. Two-thirds of political independents have an unfavorable view of Trump, as do 74 percent of Americans under age 40; 75 percent of women, and 81 percent of Hispanics. Majorities in each group see Trump in a “strongly unfavorable” light, exceeding intense negative ratings of Cruz or Kasich by at least 20 points.
Should those ratings fail to improve, Trump’s potential path to victory rides on a surge in support and turnout among whites, particularly those without college degrees. Yet Trump’s image among both groups is underwater. Whites see him negatively by a 59 to 39 percent margin, while non-college whites tilt negative by a narrower 52 to 45 percent.
The Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted April 6-10 among a random national sample of 1,010 adults, including users of both conventional and cellular phones. Overall results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. See here for a full description of poll methodology.