Poll shows Americans losing faith in presidential primaries
By NBP Staff | March 25, 2016, 19:50 EDT
More Americans are paying attention to the presidential primaries but their enthusiasm has fallen, while fewer than a third say the process is working as it should, according to surveys released Friday by Gallup.
Among Republicans and independents leaning to the GOP, the proportion who say the process is working right fell to 30 percent this week from 46 percent in January, Gallup reported. Among Democrats and independents leaning their way, Gallup said there had been no change in views on the topic over the same period. But just 32 percent of Democrats said the process was working properly.
In comments about the findings, Gallup noted that in January, there were still nearly a dozen GOP candidates in the race, while that field had narrowed to three – Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich – when the last survey was taken, in mid-March. Some of the change, Gallup said, “may be related to Trump.”
“Trump is the least popular Republican nominee among members of his own party in recent elections going back to 1996, and he is much less well-liked than Hillary Clinton is among Democrats,” Gallup wrote. He rates as “unfavorable” among 41 percent of Republicans, while 55 percent give him a “favorable” evaluation.
Writing in New York magazine, liberal columnist Jonathan Chait suggested that at least some of the GOP dismay comes from a “Republican elite” that loathes Trump. Presumably he meant people like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 standard bearer who very publicly condemned the New York billionaire and television personality on March 3. Romney called him “a phony, a fraud” and said he was “playing the American public for suckers.”
Among other things, Chait speculated, Republican “elites” see Trump as deeply unpopular with most Americans, making him “a historically awful nominee,” that he can’t be trusted to stick to a Republican agenda if he is elected, and last but probably most importantly, “they find his persona repellant.”
Newt Gingrich, the former congressman from Georgia who in 1994 led the resurgent GOP to take control of the House of Representatives for the first time in decades, pointed out in the Chicago Tribune on March 14 that party elites also initially rejected Ronald Reagan as an upstart outsider, and turned their backs on Barry Goldwater in 1964. By acting on their own antipathy toward Goldwater, an Arizona Senator, party leaders “crushed House and Senate Republicans in the process,” Gingrich said in the newspaper.
But Bloomberg View writer Megan McArdle offered a different take last month. She said she received hundreds of emails from staunch Republican voters – people who had voted with the GOP all their lives, not just some party “elites” – who expressed their outrage.
“These people are not quietly concerned about Trump,” she wrote. “They are appalled, repulsed, afraid and dismayed that their party could have let this happen.” Many, she added, will vote for the Democrat rather than Trump, and may leave the party entirely.
Such feelings among Republicans may be putting a damper on their feelings about the coming election.
In March, 71 percent of Americans surveyed said they had given “quite a lot of thought” to the 2016 election, up from 63 percent in January, Gallup said in a separate report. But the enthusiasm for voting fell to 43 percent from 48 percent.