Post Iowa Dynamics in Voter Preference

By Hovannes Abramyan, Data Scientist, TPC

Rick Santorum supporters most unlikely to vote for Trump, Bush, Christie, but might pick Rubio

Despite a strong showing in the 2012 competition for the Republican nomination for president—including winning in the Iowa caucuses—Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum’s current campaign never gained much traction. In fact, our latest study estimated his support around only 1 percent nationally. Our most recent figures also showed him with limited potential for growth.

Santorum did not score highly in consideration among any of the different electoral segments we studied, so determining where his supporters might naturally turn is difficult. Consideration of his candidacy was correlated most positively with consideration of two other candidates who dropped out of the race (Huckabee and Paul) and Jim Gilmore, whose potential for an increase in support is low due to the fact that a large share of the electorate has stopped considering him as well. We can say where his supporters are unlikely to turn, however. Consideration of Santorum was most weakly correlated with consideration of Trump, Bush and Christie. Thus, we suspect that one of the other candidates—including Marco Rubio, who Santorum officially endorsed—is more likely to pick up support from Santorum leaving the race.

Mike Huckabee supporters look to Cruz and Carson

Our latest study showed Mike Huckabee’s national primary support at about 2 percent. Although this is a small share of the electorate, the former Arkansas Governor was still being considered by a relatively large share (83 percent) of “uncommitted conservatives”— the quarter of the primary electorate who have economically and socially conservative views, but who largely want a candidate who will compromise to see that things get done.

We found in our study that uncommitted conservatives are also strongly considering Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson. In fact, consideration of Huckabee was most positively correlated with consideration of Carson and Cruz. Consideration of Rubio, however, was among the weakest correlations, along with consideration of Donald Trump and Chris Christie. Thus, we expect Cruz and Carson to gain the most from Huckabee suspending his campaign, as his supporters now look for a new candidate.

Rand Paul voters might pick Cruz

Although Kentucky Senator Rand Paul did well in very early polling, his numbers in recent months were low. In fact, our January PCC study estimated his national support among primary voters around only 2 percent. This is unchanged from our October study, though, importantly, the share of voters still considering him dropped over that time period.

Paul’s best showing was among voters with libertarian tendencies. However, this segment of the electorate—largely considered Paul’s base—is more widely considering Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz. Although our analyses show that consideration of Paul was most strongly correlated with consideration of Gilmore, Santorum and Huckabee, two of the three also dropped out this week, and our report shows Gilmore with very limited potential for growth. Because consideration of Paul was least correlated with consideration of Trump, Christie and Rubio, our numbers suggest Ted Cruz is the most likely beneficiary of Paul’s exit from the race.

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