Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio top choices of Republicans

A year before the 2016 presidential nomination contests formally begin, Hillary Clinton continues to hold substantial leads over all prospective challengers, both for the Democratic presidential nomination and in prospective general election matchups. This is according to a new national survey conducted by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute.

A full 70 percent of likely voter Democrats name Clinton as their first choice for nominee. Vice President Joe Biden, at 8 percent, comes in second. A dozen other prospective Democratic candidates get trace mentions.

“Clinton is still in strong shape nationwide with strong polling numbers against fellow Democrats in the primary and against her presumptive Republican challengers,” said Frank Orlando, instructor of political science at Saint Leo University. “It’s important to note that her opponents have not started attacking her, but once we see the campaign truly start, her polling numbers will fade and favorability decline. Still, according to our numbers, she is starting from such a position of strength that it will be quite a task to topple her given the current political climate,” Orlando stated.

The Republican nomination remains up for grabs, however, with no candidate breaking away from the pack of potential candidates. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (15 percent) and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (13 percent) are the names mentioned most often. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida (8 percent), U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas (7), U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (7) of Kentucky, and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin (7) have relatively small national followings at this point.

“Chris Christie has edged ahead of Jeb Bush in our nationwide polling, showing that the negative publicity that he absorbed due to ‘Bridgegate’ has largely subsided,” said Orlando. “Despite his lead, he is viewed less favorably by Republicans than Jeb Bush. Should Bush run, he can count on a broad base of support, with a quarter of voters supporting him as their first or second choice. If Bush decides not to run, the greatest beneficiary would seem to be Marco Rubio, not just in Florida, but nationally as well,” remarked Orlando.

In general election matchups, Clinton leads all prospective Republican nominees by wide margins. If the election were held today, Clinton tops Christie, 49-34 percent; Bush, 53-33 percent; Rubio, 53-30 percent; Paul, 54-30 percent; and Cruz, 54-27 percent.

These are tough times to be a politician, according to the Saint Leo survey data. Of eight national political figures tested, only Clinton had a net positive favorability rating among the national sample of likely voters, at 56 percent favorable, 39 percent unfavorable (+17). Rubio’s rating is 35/35 (even); Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, 18/19 (-1); Bush, 40/43 (-3); Biden, 45/48 (-3); Christie, 40/47 (-7); Paul, 34/43 (-9); and Cruz, 28/42 (-14).

Among likely Republican voters, prospective Republican presidential candidates are doing considerably better. Bush is best regarded, with a favorability rating of 68/22 (+46). Rubio’s rating is 60/17 (+43); Christie, 55/37 (+18); Paul, 57/23 (+18); and Cruz, 49/25 (+24).

Clinton’s favorability among likely voter Democrats is 87/9 (+78). Biden’s is 70/22 (+48), and O’Malley’s is 22/17 (+5).

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University is a regionally accredited, liberal-arts-based institution known for an inclusive Catholic heritage, enduring values, and capacity for innovation. The school was chartered in 1889 by Catholic Benedictine monks in rural Pasco County, FL, making Saint Leo the first Catholic college in the state. Over its 125-year history, Saint Leo has provided access to education to people of all faiths, emphasizing the Benedictine philosophy of balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit.
Today the university welcomes learners from all generations and backgrounds, from civilian occupations and the armed forces, and from all 50 states and more than 60 nations. Saint Leo’s 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students may elect to study at the beautiful University Campus in Florida, at more than 40 teaching locations in seven states, or online from other locations. The university’s degree programs range from the associate to the doctorate. Throughout these rich offerings, Saint Leo develops principled leaders for a challenging world.

Media Contacts: Kim Payne, staff writer and media coordinator, at or (352) 588-7233/(717) 798-1508 or Jo-Ann Johnston, academic communications manager, at or (352) 588-8237/(352) 467-0843.