Part of this Bloomberg survey, which touches on both primaries and a number of current issues, has already made headlines. A majority of respondents in this poll, conducted Sunday through Tuesday, favor taking a pause on admitting Syrian refugees by almost a 2:1 margin at 53/28, leading the Washington Post to conclude that the opposite position is more like the political extreme. The issue of ISIS has also now become the most important issue, jumping ten points since September to 21%, while unemployment and jobs (!) dropped nine points to 11%.
Bloomberg focuses more on the Democratic horse-race results. To no one’s surprise, Hillary Clinton is still running away with the nomination:
Hillary Clinton has solidified her lead nationally in the Democratic presidential nominating contest, amassing a 25-point advantage over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and earning higher scores than her closest competitor on a range of traits important to potential voters, including the ability to combat terrorism.
The latest Bloomberg Politics national poll, taken in the days following the most recent Democratic candidates’ debate and the Paris terror attacks, shows that Clinton enjoys another key advantage over Sanders: A higher percentage of her supporters say they are certain they will vote for her next year, while more of Sanders backers say their minds could change.
And in one sign Clinton may be getting a handle on concerns about her likability inside her party, she drew a “very favorable” rating from 31 percent of Democrats and Democrat-leaners, up significantly from 23 percent in September.
Well, sure, Democratic primary voters were eventually going to shore up their views of Hillary. The problem for Democrats is that they’re the only voters who are doing so. Overall, she’s a net -11 on favorability, slightly better than September’s -16 but still with a majority of 53% unfavorable. By contrast, George W. Bush gets a 45/50, and Donald Trump is a 34/61. (Barack Obama gets a 48/49.) Winning the nomination isn’t really the problem for Hillary, at least not this time around. It’s what will happen to Democrats in a general election that should have them worried, especially with a candidate as well known as Hillary.
The sudden intense interest in ISIS as a leading issue will be another problem. During her tenure as Secretary of State, which is her entire claim to executive experience, three countries collapsed into failed states: Syria, Libya, and Iraq. Two of those (Libya and Iraq) collapsed as a direct result of foreign policy while Hillary was part of Obama’s team, and the Obama “smart power” foreign policy had significant indirect impact on the third. It’s not realistic to believe that ISIS will remain a central issue all the way to the next election — presidential elections are almost always about economic policy and performance — but to the extent that it stays a high priority, it will drag on Democrats.
Don’t forget that Hillary has to more or less run as an incumbent, one who will protect the Democratic gains during Obama’s tenure from reversals by Republicans. With that in mind, pay attention to the right/wrong direction numbers in polls, which give a soft indication about the sustainability of continuity candidates. Today’s number, 23/69, is the most negative seen by Bloomberg since September 2011’s 20/72. If it continues to go south, it leaves Republicans a big opportunity to argue for change and reform, and national security policy will be the obvious area for their focus.