Hot Air/Townhall poll: Carson edges Trump, Rubio wins debate

Hot Air and Townhall Media Group commissioned our third scientific poll of the 2016 cycle, partnering with Survey Monkey on the races in both parties. The online survey of 2,444 random registered voters across the United States took place among a potential audience of 45 million in the Survey Monkey response database, rather than just among readers of Hot Air and Townhall Media Group sites. Once again, we decided to wait until Friday of last week to start polling in order to test for more lasting impressions after the CNBC debate.

The races have changed in both parties over the intervening six weeks. Among the 661 respondents planning to vote in a GOP primary/caucus, Ben Carson now narrowly leads the Republican field, 21.73% to 20.45% for Donald Trump (and 20.61% for Undecided). That falls within the ±4% margin of error for this subsample, but is dramatically different than September’s poll, which put Trump up over Carson 23.32%/14.86%.

GOP-primary

Note also that Marco Rubio gained new support in the past six weeks, too. In September’s poll, he came in fourth at 6.87%, but he’s picked up nearly five points to come in third at 11.34%. Carly Fiorina, who had been in third place six weeks ago, dropped from 10.38% to 3.35%, barely on the radar screen at all, in a virtual tie with Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Rand Paul, and Mike Huckabee. The new polling data indicates that Rubio and Carson appear to be gaining momentum, while Trump has either plateaued or may be starting to fade — if just a little.

Among those who watched the CNBC debate of all political stripes (606 respondents), Rubio won overwhelmingly with 33.7%. Ted Cruz came second at 14.9%, and Trump followed in third place at 12.9%. No one else hit double digits, but Carson, Chris Christie, and — surprisingly — John Kasich tied for fourth at the 9% mark. Carly Fiorina only got 5.6% of the responses despite having more time than anyone else in the debate.

The Democratic primary changed significantly after Joe Biden’s exit. In September, among 849 respondents who planned to vote in a Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders led Hillary Clinton by almost seven points, 39.1/32.4, with Biden attracting 10.6% of the respondents.  Biden’s exit has made a big difference, and the Benghazi hearing may have had an impact, too.

Dem-primary

Interestingly, Sanders’ support is nearly the same as it was six weeks ago (36.1% in this poll), but Hillary’s has spiked upward by almost 20 points, to 51.6%. The withdrawal of Biden as a legitimate alternative seems to have pulled all of his support to Hillary as well as reducing the undecideds from 15% to 10%. Democrats may have decided to start getting serious and settling on their choice of candidate for the nomination. It probably doesn’t hurt that nearly 68% of Democratic primary voters believe Hillary testified truthfully and honestly to the Benghazi committee, while only 9.6% of respondents disagree. Even on her VA scandal remarks, Hillary only has slightly less than 30% disagreeing with her, almost the same number as agree with her and less than the 41.6% who have no opinion.

It’s worth noting that even among the entire sample (which came back with a D+19, and for which we have not corrected), Hillary generally gets a pass on the Benghazi hearing, with a slight plurality trusting in her testimony. Only 35.7% believe she did not testify truthfully and fully, as opposed to 39% saying yes and another 25.3% undecided. Among independents, those numbers flip around to 40.7% no and 31.6% yes, but there isn’t an overwhelming response to that question except among Republicans (76.9% say Hillary didn’t testify truthfully and fully on Benghazi). It will take a significant revelation at this point for Benghazi to put a dent in Hillary’s momentum.