Trump Trails Generic Democratic Candidate in Hypothetical Presidential Race

Poll shows the president still fares better than a potential GOP challenger
President Donald Trump delivering a tax reform speech on Sept. 29, 2017. A new Morning Consult/Politico poll shows Trump trailing an unnamed Democratic presidential candidate if the election were held today. (Shawn Thew-Pool/Getty Images)
March 07, 2018 at 12:01 am UTC

Key Takeaways

  • When asked which candidate they were more likely to vote for if the presidential election were held today, 44 percent said the unnamed Democratic candidate.

  • Thirty-six percent went for Trump and 19 percent said they don't know or had no opinion.

President Donald Trump trails a generic Democrat in a hypothetical election held now, but fares better than a different potential Republican presidential nominee, a new Morning Consult/Politico poll found.

When asked which candidate they were more likely to vote for if the presidential election were held today, 44 percent of registered voters said an unnamed Democratic candidate, while 36 percent said Trump, according to a March 1-5 survey of 1,993 registered voters. Nineteen percent said they didn't know or had no opinion.

When asked who they would choose in an election today between an unnamed Democratic candidate and a Republican not named Donald Trump, the hypothetical GOP presidential candidate garnered 28 percent, compared to 42 percent for the Democratic rival. Thirty-one percent said they didn't know or had no opinion.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher of Inside Elections, said Trump is the most popular figure within the Republican Party "almost everywhere." In order for a potentially different Republican to beat a hypothetical Democratic rival, he or she is "going to need the president's supporters in order to win," Gonzales said in a Tuesday phone interview.

"I think that the president's supporters within the Republican Party like the president and don't like a generic Republican," he said.

The survey comes about two years ahead of the 2020 primary season and follows Trump's Feb. 27 announcement that digital strategist Brad Parscale will manage his re-election bid.

The White House and the Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

Among self-identified Republicans, support changed from 79 percent for Trump to 62 percent for another potential Republican, a 17 percentage point drop. Among self-identified Trump 2016 voters, support went from 80 percent for Trump to 54 percent for a Republican candidate not named Trump, a 26 percentage point drop.

"The Trump coalition, at this point, is bigger than the traditional Republican coalition," said Andrew Surabian, a former special assistant to Trump who is a self-employed Republican strategist, in a Tuesday phone interview.

Among self-identified independent voters, a 36 percent plurality said they did not know or had no opinion when asked about Trump against an unnamed Democrat, while 35 percent said they would vote for the Democrat, and 29 percent said they would vote for Trump.

Democrats held firm, with 82 percent saying they would support the Democratic candidate against Trump and 81 percent saying they would support the Democratic candidate against an unnamed Republican.

John Weaver, a self-employed Republican strategist who works for Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), said Democrats are energized right now against Trump, which he added does not bode well for Republicans in 2020, depending on who is on the ballot, or the 2018 midterms.

"I think the tsunami is formed out there. We can't quite see it yet, and all the other animals except for the humans have raced up into the hills," he said in a Tuesday phone interview.

Among voters overall, this month's presidential matchup numbers are similar to the results from a Nov. 16-19 Morning Consult/Politico poll that asked voters if they would re-elect Trump or vote for the Democratic candidate if the 2020 presidential election were held then.

A headshot photograph of Eli Yokley
Eli Yokley
U.S. Politics Analyst

Eli Yokley is Morning Consult’s U.S. politics analyst. Eli joined Morning Consult in 2016 from Roll Call, where he reported on House and Senate campaigns after five years of covering state-level politics in the Show Me State while studying at the University of Missouri in Columbia, including contributions to The New York Times, Politico and The Daily Beast. Follow him on Twitter @eyokley. Interested in connecting with Eli to discuss his analysis or for a media engagement or speaking opportunity? Email [email protected].

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