Second-Choice Poll Sheds Light on Florida Voters

Posted by Molly Rockett on September 17, 2015
As the Republican primary experiences its first withdrawal in Governor Rick Perry’s departure, outsider candidates continue to make gains. A poll of Florida voters released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling (PPP) affirms Ben Carson and Donald Trump’s lead over the rest of the GOP field. Florida candidates Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are polling below 15% in their home state, and polling data foreshadows the impact of a Biden candidacy.

Like many other polls, PPP asks respondents not only for their favorite candidate, but also for their second choice. However, unlike many other polls, PPP consistently reports the full breakdown of second-choice support by candidate rather than showing it in aggregate. We’ve spotlighted PPP in the past for its leadership in thoroughly reporting second choices and yielding a wealth of interesting insights into Trump’s rise in the field. When voters get to rank a second preference and those numbers are fully displayed, we gain a fuller understanding of how deep and widespread each candidate’s support really is.

PPP’s latest poll out of Florida continues this trend of fascinating second-choice insights. Donald Trump and Ben Carson are robust even with the combined competition of Rubio and Jeb Bush in Florida. Trump leads the field in first-choice support with 28%, with Carson coming in second at 17%. In terms of second-choice support, Trump actually trails Carson, earning a cumulative 16% to Trump’s 11%. Trump and Carson also draw their second choice support from each other's’ supporters. Almost a fourth of Trump’s supporters list Carson second, and 20% of Carson’s supporters list Trump second. 18% percent of Carson’s supporters list Rubio second, while 15% list Carly Fiorina second.

Likely because it was conducted in their home state, Rubio and Bush are the other strong performers in this poll, each with significant crossover appeal. Rubio is the favorite second-choice of Bush supporters, and Bush earns 16% of second-choices among Rubio supporters, second after Ted Cruz’s 20%. In fact, Rubio supporters show the most diverse second-choice preferences. Their second-choices are well distributed between Bush, Carson, Christie, Cruz, Trump and Kasich.

On the Democratic side, PPP uncovers striking support for Joe Biden among Hillary Clinton supporters, should he enter the race. They note "the numbers continue to indicate that if Biden enters the race it will hurt Clinton a lot more than it does Sanders. Fifty-four percent of Biden voters say Clinton is their second choice, compared to 14% who say Sanders is. If you reallocate Biden's voters to their second choice, Clinton's lead over Sanders in the state goes up to 64-21.”

These second-choice numbers reveal a much more nuanced picture of Republican and Democratic preferences in Florida. We hope to see more polls adopt this reporting layout as the field contracts throughout the fall, and this additional layer of information becomes more and more important to really understanding the primary contest.
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