This weekend, the Des Moines Register released a new 2016 presidential poll. The poll showed Paul Ryan with by far the best favorability ratings for Republicans. But the poll revealed another big surprise for everyone, especially Texans: Rick Perry did better among Republicans than Ted Cruz.
Yes, you heard that right. Rick Perry did better than Ted Cruz. Now, the poll did not ask who people would vote for. The poll only asked how favorable voters viewed the candidates, which is useful more than a year away from the caucus, but it is not a predictor. And there are other caveats and even problems with this poll.
But could it be true? Could Rick Perry stand a better chance at winning the 2016 Republican nomination than Ted Cruz? Right now, probably not. Read below the fold to find out why.Here are the favorability results among Republican voters for Rick Perry and Ted Cruz in the poll:
Very Favorable – 19%
Mostly Favorable – 36%
Mostly Unfavorable – 16%
Very Unfavorable – 3%
Not Sure – 26%
Very Favorable – 18%
Mostly Favorable – 28%
Mostly Unfavorable – 13%
Very Unfavorable – 4%
Not Sure – 37%
That puts Rick Perry's favorable and unfavorable numbers among Iowa Republicans at 55% and 19%, respectively. For Ted Cruz: 46% to 17%. The unfavorable numbers are pretty similar for both, but more Republicans showed a favorable feeling for Rick Perry than Ted Cruz.
But there's one big problem with the poll: the survey only polled 182 self-identified Republicans. That's a small number, and it leads to a lot of issues as to if it's a big enough sample to be useful. At best, polling less than 200 people for such a big election is going to get a huge margin of error — much larger than the 3.8% for the full poll of 650 respondents.
Taking that into account, the poll probably cannot be shown as proof that Rick Perry is actually doing better than Ted Cruz. He might be, but more data would need to be seen.
And even if one trusts the poll, voters viewing Perry favorably does not mean that they will actually vote for Perry. It is clear from the results that the same amount of people view a lot of the Republican candidates favorably – they can't vote for them all. And as the Register wrote when focusing on the Republican data:
Republican operative Katie Packer Gage said feeling thermometers measure whether people like a candidate on a personal level, not whether they think a candidate could win.
“If you asked about George H.W. Bush, today he'd get much higher favorables than he did when he was running. But that doesn't mean people would vote for him,” Gage said. “I have a hunch that's what is going on here. People feel affection for Rick Perry because he's likable and he's done a lot of good things in Texas. But the minute his gaffes are replayed, people would question whether he has the chops to go up against Hillary.”
The Register's analysis also suggests that the results should be sobering for Ted Cruz's presidential aspirations. His “filibuster” of Obamacare clearly did not catapult his favorability in voters' minds. That's shown in the poll's data not just among Republican voters, but among all Iowan voters.
And maybe Rick Perry can come back and do well in 2016. It's clear from the poll's results that his horrid 2012 campaign did not leave as sour of a taste in voters' mouths as it did among politicos. True, 2012 hurt Rick Perry's viability as a national politician in a lot of ways. He's now viewed so lowly among political professionals that most 2016 polls don't even bother asking about him. But maybe, just maybe, both he and Ted Cruz run in 2016, and Rick Perry does better.