Campaign 2016: Modest Interest, High Stakes

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The 2016 presidential campaign has gotten off to a slow start with voters, according to a new national survey from the Pew Research Center. A majority of registered voters (58%) say they have given at least some thought to candidates who may run for president in 2016, but that is 10 points lower than at a comparable point in the 2008 campaign – the last time both parties had contested nominations.

Yet, even at this early stage, the vast majority of voters (87%) say they care a good deal about who wins the presidency, and 72% say they care which party prevails.

Here are some major findings from the survey, conducted March 25-29 among 1,500 adults, including 1,097 registered voters:

GOP’s Fluid Race. No Republican stands out among the party’s crowded field: Of 10 possible GOP contenders asked about in the current survey, no candidate garners solid support from more than a quarter of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters. This is the deepest and most open GOP field at a comparably early stage of the race dating back to the 2000 presidential campaign.

Clinton Stands Out. In contrast to the tight Republican field, Hillary Clinton enjoys broad support among Democratic voters. Fully 59% of Democratic voters say there is a good chance they would vote for Clinton; no more than about one-in-five say there is a good chance they would vote for any other possible candidate. Joe Biden (22%) and Elizabeth Warren (21%) would be the closest competitors.

Democrats Want a Candidate Who Compromises. At this stage in the race, 52% of all voters say it is more important to them that a presidential candidate will compromise with the other party than that he or she will stick to their core values and positions (41%). Democratic voters, in particular, place value on candidates who will make compromises: 63% say this, compared with 35% of GOP voters.

Experience vs. ‘New Ideas.’ Half of voters (50%) say “experience and a proven record” is more important to them than “new ideas and a different approach” (43%). Republican voters (59%) are more likely than either Democrats (46%) or independents (48%) to prioritize a proven record.

Walker, Carson in the Mix Despite Low Visibility. Just 57% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters have heard of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, yet 23% say there is a good chance they would vote for him. That is about as many as say there is a good chance they would vote for any of the other GOP candidates in the survey. Ben Carson has name recognition only among about half (48%) of GOP voters, but 21% say there is a good chance he would get their vote.

Christie: High Visibility, Little Support. Chris Christie sits on the other end of the spectrum. Though relatively well-known (83% of GOP voters have heard of the New Jersey governor), there is little potential support for a Christie candidacy: Just 9% of GOP voters say there is a good chance they would vote for him, while nearly four-in-ten (39%) say there is no chance.

Both Parties’ Negative Views of Congress. The public’s views of Congress continue to hover near all-time lows. Just 22% have a favorable opinion of Congress – equal to its rating last December – while 72% feel unfavorably about Congress. With the GOP now in control of both houses of Congress, Republicans’ views of the institution are only slightly more positive than Democrats’ views: 29% of Republicans have a favorable opinion of Congress, compared with 22% of Democrats (and 19% of independents).

For the full survey, go to This survey is for immediate release and is available at the Pew Research Center website at

For more information or to arrange an interview with Carroll Doherty, director of political research, please contact Russ Oates at 202.419.4372 or