While the political world is understandably focusing its attention on the largest Super Tuesday prizes, it’s worth examining how the outcomes of the first four nominating contests will impact today’s primary in Virginia, and what it says about Donald Trump’s strength.
With the growth of the D.C. suburbs in Northern Virginia and the declining share of white voters, Virginia has gradually become one of the key swing states in presidential elections. So just who do Republican voters in Virginia prefer to carry the flag of their party? Trump, of course.
As with many of the states in which our Trendency Research platform is currently surveying, the businessman maintains a strong core of support — and has for months. In Virginia, he hasn’t increased his lead over the competitors in the last couple of months, but no one else has risen to challenge his place. Trump takes 54 percent of the vote at the 90 Threshold (strongest supporters), while only two other candidates even make the double digits. It’s a phenomenon that’s representative of the overall GOP presidential primary.
In our Trendency Research surveys, we don’t look for binary responses to questions. Instead, we allow users to allocate their choice of candidate on a sliding scale. They can apportion all their support to one person, or divide it among several if they haven’t made up their mind. Voters who login to take our surveys online do so on a regular basis over the course of several months and the site registers the changes — or lack thereof — in their opinions on each visit.
In the analysis, Trendency algorithms utilize Threshold Analysis to separate strong supporters from weak. Voters at higher Thresholds are more likely to cast a ballot for that candidate and less likely to switch their allegiance.
Now, Ben Carson still has a loyal, but shrinking, following. His support no longer exists at the 90 Threshold, meaning his voters are more open to other candidates. On the other hand, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have shown some life. Rubio now has 18-percent support at the 90 Threshold, up 11 points from December. Unfortunately for Rubio, his support is shallow and doesn’t increase at the lower Thresholds, implying that he has some work to do to not finish another distant second or third to Trump.
As for Cruz, he’s made some gains in the last couple of weeks at the higher Thresholds only. He’s currently tied with Rubio with 18 percent support at the 90 Threshold, but while Rubio is steady there, Cruz’s support has jumped up 14 points. Both candidates are far behind Trump, but Cruz is making some inroads with voters.
As for Trump, in addition the aforementioned strong showing at the 90 Threshold, he takes 47 percent support at the 75 Threshold (up 2 points since early February), 48 percent at the 50 Threshold (up 9 points), and 40 percent at the 25 Threshold (up 6 points as well). This is seemingly a dominating position for Trump.
Moreover, Trendency tracks what we term the Commitment and Rejection Indices. On the Commitment Index, our analytics estimate that only 21 percent of Virginia voters are truly committed to Trump while 62 percent of voters currently reject the idea of voting for Trump.
The Rubio and Cruz Commitment Index is only at 6 percent. This three-to-one ration on the Commitment Index points to another strong Trump showing, with Rubio and Cruz likely to finish a close, yet distant, second and third place.
While these numbers potentially leave the door open for candidates other than Trump to win the Commonwealth, that glimmer of hope is small.
Stefan Hankin is founder and president of Lincoln Park Strategies, a Washington D.C.-based public opinion firm. Follow him on Twitter at @LPStrategies.