At this point in the presidential race, the significance of national polling gets a little murky. As things stand, 32 states have already held Republican nominating contests, and if the point of polling is to offer a guide as to who’s likely to do well in upcoming primaries and caucuses, a national survey offers little predictive value – because most of the country has already voted.
But there are other reasons to take note of national polls. Take the new Fox News poll, for example, which asked Republican voters for their presidential preferences:
1. Donald Trump: 45% (up from 41% in a Fox poll in mid-March)
2. Ted Cruz: 27% (down from 38%)
3. John Kasich: 25% (up from 17%)
A CBS News poll released yesterday pointed to similar results.
Granted, because it’s a national poll, this doesn’t tell us a whole lot about who’s likely to win the next round of primaries in the GOP race. For those contests, it’s best to look at state-by-state polling.
But let’s not be too quick to dismiss polls like these. In recent weeks, the conventional wisdom has said Trump’s entire national operation has stalled at the worst possible time: he lost Wisconsin; his campaign manager briefly faced a criminal charge; his campaign team has run into behind-the-scenes turmoil; he’s struggled through some high-profile interviews; he’s feuded with his own party’s national leaders; and he’s been badly out-hustled at state conventions where convention delegates are chosen.
Given all of these developments, much of the political world has started to conclude that Trump’s shooting star is finally burning out. Assumptions about his inevitable nomination have morphed into new assumptions about his inevitable failure.
It’s against this backdrop that Trump’s national support among Republican voters has gone up, not down, reaching heights unseen all year. Indeed, it’s not just the Fox poll: national polling averages show Trump’s support climbing, even as headlines paint a bleak picture.
Again, to get a sense of Trump’s chances in upcoming primaries, take a look at the surveys from those individual states. But the broader trajectory of Republican voters’ attitudes matters, too, and right now, despite all of the New York developer’s many problems, GOP voters have not yet begun to move away from the current frontrunner. They appear to be doing the opposite.