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Hillary Clinton is millionaires' top choice in 2016

A new survey of the wealthy from CNBC finds Clinton leading the pack for 2016.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton applauds on stage during the Clinton Global Initiative on Sept. 24, 2014 in New York City. (John Moore/Getty)
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton applauds on stage during the Clinton Global Initiative on Sept. 24, 2014 in New York City.

Hillary Clinton is the top 2016 president of choice for America's millionaires, though it’s far from unanimous, according to a new survey from CNBC.

About a third of the 500 millionaires polled picked Clinton as their top choice in the next presidential election, followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 18%, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 14%. Surprisingly, given their reputation as populist crusaders, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren both did well, earning the votes of 11% and 8% of millionaires, respectively. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker also got 8% of the vote.

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CNBC polled only those with investable assets of more than $1 million (meaning their net worth minus the value of their residence was in the seven figures). That elite group represents about the top 8% of American households.

The results roughly reflect those of other national surveys.

With 72% support, Clinton was the overwhelming pick among Democratic millionaires, while Warren came in a distant second at 14%. The former secretary of state and possible presidential candidate is also the top pick of independent millionaires, with 23% choosing her. And she got support from 5% of Republican millionaires as well.

Among Republican millionaires, Bush is the clear favorite, with 36% choosing him. Christie comes in second at 19% and Walker is close behind at 18%. Christie beats Bush among independents, however, by four percentage points.  

While millionaires are a relatively narrow segment of the population, they wield outsize influence in the political process thanks to their ability to cut large checks to candidates. They’re also much more likely to vote than the population at large. According to the survey, 93% said they voted in this year’s midterm elections, compared to a national turnout rate of just 36%.

But their priorities are very different from the rest of America. While most Americans choose jobs and the economy as their top issue, the millionaires surveyed by CNBC said corporate tax reform should be the top priority of the new Congress.

Some important caveats: CNBC did not include the names of some potential candidates currently eyeing runs in 2016, including Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Sen. Jim Webb on the Democratic side. (They did, however, include Vice President Joe Biden.) On the Republican side, they skipped Florida Gov. Marco Rubio, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, surgeon Ben Carson, former Sen. Rick Santorum, and several others.