GOP Voters Will Probably Support Anyone Their Party Nominates

They're about equally likely to say they'd back Donald Trump, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich pose for a photo at the beginning&
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich pose for a photo at the beginning of the Republican presidential debate in Detroit on March 3, 2016.

Donald Trump's Republican presidential rivals have been vocal about his shortcomings -- Sen. Marco Rubio's campaign is even selling #NeverTrump merchandise. But, when pressed by a moderator at Thursday night's debate, they all pledged to support Trump should he become the party's nominee.

GOP voters, new polling suggests, may end up coming to the same conclusion.

Trump is unusually unpopular for a front-runner, FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver points out. To date, exit polling indicates that just 49 percent of voters say they'd be satisfied to see him as the nominee.

Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), though, each fare only slightly better. And Republicans are just as likely to say they would back Trump in a general election as they are to say they would support either Cruz or Rubio, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted before Super Tuesday.

Sixty-eight percent of Republican primary voters say they would vote for Trump if he becomes the party nominee, with a roughly equal 65 percent saying the same of Rubio and Cruz. (Another recent poll, conducted for CNN, found more of a divide.)

The fact that none of the party's three leading candidates has locked down more than about two-thirds of voters suggests a certain lack of cohesion within the GOP. In comparison, more than 75 percent of Democrats say they'd vote either for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the general election.

Of the Republican voters who didn't commit to backing a specific candidate, most said they're still undecided or aren't planning to vote at all. Just 8 percent say they'd vote for a Democrat over Trump, while 7 percent and 5 percent say the same about Cruz and Rubio, respectively. Those numbers are pretty much in line with voting patterns from the 2012 election, during which 7 percent of Republicans ended up voting against the party's nominee, Mitt Romney.

Trying to measure support in a general election that hasn't even started is something of a fool's errand: With so many candidates' hats still in the ring and months of campaigning yet to come, polls tend not to be predictive of much. If a significant number of conservative leaders rebel against Trump, rank-and-file voters could eventually follow. But it's not necessarily clear at this point whether Trump is significantly more divisive than his rivals.


The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted March 1-3 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls.You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the polls' methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov's reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample, rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.