Donald Trump looks increasingly unstoppable in the primary, but weaker in the general election. A contested convention could divide the Republican Party even more. And a “gold-standard” national health study struggles with response rates. This is HuffPollster for Thursday, March 24, 2016.
TED CRUZ PROBABLY ISN’T THE REPUBLICAN PARTY’S SAVIOR - HuffPollster: "The GOP establishment seems convinced that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) could stop the insurgent presidential front-runner Donald Trump, if only Ohio Gov. John Kasich would drop out and simplify the field. But polling suggests that even if Kasich were to suspend his campaign, Cruz’s support wouldn’t grow enough to stop Trump. According to a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday, Trump would defeat Cruz by a 9-point margin if the race were narrowed down to just the two of them….Kasich doesn’t fare any better against Trump in a two-man scenario….The current trajectory suggests it’s unlikely that any of the GOP candidates can win the 1,237 delegates it would take to capture the nomination by the time of the Republican National Convention in July. At this point, Trump is the only candidate who has a slim chance. And with several winner-take-all states ahead, Cruz can forget about winning the nomination unless he starts outperforming Trump. The only hope for Cruz now, and for the GOP establishment, is to pose enough of a challenge to Trump to ensure the race enters a contested convention." [HuffPost]
But polls show Trump weak in November - Alan Rappeport: "According to a survey from Quinnipiac University, Mr. Trump continues to be the most popular candidate with Republican voters, but he trails Mrs. Clinton in a hypothetical matchup by a margin of six percentage points, 46 percent to 40 percent. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points. Mr. Kasich, who has won only Ohio, his home state, so far, is the strongest against Mrs. Clinton, leading her by 8 points while Mr. Cruz trails Mrs. Clinton by 3 points. The poll finds that Senator Bernie Sanders, who is also facing long odds in his race with Mrs. Clinton, would be the strongest Democratic candidate in matchups against Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz, and he is essentially tied with Mr. Kasich." [NYT]
Be careful with general election polls - HuffPost Pollster’s averages of head-to-head matchups show Trump falling farther behind both Democratic candidates. These are early polls, though, and are likely not predictive of what would happen in November. Polls become more predictive of the outcome when the candidates are set and voters are paying more attention. With 228 days to go before the election and neither nominee determined yet, general election polls shouldn’t be taken as certainties.
A CONTESTED CONVENTION WON’T HELP THE GOP - HuffPollster: "If Trump fails to collect the 1,237 delegates needed to win the GOP nomination outright, he may actually be the least-divisive option for the party. The alternatives, which involve the party coalescing around Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ohio Gov. John Kasich, or a yet-to-be-named dark horse, risk giving the appearance of party elites overriding the will of the electorate. That may be even more toxic than polarizing candidates in a campaign notable for hostility to the establishment. In a new HuffPost/YouGov survey, 52 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters say that if Trump falls short of a majority of delegates, they’d still prefer to see him chosen as the nominee…. just 40 percent of GOP voters say they’d be enthusiastic about Trump winning. That actually makes Trump the consensus candidate, with fewer than 30 percent of GOP voters saying they’d be enthusiastic about any scenario that wasn’t a Trump nomination. Just 4 percent of GOP voters say they’d prefer to see a new candidate chosen as the nominee, and just 16 percent would be satisfied with such an outcome. The vast majority, 55 percent, say they’d be outright upset." [HuffPost]
Other polling shows similar results - A Monmouth poll shows that 54 percent of Republicans think Trump should get the nomination if he has the most delegates even in a contested convention. Only 34 percent would prefer another candidate. Similarly, a CNN poll shows that 60 percent of GOP voters think delegates should vote for the candidate with the most support in a contested convention. Only 35 percent say they’d like to see another Republican get in the race as a third party candidate if Trump wins the nomination. [CNN, Monmouth]
MAJOR HEALTH SURVEY FACES DECLINING RESPONSE RATES - Maggie Koerth-Baker: “[E]very year since 1957, tens of thousands of Americans have opened their homes to government survey takers who poke and prod their way through a list of intimate and occasionally uncomfortable questions. That process is part of the National Health Interview Survey, the gold standard of health data in the United States.….At issue is the question of how long anybody can reasonably expect Americans to put up with sharing intimate details of their lives with taxpayer-funded bureaucrats….Twenty years ago, the NHIS lasted about an hour. But over time, more government agencies and scientists wanted to add more and more questions to make it more and more useful. Meanwhile, participation has been dropping. In 1997, the survey had a 91.8 percent response rate. 'The response rate today is about 70-73 percent,' Blumberg said….The NHIS is not the only survey that’s losing respondents over time. Across the board, fewer and fewer Americans are choosing to participate in surveys of all kinds.” 
HUFFPOLLSTER VIA EMAIL! - You can receive this daily update every weekday morning via email! Just click here, enter your email address, and click "sign up." That's all there is to it (and you can unsubscribe anytime).
THURSDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:
-Toni Monkovic says young voters' clear rejection of Donald Trump could have lasting effects on the GOP. [NYT]
-Philip Bump finds that Trump is less popular than the GOP and even Congress. [WashPost]
-Clare Malone goes on a quest to explain why Trump is leading the race. 
-Benjamin Hertzberg explains why Utah's Mormons rejected Trump and picked Cruz. [WashPost]
-Forty-two percent of Americans say it's a good time to find a job. [Gallup]
-A report by the Electoral Integrity Project rates the 2012 and 2014 US elections as the "worst of any long-established democracy." [WashPost]