With the Republican primary race heating up and the first ballots about to be cast in Iowa and New Hampshire, though Donald Trump remains the front runner nationally, there are still a lot of questions as to what is actually going to happen once voters take to the polls. In the most unconventional campaign season in memory, all the old rules about how to sway voters have gone out the window, and it seems none of the Republican candidates, with the possible exception of Trump, understand how to appeal to voters’ emotions – at least not in a positive way, anyway.
A new poll from the Wall Street Journal and NBC has found that, rather than galvanizing support around the eventual nominee, the current Republican primary season has turned voters off en masse, with forty-two percent of registered voters reporting that they have a less favorable feeling about the Republican Party in the wake of such a divisive, negative campaign. By comparison, only nineteen percent report a more favorable impression of the G.O.P., with a result that the party’s overall favorability rating has dropped by over twenty percent.
The strident tone of the Republican debates, with their frequent boos and heckling from the audience, though reaching previously unheard of audience numbers for primary debates, has only benefitted the Democratic Party as well as even twenty percent of people who identify as Republican primary voters report that their favorable opinion of the party has dropped. Even the top Republican in the field, billionaire real estate mogul Donald J. Trump, seems to have a less than favorable opinion of the party these days, openly flirting with the idea of running as an independent candidate if he felt he was being treated fairly by the party.
However, with Trump as the Republicans’ standard-bearer, the party has seen the steepest approval drop among Latinos, self-identified moderates, and college-educated white people. A November victory for the Republicans certainly would seem unlikely unless current trends reverse and they find a way to cease alienating such significant voting blocs. As the moderate voices in the Republican Party keep being overpowered by the xenophobic and jingoistic voices of Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, it’s clear that the G.O.P. is giving voters plenty of candidates to vote against, but little to vote for. For one of the leading conservative magazines, The National Review, to devote an entire issue to essays opposing the candidacy of the top Republican, in this case Trump, is unheard of.
At the same time, the AP reports that, at a campaign event, the Republican Senator from North Carolina, Richard Burr, told supporters that if Ted Cruz wins the nomination, he would choose to vote for the ultra-liberal Bernie Sanders over Cruz. With no immediate end in sight to the Republican infighting, let alone the angry tone of the Trump candidacy in general, it’s hard to say how much further damage the Republicans will do their own brand, but expect it to be significant. Though the Wall Street Journal NBC News poll shows significant losses to the Republicans’ approval ratings, it’s still a long way to go to zero. It seems, however, at this time, that the Republican candidates are fully prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure they get there, and in as rapid a manner as possible.