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48% of GOP Voters Prefer A Candidate Without Political Experience

Monday, January 25, 2016

The good news for Donald Trump is that nearly half of Republicans say they’d rather vote for a candidate who has never held political office over one with political experience. The bad news is that other voters don’t share that view nearly as strongly.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 53% of Likely U.S. Voters say they’d be more likely to vote in the upcoming election for a candidate who has political experience over one who has never held political office. Thirty percent (30%) would rather vote for a candidate with no political experience. Nearly one-in-five (18%), however, are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

These findings are similar to those measured in 2011 when 50% preferred a candidate who has held office while 25% opted for a political newcomer.  During election 2010 which saw the emergence of Tea Party outsiders running for Congress, a high of 34% said they would prefer a candidate who has never held office.

Seventy-three percent (73%) of Democrats and 49% of voters not affiliated with either major political party say they’d be more likely to vote for a candidate who has political experience. But Republicans by a 48% to 34% margin prefer a political newcomer: That's up from 41% in 2011. Only 12% of Democrats are undecided on this question, compared to 18% of GOP voters and 23% of unaffiliateds.

Following Sarah Palin’s endorsement and with just a week to go until the Iowa caucus, Republican voters are more strongly convinced than ever that Trump, a billionaire businessman and newcomer to politics, is likely to be their party’s presidential nominee.

Most Democrats still believe Hillary Clinton, a former U.S. senator and secretary of State, will be the party’s nominee this November, but they feel less strongly than they have in recent surveys.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on January 20-21, 2016 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Trump recently responded to critics of his abrasive campaign rhetoric by saying he would “gladly accept the mantle of anger” because the government is being run by “incompetent people.” Most voters, and even more Republicans, are angry at the current policies of the federal government. But Democrats are far more likely to be angry at large corporations than at the feds.

Sixty-four percent (64%) of those who see Trump as Very Likely to win the Republican presidential nomination say they prefer a candidate who has never held office. Eighty percent (80%) or more of those who consider his nomination unlikely want a candidate with political experience.

Women and voters under 40 place far more importance on political experience than men and older voters do.

Whites are less likely than blacks and other minority voters to say they’d prefer a candidate with political experience.

A plurality (46%) of self-described politically conservative voters would rather vote for a candidate who has never held political office, while large majorities of moderates (60%) and liberals (76%) are more likely to vote for a candidate with experience in politics.

Just 10% of all voters think it’s positive when a candidate is described as a career politician.

Fifty-four percent (54%) still agree with former President Ronald Reagan that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Thirty-five percent (35%) disagree. But Republicans and unaffiliated voters are far more likely to agree with his statement than Democrats are.

Just 27% feel the government does the right thing almost always or most of the time. 

Fifty-nine percent (59%) of voters think most members of Congress are willing to sell their vote for either cash or a campaign contribution, and 56% think it’s likely their own representative has already done so.

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.

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