Donald Trump persuading Republicans, but would lose to Hillary Clinton, polls suggest

Despite Donald Trump's win in Arizona on Tuesday, polls suggest he is trailing both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Winning the Republican nomination might prove easy compared with what's in store for Trump in November.

Republican front-runner could lose big to a Democrat, with Bernie Sanders even stronger than Clinton

Donald Trump will need to figure out a way to overcome his poor polling among Americans if he is to defeat Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

As the Donald Trump train continues to roll after winning Arizona and all of its delegates on Tuesday, the question of how Trump might fare against the Democrats becomes more and more relevant.

The answer? Not very well. In fact, a Trump candidacy in November could result in some very red (Republican) states turning reluctantly blue (Democratic).

Two states voted on the Republican side on Tuesday, and votes are still being counted. In Arizona, Trump won about 47 per cent support, beating Texas Senator Ted Cruz's 25 per cent and Ohio governor John Kasich's 10 per cent. Cruz won Utah with about 69 per cent of the vote. Kasich came second at 17 per cent and Trump had 14 per cent.

On the Democratic side, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders won Utah and Idaho by huge margins, but lost Arizona to Hillary Clinton. Sanders narrowly won more delegates than Clinton in the three states as a result, but not enough to put her path to the nomination in great doubt. 

Trump's loss in Utah was expected, though he'd been hoping to keep Cruz below the 50 per cent threshold that would award Cruz all 40 of the state's delegates. But Arizona, a winner-take-all state with 58 delegates, was a more valuable prize.

Poll analyst Eric Grenier looks at the results of the latest U.S. primaries and how the candidates would do against each other in a general election. 5:03

Trump trails Clinton, Sanders in polls

Trump's victory in Arizona gave him the majority of delegates up for grabs on Tuesday, keeping him on track for the Republican nomination. But matters may get more difficult if he gets it, since Trump is polling poorly against both Clinton and Sanders.

General election polling conducted before parties have even selected their candidates has its limitations. But at this time in 2012, Barack Obama was beating Mitt Romney in the polls by about five points. He won the election by four. In 2008, however, Obama was in a near tie with John McCain at this stage of the campaign. He won by seven points later that year.

With these caveats in mind, the latest averages from RealClearPolitics suggest support for Clinton in a head-to-head match against Trump would be about 49 per cent, giving her a 10-point lead over the potential Republican nominee. Clinton's lead has grown to its greatest extent since Trump's campaign first began to take off.

But Sanders polls even better — he'd beat Trump in a snap election by a margin of 54 to 38 per cent. That would be the largest margin of victory since 1984, when Ronald Reagan defeated Walter Mondale in 49 states.

Senator Ted Cruz, left, or Ohio Gov. John Kasich would do better against Hillary Clinton than would Donald Trump. (Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press)

Trump's poor polling numbers seem to be his own, rather than those of the Republican Party. Cruz would be running against Clinton in a nearly neck-and-neck race, while Kasich would beat Clinton by five points.

Sanders would see his advantage shrink to nine points against Cruz and to just one point against Kasich.

That Sanders does so well isn't particularly surprising. Huffington Post's Pollster suggests that Sanders's average favourability rating is 51 per cent, against 40 per cent holding an unfavourable view. Clinton's ratings are almost the opposite of that — poor numbers for a candidate running for president.

Still, Trump's are even worse: just 32.5 per cent of Americans, on average, hold a favourable view of him.

Painting the town blue

The impact of these numbers on the electoral map could be dramatic in November.

Arizona, for instance, would be a toss-up between Clinton and Trump according to a recent poll. This is a state that Romney won by nine points in 2012.

Normally competitive states like Pennsylvania and Virginia could be easy victories for the Democrats.

Most striking, however, might be the example of Utah. The state voted for Romney, a Mormon, over Obama by a margin of 48 points, and chose McCain in 2008 by a margin of 28 points.

However, with Donald Trump as the Republican nominee, one recent poll suggested this reddest of red states would lean toward Clinton by a margin of two points. Sanders would beat Trump by 11.

Cruz, who appeals to evangelical voters, would retain the state comfortably for the Republicans. The general election polls suggest Cruz would be more of a traditional Republican presidential nominee in terms of his geographic support.

If Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, one of these two people will likely be the next U.S. president. (Craig Rubadoux/Associated Press)

But the potential for a shakeup to the electoral map in a race between Clinton and Trump is significant. Swinging the 2012 election results according to the general election polls today puts states like Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, and South Carolina in play. These states voted for McCain in 2008 and Romney in 2012.

Based on this swing, Clinton would likely win between 347 and 416 electoral college votes against Trump. She would need 270 to become the next president.

Against Sanders, the list of unlikely swing states would expand to include the likes of Alaska, Montana, South Dakota and, if Sanders picked up the southern support he has lacked in the Democratic primaries, potentially Louisiana and Texas too. In terms of the electoral college, that could potentially give Sanders the biggest win since that 1984 landslide.

A lot remains to be decided, of course, including the results of both nomination contests. And even if the field is winnowed down to just Clinton and Trump, there is little chance that the way Americans feel about the two candidates today will be completely unchanged by November.

Without a major shift in American public opinion, the White House is increasingly looking like one piece of real estate that Donald Trump will not get to stamp his name on.

About the Author

Éric Grenier

Politics and polls

Éric Grenier is a senior writer and the CBC's polls analyst. He was the founder of and has written for The Globe and Mail, Huffington Post Canada, The Hill Times, Le Devoir, and L’actualité.


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