Donald Trump's Lead Among Federal Employees Grows, Poll Finds
Exclusive Government Executive survey shows Ben Carson with the biggest jump among Republican candidates.
Donald Trump once again reigns supreme over his Republican opponents in a new survey of the federal workforce that shows him with a double-digit lead over the next closest candidate.
The real estate developer and national Republican frontrunner took 33 percent of Republican or Republican-leaning independent federal employees in a poll released Wednesday by the Government Business Council, the research arm of Government Executive Media Group. Trump led GBC’s first 2016 election poll of the federal workforce in August, though his support has grown by 12 points.
The largest climber among Republican-minded feds was retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who came in second place with 22 percent of respondents indicating they would vote for him if a primary were held today. Carson’s support grew by 13 points from the August poll. At that time, federal employee support for Carson -- who feds then placed fourth among Republican candidates -- outpaced his national average, though the new numbers correlate to his national polling average.
Sen. Marco Rubio, Fla., remained in third place, once again receiving 11 percent of the respondents’ support. Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina dropped from a second place showing in August to fourth, at 8 percent.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas dropped off more than any Republican candidate, falling nearly five points. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and current Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Ohio, both saw their support decrease by about four points. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker registered 5 percent support in the August poll, but he has since dropped out of the race.
Among Democratic-leaning federal workers, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., saw a dramatic 10 percent bump in support, which climbed to 28 percent of respondents. Former State Department Secretary Hillary Clinton continued to lead the pack, however, with 45 percent of feds saying they would vote for her in a Democratic primary.
Vice President Joe Biden’s decision not to run for president will not upset too many Democratic federal employees, as just 12 percent indicated they would have supported him. Clinton will benefit the most from his decision, taking 46 percent of would-be Biden voters compared to Sanders’ 33 percent. Without Biden in the race, Clinton’s lead grows to about 18 points.
Trump’s favorability remained heavily underwater among all federal employees, though it ticked up six points since August. One-third of feds approve of the Donald, compared to 64 percent who expressed an unfavorable view. Carson’ favorability jumped the most among Republican candidates, and his 45/46 favorable/unfavorable split was the best of anyone vying for the GOP nomination. More total feds view Carson favorably than any candidate running for president.
Biden, with a virtually even split, was the most positively viewed Democrat. Of those actually running for the White House, Sanders slightly outpaced Clinton in favorability after seeing a nine-point jump since August. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley saw an uptick in approval, though a vast majority of federal workers dislike him or do not know enough about him to have an opinion.
A slight majority of respondents said Democrats better understood issues facing federal workers. They fared much better than Republicans, with just more than a quarter of federal employees saying GOP candidates understand federal workforce issues.
Perhaps part of that breakdown stems from feds seeing Republicans as the party of shutdowns. More than six in 10 respondents said they blame congressional Republicans for the ongoing budget impasse, compared to four in 10 who said the same of President Obama and 35 percent who blamed congressional Democrats (respondents were allowed to select more than one response).
Nearly one in five federal employees said they would personally support the use of a government shutdown to advance a political goal, though three-quarters would not.
The poll was sent to a random sample of Government Executive print and online subscribers between Oct. 14-20, and 802 federal employees, representing 32 civilian and defense agencies, completed the survey. Of those, 39 percent identify as Independents, 30 percent as Democrats, and 23 percent as Republicans. The results were weighted to reflect the makeup of the federal workforce. The margin of error is 3.46 percent.
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