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This Year, Indiana Matters: Hoosier Survey Gives Insights into Primary Fights

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Sean Hildebrand
Bowen Center for Public Affairs

The Indiana primary election is just around the corner. On May 3, Hoosiers will go to the polls to select the Republican and Democratic Party candidates in November’s general election for President, Governor, Senator, and U.S. Representative among others.

This year’s unique race has made Indiana a crucial state in the presidential nominating process. The remaining candidates are expected to campaign across the state here in the weeks leading up to the election. There are 57 delegates up for grabs on the Republican side and 79 for the Democrats.

In November 2015, respondents to the WISH-TV/Ball State Hoosier Survey were asked if they had heard of several candidates in the race at that time, and whether or not they would consider voting for a specific candidate if the respondent had heard of them prior to the survey. Of those remaining in the race on the Republican side, Donald Trump unsurprisingly had the highest level of name recognition, with 97.5% of respondents reporting to have heard of him, while 68.1% were familiar with Senator Ted Cruz, and only 45.4% reported hearing of Governor John Kasich.

Of those familiar with the candidates, 39.9% of respondents expressed “some” or a “good” chance they would vote for Trump, while 56.5% said they would not support him – the highest unfavorable rating amongst all of the candidates, regardless of party affiliation.  Twenty-nine percent of respondents reported either a “good” or “some” chance of supporting Cruz, while 20.4% expressed the same about Kasich at that time.

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has the highest level of name recognition overall at 98.5%, but only garners 43.3% support from respondents who say they have a “good” or “some” chance of supporting her in an election; 54.1% said they would not support her. Senator Bernie Sanders was recognized by 72.1% of respondents in November, and 36.9% reported having a “good” or “some” chance of supporting him in the election.

While these numbers have likely changed in the months since the survey was administered, the results are similar to those seen in general public opinion polls. An average of national polls from as of March 29, showed that Donald Trump had a 63.3% unfavorable rating. The results are similar for Hillary Clinton, where 54% of those surveyed rated her as unfavorable. While this is not the exact same metric used in the Hoosier Survey, it does display the same sort of dismay amongst voters with the current front-runners in the Republican and Democratic primaries.

Hoosiers will also vote on a new Senator this year, replacing incumbent Dan Coats, who opted to retire. The Hoosier Survey in November included polling questions about potential candidates in this race. Since then, the Democrats have consolidated around former U.S. Representative Baron Hill. Meanwhile the Republicans have 2 major candidates remaining, both of whom serve Congressional districts in the state: Marlin Stutzman (3rd District) and Todd Young (9th District). In the last Hoosier Survey, respondents were asked about familiarity with the candidates and likelihood of support. At that time, an overwhelming number of respondents reported not hearing of either Stutzman (66.6%) or Young (59.8%). Of those familiar with the candidates, 15.6% reported having either a “good” or “some” chance of voting for Marlin Stutzman, while 17.6% reported the same for Todd Young. While no recent polling information is available on the race, it seems like the battle within the Republican Party may be close. The outcome may be anyone’s guess, but it likely will be impacted by whomever winds up as the presidential nominee in each party, and the amount of time, money, and effort each party puts forth in support of their candidate. For full results, click here.