The FINANCIAL -- More than six in 10 Republicans and independents who lean Republican say Donald Trump would be best at dealing with the economy/jobs and the federal budget deficit as president, compared with less than 20% who pick either Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio.
Most likely reflecting his front-runner status, Trump also holds convincing leads in Republicans' perceptions of which candidate would best handle immigration, national defense and healthcare. The only issue of the six Gallup tested in the Feb. 26-28 poll on which Trump doesn't have a big advantage is abortion. He ties with Cruz on this issue at 29%, while Rubio is close behind at 24%.
Trump's strength on economic issues, compared with his major competitors, most likely reflects the billionaire's business resume and the emphasis he places on his business experience on the campaign trail. Neither Cruz nor Rubio has a business background, and the percentages favoring these two on the economy are only 13% and 17%, respectively.
Trump Also the "Can Do" Candidate
Republicans see Trump -- more so than Rubio or Cruz -- as the candidate who would accomplish what he sets out to do as president and as the candidate who would improve the United States' standing in the world. At the same time, he does not have nearly the same perceived strengths on other leadership dimensions.
Republicans are, in fact, significantly more likely to say Cruz, as opposed to either Trump or Rubio, would govern as a true conservative, and Trump holds only a slim lead over Cruz as the candidate most likely to protect Americans' constitutional rights. Republicans see Rubio, whose campaign rhetoric has arguably generated less controversy than that of Trump or Cruz, as having the right temperament to be president, a dimension on which Trump is the least likely to be chosen. Rubio effectively ties Trump as being able to best deal effectively with Congress. Though both Rubio and Cruz are U.S. senators, Cruz is better known for opposing legislation than for advancing it, including legislation supported by his own party.
Trump Supporters See Strengths and Flaws in Their Candidate
Trump's own supporters -- Republicans and Republican leaners who say they would like to see him win the nomination -- favor him by overwhelming margins as being the best candidate to deal with the economy, the deficit, immigration, improving the U.S. world standing and accomplishing what he sets out to do. Between 89% and 97% of Trump supporters say he is the best candidate for each of these, underscoring the centrality of these issues and characteristics to his success.
Trump's supporters are somewhat less likely to see him as the best candidate to handle national security, healthcare, protecting citizens' rights and dealing effectively with Congress, although large majorities still name him as best on these. Trump's relative weaknesses among his supporters are in the areas of abortion, presidential temperament and governing as a true conservative, all things his opponents have criticized him for during the campaign. Barely half of those who want to see Trump become the nominee consider him to be the best candidate on these three dimensions. In essence, his supporters are aware that these are not his strengths, even while favoring him for the nomination.
Republicans choose Donald Trump, who promises to "make America great again" -- as the best GOP candidate for handling the economy and federal budget deficit as president. These strengths appear to be at the core of his support, tying in with the persistent economic anxiety Republicans express on a host of Gallup measures, such as confidence in the economy and their own economic progress.
Republicans also give Trump considerable credit for being able to handle immigration, the issue that launched his candidacy and has generated much controversy during the campaign -- and for accomplishing what he sets out to do and improving the standing of the U.S. in the world.
At the same time, Republicans -- including many who favor his nomination -- seem to be well aware that Trump has weaknesses. They implicitly acknowledge Trump's unusual brashness, giving Rubio the most credit for having the right temperament to be president. Republicans also acknowledge that Trump is not the most conservative candidate, giving Cruz credit for the conservatism that has become his signature message. Given that Republicans in this poll favor Trump to win their party's nomination, they appear to be willing to overlook the front-runner's deficiencies.