IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

NBC/WSJ Poll: Nearly 60% Looking For Change in '16. But Will They Get It?

More Americans are clamoring for change in the upcoming 2016 presidential election than they were in 2008, according to a new NBC/WSJ poll.
Get more newsLiveonNBC News Now

More Americans are clamoring for change in the upcoming 2016 presidential election than they were in the “Hope and Change” year of 2008, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

That desire for change is a potential roadblock for two of the leading frontrunners – Democrat Hillary Clinton (the former first lady, presidential candidate and secretary of state) and Republican Jeb Bush (the former Florida governor whose brother and father served as president).

View the full poll results here.

But it might be a more significant challenge for Bush, given that fewer than half of Republican primary voters believe he would provide new ideas and a vision for the future, versus nearly three-quarters of Democrats who think the same of Clinton.

In the poll, 59 percent of all voters prefer a candidate who will bring greater changes to current policies, even if he or she is less experienced and tested – up from 55 percent who said this in July 2008 during the general-election contest between Barack Obama and John McCain.

Sixty percent of registered voters (including 42 percent of Republicans) say that Bush represents a return to the policies of the past, versus 27 percent (and 49 percent of GOP voters) who say he will provide new ideas and a vision for the future.

By comparison, 51 percent of all voters (but just 24 percent of Democrats) think Clinton represents a return to the policies of the past, and 44 percent (including 73 percent of Democrats) say she’ll provide new ideas for the future.

Walker and Rubio: The GOP candidates with room to grow

In the early battle for the Republican presidential nomination, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio appear to have more appeal among Republican voters than Bush does, according to the poll.

In the survey, 53 percent of potential Republican primary voters say they could see themselves supporting Walker, versus 17 percent who couldn’t (+36 points).

Likewise, 56 percent of GOP voters say they could back Rubio, compared with 26 percent who couldn’t (+30).

By contrast, Republicans are fairly divided on Bush – 49 percent could support, versus 42 percent who couldn’t (+7). Ditto Sen. Rand Paul (+9), former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (+5) and Sen. Ted Cruz (+2).

And they’re down on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (-25), Sen. Lindsey Graham (-31) and Donald Trump (-51).

Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff, says Walker could end up being the Republican “flavor of the month.”

Or, Hart adds, he “could be like George W. Bush in 2000 or Obama in 2007” – that is, sitting in this early position because he has “tapped into something that is important and needs to be watched.”

Majorities of GOP voters opposed to Common Core, immigration reform

As for Bush, he finds himself swimming upstream on the issues of Common Core and immigration reform.

In the poll, 52 percent of potential GOP primary voters unfavorably view a candidate who supports the Common Core education standards – as Bush does.

And 62 percent of them are opposed to a candidate who supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. (On the early campaign trail, Bush says he backs a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants, but has supported citizenship in the past.)

What’s more here, a plurality of Republican primary voters – 46 percent – say that a candidate coming closest to their views on the issues is more important than being the best chance to defeat the Democratic nominee (19 percent) or having the right personal style and leadership qualities (33 percent).

“This poll presents less than good tidings for Jeb Bush,” says Democratic pollster Fred Yang of Hart Research Associates.

“Extraordinary” Democratic support for Hillary Clinton

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has near-universal support from Democrats.

According to the poll – most of which was conducted in the midst of the controversy over her use of private emails – 86 percent of Democrats say they could see themselves supporting Clinton, versus 13 percent who couldn’t (+73).

That’s greater than support for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (+34) and Vice President Joe Biden (+14).

“Clinton’s numbers are just extraordinary from a starting point in a primary,” says Bill McInturff, the GOP pollster. “A number in the mid-80s is stunning.”

In addition, 61 percent of Democratic voters say it’s not a concern to them if Democrats don’t find an intra-party challenger to Clinton.

Other numbers in the poll

  • President Obama’s overall job-approval rating stands at 46 percent – unchanged from Jan. 2015;
  • Approval of Obama’s handling of the economy (47 percent) is higher than foreign policy (36 percent);
  • More Americans say they’re optimistic (48 percent) about what they’ve heard and seen about the U.S. economy than pessimistic (46 percent) – the first time these numbers have been right-side-up since Jan. 2012;
  • Yet just 32 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the right direction, up one point from January.

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted March 1-5 of 1,000 adults (including 350 cell phone-only respondents and another 36 reached by cell but who also have a landline), and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points.

The poll also interviewed 262 Democratic primary voters (plus-minus 6.1 percentage points) and 229 GOP primary voters (plus-minus 6.5 percentage points).