Donald Trump Is Leading the Republican Field Among Federal Employees, Too

A poll found that 20 percent of Republican federal employees would support Trump if the primary were held today.

Donald Trump speaks at a press conference before delivering the keynote address at the Genesee and Saginaw Republican Party Lincoln Day Event on August 11, 2015 in Birch Run, Michigan.
National Journal
Aug. 14, 2015, 5:48 a.m.

Donald Trump has been ahead of other 2016 Republican presidential contenders in virtually every GOP poll for months, and a survey of federal employees has proved to be no exception.

The real-estate developer led the crowded pack of contenders seeking the party’s 2016 nomination, with 20 percent of federal employees who identify as Republicans or Republican-leaning independents saying they would support Trump if the primary were held today, according to a poll conducted by Government Business Council, the research arm of Government Executive Media Group. Former Hewlett Packard executive Carly Fiorina and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida followed Trump with 11 percent each.

While Trump did not receive the highest favorability ratings of the Republican candidates, at least some of his supporters thought he was the best to handle the federal workforce.

“Donald Trump knows how to handle human resources,” one respondent said. “His experience will provide innovative management to benefit the federal service employees.” Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and current Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — generally regarded as among the frontrunners in the GOP race — did not fare well among federal employee Republican voters. The state executives came in seventh and eighth place, respectively, also trailing former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

“Donald Trump knows how to handle human resources,” one respondent said. “His experience will provide innovative management to benefit the federal service employees.”

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and current Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — generally regarded as among the front-runners in the GOP race — did not fare well among federal-employee Republican voters. The state executives came in seventh and eighth place, respectively, also trailing former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

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The poll surveyed a random sample of 973 federal workers, with a 3 percent margin of error. About four-in-10 respondents identified as independents, 28 percent as Republicans, and 23 percent as Democrats. The poll was conducted from August 7 through August 10.

Feds are not particularly thrilled about their options in 2016, with respondents collectively giving nearly every candidate in the Republican and Democratic fields underwater favorability ratings. Hillary Clinton held the highest total favorability rating when including respondents from both parties, with 41 percent of respondents reporting a positive view of her.

Only Carson and Kasich held higher favorable than unfavorable ratings. Both candidates still have much to prove, however, as they ranked among the most unknown. (Fiorina was omitted from the favorability rankings because they only included the top 10 candidates featured in the August 6 Fox News debate.)

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Kasich and Bush both received relatively high marks from Democrats, respectively receiving 26 percent and 19 percent favorable ratings from more left-leaning respondents. Vice President Joe Biden, who has not declared his candidacy but is rumored to be considering a run, was the only Democrat to receive double-digit (11 percent) positive views from Republicans.

President Obama fared slightly better than most of his potential replacements, with 43 percent of respondents approving of his performance and 49 percent disapproving. Federal employees are skeptical Obama is a good manager, with just 39 percent of respondents saying he has set clear management priorities.

Among Democrats in the federal workforce, Hillary Clinton received the best marks of that party’s contenders, with a 78 percent favorability rating. The former State Department secretary would receive 44 percent of Democratic-leaning respondents’ votes, if the primary were held today, compared with 18 percent for Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Nearly one-in-four Democratic respondents were still holding out hope for more options, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Biden each taking 11 percent of the theoretical vote. The other declared candidates — Jim Webb, Martin O’Malley, and Lincoln Chafee — each received less than 2 percent of respondents’ support. 

Most federal employees do not put their own work interests as their top priority when choosing a presidential candidate, the survey found. Respondents selected economic policy as their No. 1 issue, followed by national security and federal workforce issues.

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