WASHINGTON American voters are evenly split between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton as their top choice to address the issue of terrorism following the Paris attacks, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found.
Asked to choose from the entire field of 2016 presidential hopefuls, 20 percent of 1,106 respondents surveyed between Nov. 16-17 opted for Trump. An equal share of the electorate picked Clinton.(polling.reuters.com/#!poll/TM743Y15)
Given Clinton's background as a former secretary of state it is perhaps not surprising that she did reasonably well in the poll. However, Trump's good showing upends an emerging narrative that the Paris shootings and suicide bombings would prompt voters to rethink their support for the real estate billionaire, who leads the field of Republican presidential candidates.
Some pollsters and political pundits had predicted that Republican voters would now gravitate toward establishment candidates like Florida Senator Marco Rubio and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who has been languishing in the polls. Both are seen as stronger on foreign policy than Trump and his main Republican rival, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, neither of whom have any experience in government and are running as Washington outsiders.
Glenn Matlosz, 71, of Audubon, New Jersey, said Trump would be the most able to address terrorism because he's proven to be a straight talker.
"He’s telling it as it is," said Matlosz, who describes himself as a Democrat. "He’s not mincing any words. There is no gobbledygook there. Everybody else is squawking."
Mirroring national primary polls, Clinton and Trump also took the top marks in the Reuters/Ipsos survey when looking at just voters from their own party. Asked to pick the best Democratic candidate, 52 percent of Democrats polled selected Clinton. When Republicans were asked to choose among their potential nominees, 33 percent said Trump.
After Trump, Republican voters viewed Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee known for his hawkish views, as the strongest candidate (17 percent) to deal with terrorism. Carson was tied with Bush at around 9 percent.
Of the Republicans polled, 36 percent said they now have more confidence in Trump's ability to be president - the largest show of support in the primary field. Only 10 percent said they were less confident in his abilities following the attacks.
Carson and Rubio were also viewed more favorably as potential presidents by Republicans in the poll. Bush, however, got no immediate bump in confidence of his ability to be president. And only 8 percent of Republicans polled thought he would be the best leader to address terrorism.
"LET'S GO BOMB ISIS"
Republican strategist Steve Schmidt said voters respond to candidates they perceive as taking a tough stance and aren't necessarily looking at their biographies.
“Sure, if Colin Powell was running, it would benefit him. Or if David Petraeus was a candidate, it would benefit him," he said, referring to the two retired army generals. "But which of these candidates has an actual plan as opposed to piecemeal tactical solutions or platitudes?” Schmidt said. “So they default to the guy who with the most conviction says, ‘I’m going to bomb the shit out of them,’ Mr. Donald Trump.”
Trump has argued he would take the fight directly to ISIS by bombing oil fields that are occupied by the group. He has opposed bringing Syrian refugees to the United States and argued for building camps where they are already located.
“Everybody else keeps talking about what should’ve been done and what could’ve been done, instead of their opinion of what they would do now,” said Trump supporter Mildred Borden, 58, of Pennsylvania.
Trump is talking broadly about his approach instead of bogging voters down with details, said Republican strategist John Feehery.
"He's the one who is speaking in the simplest language that is most understandable to the average voter," Feehery said. "He’s not talking about 'no-fly' zones. He’s not getting into policy. He’s talking about, 'Lets go kill ISIS.'"
The poll has a credibility interval of 3.4 percentage points for all voters. When looking at just Democrats or Republicans, the poll has a credibility interval of about 5.4 percentage points.
(Additional reporting by Chris Kahn in New York and Emily Stephenson and Alana Wise in Washington, editing by Ross Colvin)