Why does Hillary Clinton outpoll Jeb Bush in his own state?

Hillary Clinton is one of the best known political figures in the US. A new poll signals that the former secretary of State is better known than Jeb Bush in the state he used to govern, especially among younger voters.

(L.-r.) Erik Schelzig/AP, Stephan Savoia/AP
A new poll signals that former secretary of State Hillary Clinton easily beats former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush – in his own state.

How well is Hillary Rodham Clinton doing in the polls right now? She’s doing so well that she easily beats former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush – in his own state.

That’s what a just-released Quinnipiac University poll finds, anyway. Mrs. Clinton leads MR. Bush by 49 percent to 41 percent in a notional 2016 presidential matchup in Florida, according to the survey.

And Bush is her closest GOP competitor in Florida, in Quinnipiac’s numbers. Former Secretary of State Clinton leads US Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida by 52 percent to 40 percent, and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky by 55 to 37 percent. She’s ahead of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie by 52 to 34 percent, and bests Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas by 57 to 31 percent.

“For a potential Hillary Clinton candidacy in Florida, November 2016 can’t get here soon enough. Not only does she outpoint the entire field of potential Democratic wannabes for the party nomination put together, but her favorability numbers among all voters is near 60 percent,” said Peter Brown, Quinnipiac University Poll assistant director, in a statement.

Well, maybe. But come on – this is just one poll. As we wrote Wednesday, individual head-to-head matchup surveys this distant from an actual election date are pretty close to guessing. If they were accurate, we’d be talking about successors to President Rudy Giuliani.

That said, we think the Quinnipiac numbers do reveal this: Hillary Clinton is one of the most famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view) US political figures on the planet. That’s why she does well. These early polls reflect simple name recognition as much as they do an actual electoral choice.

Look at the results of Quinnipiac’s question about her favorability. Asked whether they like her or not, 58 percent of respondents say they have a favorable opinion of her, and 37 percent say they have an unfavorable opinion. Only 4 percent say they haven’t heard enough about Clinton to judge her one way or another.

Four percent – that’s nothing. That means 96 percent of Florida voters have an opinion about her, yea or nay, after her decades in the public spotlight.

Switch to Bush’s numbers, and you see the contrast. Fifty-three percent of respondents say they have a favorable opinion of their former governor, and 35 percent say they have an unfavorable opinion. Eleven percent of voters say they haven’t heard enough about him to make up their minds.

That’s right – almost three times as many Floridians say they don’t have enough information to rate Bush as say that about Clinton. And he used to be in charge of the whole state!

Look even further and you see that younger voters are a big driver of this split. Almost a quarter of voters ages 18 to 29 say they don’t know enough about Bush. Taken together, this means that after being out of office since 2007, Bush would have to introduce (or reintroduce) himself to the electorate if he decides to run for president.

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