CHICAGO - Republicans overwhelmingly pick Ben Carson over Donald Trump for having the better temperament to be president, but they have far more confidence in the billionaire than the retired surgeon to get things done, fix immigration and manage the economy.
The latest Bloomberg Politics National Poll shows the two outsider candidates remain atop the Republican field, while also showing how even something as seemingly non-ambiguous as a number - the nation's unemployment rate - can be viewed differently by Republicans and Democrats.
Although the findings largely reflect the deep partisanship that characterizes the nation's political climate, they also reveal some surprising areas of potential compromise. For instance, registered Republicans and those who lean that way are more in agreement with President Barack Obama on two controversial immigration policies than with the views of many of their party's White House candidates.
The poll, taken Nov. 15-17, gave Republicans what amounted to a candidate taste test, asking them to compare perceived strengths of the top four candidates, broken into two pairings. Besides Trump and Carson, who ranked first and second in the overall horserace at 24 percent and 20 percent, the survey also compared Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida (12 percent) and Ted Cruz of Texas (9 percent).
In the matchups, Carson generally beats Trump on personality traits, while the businessman swamps the doctor on those that measure taking action.
"Carson's greatest strength has always been who people think he is as a person," said J. Ann Selzer, whose Iowa-based Selzer & Co. conducted the poll. "Trump's greatest strength has always been what people think he can do."
Besides temperament, Carson is viewed favorably by many more than Trump on caring about "people like you," having the right values to lead the nation, being able to work effectively with Congress and being honest and trustworthy.
In addition to getting higher marks for getting things done, fixing immigration problems and managing the economy, Trump is viewed as the stronger of the two candidates on combating Islamic terrorism and having appropriate life experiences to lead the nation. On who would better deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump has a 14 percentage-point advantage.
In the Rubio-Cruz comparison, Rubio has a 19 percentage-point advantage on having the better presidential temperament, with his next-biggest lead (17 percentage points) being on working effectively with Congress. On caring about "people like you" and having the right values to lead the nation, Rubio also beats Cruz by double digits, while besting him by 6 percentage points on the Putin question.
The two are fairly closely matched on the questions managing the economy, having the appropriate life experiences, getting things done and combating Islamic terrorism.
Immigration is the one question where Cruz has the advantage in a substantial way over Rubio, by 9 percentage points. Rubio's support for a 2013 bill that would have provided a path to citizenship for millions now living in the U.S. illegally has been an issue in the campaign.
Despite favoring candidates who talk tough on immigration, Republicans and Republican-leaners don't appear overly enthusiastic about some of the policies those candidates espouse.
The poll found modest support in that group - 50 percent - for continuation of Obama's program to halt the deportation of the so-called "Dreamers" - undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before age 16 and meet other requirements. Among all adults, 63 percent think the president's initiative should be continued.
A slightly larger majority of the Republican sample - 54 percent - say it would be wrong to round up 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. and send them back to their home countries, a proposal Trump has pushed hard. Just more than a quarter of all American adults agree with this approach.
The unemployment rate on the other hand - or how it's perceived - seems to vary according to political party registration. Asked if the jobless rate is higher or lower than when Obama took office, 53 percent of Republicans incorrectly responded that it is higher. Among Democrats, 76 percent correctly said the rate is lower.
The poll also clearly showed why establishment candidates, such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, favored by just 6 percent, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (4 percent) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (3 percent) are swimming upstream this election season. Of Republicans and those who leaned that way, 45 percent identify themselves as "anti-establishment," while 41 percent feel like they're in the party's establishment lane. But even among self-identified establishment Republicans, Trump leads with 25 percent to Carson's 22 percent. Rubio comes in third among establishment Republicans, picking up 15 percent of that vote.