NEW YORK (AP) — By wide margins, Americans of all ideologies say they have no interest in voting former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg into the White House, suggesting that the billionaire media mogul would have significant headwinds should he mount a third-party bid for president.
Just 7 percent of registered voters say they definitely would vote for him, while 29 percent say they'd consider it, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.
"Isn't he the one who wanted to restrict the size of soda drinks?" asked Patricia Kowal, a 66-year-old Democrat who works on an assembly line and lives in Lublin, Wisconsin. "I think that's intruding on people's personal choices. It's none of the government's business." A court blocked Bloomberg's attempt to ban supersize takeout soda in 2014.
Six in 10 Democrats and Republicans alike say they would not consider voting for Bloomberg in a general election, according to the poll. The total saying they wouldn't vote for him is the highest level for any candidate in the field.
But the survey also suggests that a Bloomberg candidacy could not be merely shrugged off by the two parties.
With more than one-third at least open to backing him even before he's started, Bloomberg may have the potential to become a spoiler in a close fall election.
But a President Bloomberg?
Opposition to Bloomberg's possible candidacy is nearly uniform across the political spectrum, as 61 percent of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters and 63 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters say they wouldn't vote for him.
Bloomberg has indicated that he will decide next month whether to jump in the race. His aides say the rise of the parties' fringes has opened a centrist, pragmatic path that the fiscal conservative and social liberal could fill, but that he would only try if he saw a reasonable chance to win. One of the richest people in the United States, Bloomberg has decried the 2016 campaign as "a race to the extremes" and suggested he might run if Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders led the Democratic field and either Donald Trump or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz led the Republicans.
But more than half of the self-identified moderates in each party — and half of independents who don't lean toward either party — won't consider backing Bloomberg, the poll found. Some surveyed were quick to rule him out despite only knowing about a few of his signature policy initiatives.
"I like the fact that he's not a rabble-rouser," said Hal Daume, 29, a Republican from Watchung, New Jersey, who admired Bloomberg's 12 years as mayor and said he would support him. "He's a quiet guy who gets the job done. I trust him and respect his principles."
Bloomberg, a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent, oversaw a renaissance in New York, as crime plummeted and property values soared, and he's become a leading advocate on climate change and gun control. His critics condemn his ties to Wall Street.
Mark Corbin, who describes himself as a moderate Democrat and lives in suburban Philadelphia, seems to fit the profile of a potential Bloomberg voter. But he said he's "not a big fan of third-party candidates because they are a waste of time."
"I'd be afraid he'd take away enough votes from the Democrats to let the Republicans win," said Corbin, a 58-year-old business administrator.
Just 16 percent of voters polled say that Bloomberg represents their positions on the issues they care about very or even somewhat well.
But Bloomberg's own pollster said he believes the findings "would be a good starting point" for a possible campaign. "This says that 36 percent of voters would consider voting for him before he has announced as a candidate or done anything resembling campaigning," said Douglas Schoen. "That seems like a very reasonable place to begin."
The AP poll found that 44 percent of voters still say they don't know much about Bloomberg, which Schoen believes shows room for his support to grow.
But those voters who do say they know him aren't enamored with him, according to the poll. Just 20 percent say they have a favorable opinion of him, while 34 percent have an unfavorable opinion. Democratic voters look at him more favorably (25 percent do) than Republicans do (16 percent).
Bloomberg has instructed aides to research previous third-party runs and is said to be willing to spend up to $1 billion of his own fortune, estimated to be about $37 billion, to finance his campaign and potentially blanket the airwaves with ads that could boost his numbers.
The AP-GfK Poll of 1,033 adults was conducted online Feb. 11-15, using a sample drawn from GfK's probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.
Respondents were first randomly selected using telephone or mail survey methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were provided access at no cost to them.
Swanson reported from Washington.
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