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Oprah leads Trump in new poll -- but can't transcend partisan divide

Oprah leads Trump in new poll -- but can't transcend partisan divide
Posted at 9:59 AM, Jan 12, 2018

A new poll shows Oprah Winfrey with a double-digit lead over President Donald Trump in a would-be 2020 general election race, with 50% support to his 39%. About one-in-ten voters are undecided.

But it's not all good news for Oprah fans. The NPR/NewsHour/Marist survey found that 54% of voters said they did not want to see her enter the presidential fray. Only 35% favored a bid. That number is a bit higher among Democrats, at 47%, but hardly suggests a gimme of a primary race.

Trump's numbers in a potential matchup with Winfrey, who launched Oprahmentum with a stirring speech at Sunday night's Golden Globes, fall in line with his mostly dire approval ratings, which, according to Gallup, was at 37% last week.

Winfrey would start a campaign, which she's said to be "actively thanking" about, but not actively pursuing, with a 64% approval rating and less than a quarter of voters with an unfavorable take. Numbers that strong would likely take a hit once Winfrey started asserting policy positions.

The poll's partisan breakdown offers a more familiar picture. Not even the odd specter of a Trump-Winfrey celebrity showdown could pry voters off their poles. Winfrey has the support of 91% of Democrats, while Trump would have the backing of 85% of Republicans.

Among minority voters, Winfrey again jumps out to a considerable lead, with 87% of African-Americans in her corner, along with more than six-in-ten Latinos. But that spread is perhaps not as wide as one might expect. Hillary Clinton, for example, won 66% of Latino voters in 2016 according to exit poll data. In 2012, President Barack Obama was re-elected with 71% (up from 67% in 2008).

Winfrey, however, makes significant inroads with white voters, according to the new poll. Where Clinton lost them by 20% points, Trump and Winfrey are about even, with the President narrowly edging the potential challenger, with 45% to her 44%.

Among political independents, Winfrey also enjoys a modest lead, 46% to 37%, with 17% undecided.

Whether or not it's a decision they'll ever be asked to make is, of course, the more compelling question for now. Winfrey has cheerleaders in Hollywood -- director Steven Spielberg, doing press overseas for his film, "The Post," told the Guardian on Thursday, "Oprah Winfrey would make an absolutely brilliant president" and that "if she declares, I will back her."

The consensus among Democrats is a bit more cautious.

Simply put, most believe she could win and would happily fight on her behalf, but others worry about Winfrey's inexperience in campaign politics. And for a party still trying to sort out a winning (and unifying) message, questions over where exactly she stands on the major issues of the day linger ominously over the conversation.

"Everyone loves Oprah," RoseAnn DeMoro, the executive director of National Nurses United, told CNN earlier this week. "The problem is that we are on the precipice of an extremely dangerous time in history, and I believe that this calls for the most seasoned, knowledgeable, in-depth president. To get us to unwind what's going to happen by 2020 is going to take enormous experience."

Trump has also weighed in, telling reporters Tuesday during a Cabinet Room meeting on immigration, "Yeah, I'll beat Oprah."

"I did one of her last shows," he added. "She had Donald Trump -- this is before politics -- her last week and she had Donald Trump and my family, it was very nice."

A presidential campaign, much as it did with old pal Hillary Clinton, would likely see a change in his chipper tone.

The poll, conducted from January 8-10, surveyed 1,092 registered voters. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.