This question has been bugging me for a couple weeks now, and I've been thinking of a way to address it. Here is what I've done:
To create the chart below, I pulled the national polling data from this site for the three popular polls, NBC/WSJ, CNN/ORC and IBD. I pulled the candidate dropout information (heavy blue line) from my previous GOP Rankings Report data. The numbers in the Y axis (vertical) are actually two sets: actual numbers for the dark blue line (candidates), and percent for the three poll lines.
Off the top of my head I thought Sen. Cruz was always at 20%. And if so, we've gone from 16 total candidates to three and yet he is still in the 20% range.
Well, I was wrong. The polling data shows otherwise, with Senator Cruz at only 6% in the early months of the campaign. He has gained support with time. So is that support related to others dropping out? I don't get to answer that definitavely here, but let's walk through the chart.
A: Only one of the three polls shows a large gain - doubling - without any link to candidates dropping out. The other two polls do not show this jump.In other words, who knows where the support comes from with any certainty?
B. All three polls show a 2x-4x jump in Senator Cruz's support, with only 3 of the 16 candidates dropping out. One could argue this jump is larger than the total voters of the those three dropouts. Another argument would be that Senator Cruz was the second choice for many voters.
C. After a drop from 11 candidates to 6, one of the three polls show another 50% jump in support. The other two polls did not have data for March.
D: A slight drop from 28% to 27% this past week, with another three dropouts, suggests no corelation between dropouts and new support.
But I still think there is a story in here:
81% of the GOP field drops out,
yet Senator Cruz only gets an 18% bump in support.
Cruz supporters have expected huge gains after each dropout,
yet the gains here do not qualify as "huge,"
and some may not be related.
Cruz currently polls at 27%.
How much of that is Cruz support,
and how much of that is anti-Trump?
Assuming Kasich drops out,
how much of the current Kasich support (22%) is pro-Kasich,
and how much is anti-Trump?