The Gallup/Purina poll of 1,427 Republican household pets shows a dead heat across species for Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz. The nationwide poll – the first conducted with sensors attached to animals as they view videos of the candidates – has a 63 percent margin of error.
Republican dogs broke heavily for Trump (51 percent), with his strongest support coming from working dogs – German shepherds and border collies in particular. For these often underemployed breeds, Trump’s anti-immigration message resonates strongly. His oft-repeated claim that Chihuahuas are “untrainable, bite children and carry rabies” consistently drew approving barks and tail wags.
Cruz’s frequent hunting photo ops and rigid support of gun rights have paid some modest dividends with setters, spaniels and retrievers, but his support (32 percent) was well behind Trump among all breeds. When dogs were asked to describe Cruz, the most common responses were: “arf,” “woof” and “smarmy.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s more centrist message had not generated any canine enthusiasm until last week. At a rally at a park in upstate New York, Kasich appeared delighted to find himself surrounded by dozens of adoring dogs. Later, an old ham sandwich was discovered in his pocket, though the candidate insisted the dogs were attracted to his record of tax cuts in Ohio.
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Cats may still be up for grabs. The poll shows cats strongly disapprove of Trump’s trade policies, concerned in particular that a trade war with China will lead to steep increases in the cost of yarn and many of the best cat toys. Kasich has worked hard to win over these disaffected pets. He has spoken emotionally of his own cat Peepers’ long battle with a catnip addiction. Although 27 percent pick Kasich as “the candidate they’d most like to rub against,” a plurality see him as a loser and prefer Cruz.
Despite Trump’s recent claim on “Anderson Cooper 360 degrees” that “hamsters love me,” the poll says otherwise. In fact, the small animal vote is a real problem for Trump. He loses badly to Cruz among hamsters, guinea pigs and gerbils, and trails Kasich with turtles.
Although the brash billionaire’s positions on NATO, torture and abortion might seem to align with those of rodents, the viral video of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski gleefully stomping on a mouse at a rally in Racine, Wis., has caused lasting damage. It was compounded by Trump’s defense of Lewandowski (“the mouse started it”).
Among likely-to-vote Republicans’ pet reptiles, Cruz does very well with snakes, the only species where he leads Trump by double digits. Especially impressive, 95 percent of snakes said Ted Cruz “understands the problems of creatures like me.”
Gary Jacobs is a former television comedy writer and producer.