Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are leading in the polls for the Republican and Democratic, respectively, presidential nominee, but those polls are not the best indicator of which candidates are currently the strongest. There are better ways to measure who has the best chance of winning the nomination.
Asking voters who they would vote for if the election were held today favors the candidates with the highest name recognition. The candidates who usually win, however, are those who are most acceptable to the broadest range of a party's factions and considered able to win the election.
There are three other measures that, this early in the race, will provide a better picture of who is actually most likely to win the nomination.
Since many of the candidates are not even known to some voters, one indicator of which candidates voters will like is the difference in favorability and unfavorability ratings among the voters with an opinion. One of the options pollsters provide when asking if they find a candidate "favorable or unfavorable" is "no opinion." For some of the less well known candidates, this is the most common answer.
To better compare the candidates' favorability, I developed a score, from -100 to 100 for each candidate based upon their favorability and unfavorability ratings in the most recent Monmouth University polls for Republicans and Democrats. (Here is the formula: (favorability - unfavorability)/(100 - "no opinion")*100)
Here, in order from best to worst, are those scores:
Exclusive Op-eds from the Presidential Campaigns
2. Overall Fundraising
Another important measure of the strength of a campaign is how much money it has raised. While fundraising doesn't always predict the winner of an election, money is a necessary component to any good campaign.
Here are the fundraising totals in millions of dollars, including from outside groups, for each of the candidates in order from best to worst based upon last month's SEC filing (data provided by OpenSecrets.org):
3. Number of Donors
Campaigns need people power. A strong election campaign will have a base of loyal supporters who are willing to do the difficult work of canvassing their communities for the candidate. While it is too early to get an objective measure of unpaid volunteers, a proxy at this point is the number of donors. Another helpful number to look at is the amount of small individual contributions as a percentage of overall contributions to a candidates campaign.