Donald Trump leads the Republican presidential field in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, not only in vote preferences but in expectations as well -– a remarkable feat for the non-politician who’s surprised the GOP establishment with his staying power as well as his support.
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Trump has leveled off with backing from 32 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who are registered to vote, easily enough to retain his frontrunner status. Fellow outsider Ben Carson follows with 22 percent, also flat this month after sharp summertime gains.
Notably, even more leaned Republicans -- 42 percent -- say they expect Trump to win the GOP nomination for president. And given a list of six potential nominees, 43 percent pick Trump as having the best chance to win the general election just more than a year from now.
Trump also fares well on many key attributes. Nearly half of leaned Republicans -- 47 percent -- view him as the strongest leader; 39 percent think he'd be best able to handle immigration; 32 percent feel he is closest to them on the issues; and 29 percent say he “best understands the problems of people like you.” In each case he leads the other top-five contenders for the nomination, Carson, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina.
Trump has weaknesses nonetheless. More view Carson as the most honest and trustworthy (33 percent vs. 21 percent for Trump), and Trump trails Bush in having the best experience (31 vs. 23 percent). While 19 percent say Trump has the best personality and temperament to serve effectively as president, that compares with a similar 24 percent for Carson.
Trump and Bush are particularly weak in another measure in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. Roughly equal numbers of leaned Republicans say the more they hear about Trump the less they like him, compared with liking him more, 45 vs. 47 percent. Albeit not a statistically significant result, Bush goes numerically underwater in this gauge, 47-41 percent.
Compare that to Carson: Sixty-four percent say as they hear more about him they like him more, vs. just 18 percent who like him less, a vast 46-point net positive. Scores for Rubio, Fiorina and Cruz also are net positive on this measure by 23, 17 and 8 points, respectively.
For all the campaigning under way, the overall race for the GOP nomination looks to be on pause, with essentially no change in candidate support since last month. That reflects a loss of momentum for Trump and Carson alike. Still, among their opponents only Rubio cracks the double digits, and just barely, with 10 percent.
In addition to his appeal to anti-immigration Republicans, Trump’s candidacy is very much bolstered by desire in the party for a political outsider. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents by 57-39 percent say they’re looking for someone from outside the political establishment rather than someone with political experience – drastically different from the 21-76 percent division on this issue among leaned Democrats. And Trump wins 41 percent support from registered leaned Republicans looking for an outsider, vs. 18 percent from those who prefer political experience.
Trump also continues to garner greater support among less educated potential voters -– 46 percent among those who haven’t gone beyond high school, vs. 23 percent among those who’ve attended college. And he’s still more popular among men than women, with 37 vs. 27 percent. Indeed white men without a college degree (leaned Republicans overwhelmingly are white) are among his strongest groups in voter preference and on issues and attributes alike.
Trump also does particularly well among leaned Republicans who oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement he, too, opposes. He’s backed by 45 percent of its critics vs. 21 percent of its supporters.
Further, Trump is maintaining his support among groups where it might not be expected -– for example, he’s backed by a third of evangelical white Protestants, “very” conservative leaned Republicans and Southerners alike. He has 36 percent support in non-urban areas, vs. 24 percent in cities.
These results also are reflected in perceptions of candidate attributes. Men, those with less education, those who prefer a political outsider and opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership generally are more apt to rate Trump positively.
In one potential trouble spot for Trump, very conservative Republicans –- a key GOP group –- are less likely than “somewhat” conservatives to view him as the strongest leader of the lot, although he leads on this attribute in both groups, picked as strongest leader by 40 percent of strong conservatives and 52 percent of somewhat conservatives.
Additionally, just 14 percent of very conservatives think Trump's the most honest and trustworthy; 40 percent say it's Carson. And while very conservative leaned Republicans say by 53-35 percent that the more they hear about Trump the more they like him, that swells to 78-10 percent for Carson.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Oct. 15-18, 2015, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults, including 423 leaned Republicans. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points for the full sample and 5.5 points for leaned Republicans, including the survey’s design effect. Partisan divisions are 30-24-39 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents.
The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt-SRBI of New York, N.Y. See details on the survey’s methodology here.