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CBS News poll: Donald Trump leads GOP field in 2016 presidential race

By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto, and Fred Backus

Trump leads GOP race in CBS News poll 02:40

Donald Trump (24 percent) leads a fractured Republican field in the race for the GOP nomination in the latest national CBS News Poll. Behind him are Jeb Bush (13 percent) and Scott Walker (10 percent).

Trump leads among a wide array of Republican primary voters. He appears to have tapped into public anger toward Washington: he holds a large lead among Republican primary voters who say they are angry. And 79 percent think Trump says what he believes, rather than what people want to hear, far higher than the other candidates tested.

Trump may be the top choice among a quarter of Republican primary voters, but there are other voters who would be less enthusiastic. At 27 percent, he tops the list of candidates Republican voters would be most dissatisfied with as the party's nominee.

Trump, Bush, Walker and Rubio are all viewed more positively than negatively, but Trump has the highest unfavorable ratings. His ratings among registered voters overall are especially negative.

Does Donald Trump have staying power in the 2016 GOP race? 02:19

Majorities of Republican primary voters are confident in Trump, Bush, Rubio and Walker to handle key issues. Trump does best on the economy and illegal immigration, while Bush does best on dealing with America's adversaries. Trump and Bush are seen as the candidates most likely to win a general election.

The Republican Race

Just days before the Republican presidential candidates square off in their first debate, Donald Trump is in the top spot among Republican primary voters nationally - 24 percent support him as the nominee. Trump is followed by Jeb Bush (13 percent), Scott Walker (10 percent), Mike Huckabee (eight percent), Ben Carson (six percent), Ted Cruz (six percent), and Marco Rubio (six percent). Further down are Rand Paul (4 percent) and Chris Christie (3 percent). Other contenders are below three percent. Nine percent of Republican primary voters say they don't know who they want as the nominee at this point.

Among Trump supporters, the most popular second choice candidates for the Republican party's nomination are Carson, Bush, Cruz and Rubio.

Trump appeals to many factions of Republican primary voters. He leads among conservatives, Tea Party supporters, evangelicals and both men and women. Among Republican primary voters who do not consider themselves Tea Partiers, the race is closer. Bush (21 percent) performs better among this group, edging out Trump (19 percent).

Rick Perry: We don’t need a Republican divider 03:55

Also, Trump leads among Republican primary voters on both sides of the illegal immigration debate - those who support legal status for illegal immigrants in the U.S and those who think those immigrants should be required to leave the country.

Trump and Bush are also seen as the most electable in a general election. At this early stage of the campaign, 26 percent say Trump has the best chance of winning in November 2016, and 23 percent pick Bush as having the best chance. Walker comes in third here, with eight percent.

Trump may be the top choice among a quarter of Republican primary voters, but there are other voters who would be less enthusiastic about him as their party's nominee. Trump (27 percent) is the candidate Republicans would be most dissatisfied with as the party's nominee for president, followed by Bush (18 percent) and Christie (10 percent).

Twenty-five percent of voters who would be dissatisfied with Trump as the nominee are backing Bush, followed by Rubio (12 percent), Huckabee (11 percent), and Walker (10 percent).

Republican primary voters (42 percent) are more likely than their Democratic counterparts (25 percent) to be angry at how things are going in Washington, and the poll suggests that Trump has tapped into some of that anger.

Republican primary voters who are angry at Washington are currently supporting Trump (30 percent) for the nomination by a wide margin. The second most popular candidate in this category is Huckabee, with 10 percent.

Views of the Republican Candidates, Issues and Qualities

One of Trump's strengths may be the perception that he says what is on his mind. The poll finds 79 percent of Republican primary voters say Trump says what he believes, rather than what people want to hear - the highest of the GOP contenders asked about. Republican voters are also inclined to say that Rubio and Walker say what they believe (although to a lesser extent than Trump), but they are divided on Bush: 46 percent think he says what he believes, but nearly as many - 44 percent- think he mostly says what people want to hear.

Sen. Marco Rubio on Iran nuclear deal, Clinton and Trump 06:29

Majorities of Republican primary voters nationwide express confidence in Trump, Bush, Rubio and Walker to make the right decisions on the economy, illegal immigration and dealing with America's adversaries. Seventy-one percent of these voters are confident in Trump on economic decisions, and 65 percent are confident in his ability to make decisions on illegal immigration. Sixty-eight percent of these voters are confident in Bush's ability to deal with America's adversaries. About one in five GOP primary voters don't know enough about Walker to rate him on these issues.

Bush, Rubio, Trump and Walker are all viewed more favorably than unfavorably among Republican primary voters, although Trump has the highest unfavorable rating - 38 percent - among these four candidates. He is also the most known to Republican voters - only 14 percent are undecided or don't know enough about him.

Rubio and Walker have lower unfavorable ratings and they are the least familiar to Republican voters - at this early stage in the campaign, many are undecided or haven't heard enough about each to have an opinion.

Most Republican voters' views of Trump haven't changed in the last month, but more say their opinions of him have become better (23 percent), than say worse (12 percent). However, the reverse is true among registered voters: they are more likely to say their views of Trump have worsened.

Still, among registered voters overall, both Trump and Bush are viewed more negatively than positively. Thirty percent view Bush favorably, and 40 percent do not view him favorably, and twenty-seven percent of registered voters hold a favorable view of Trump, while 59 percent hold an unfavorable view of him. Opinions on Rubio and Walker are split.

Trump ready for debate, while Biden considers joining the 2016 race 02:12

Trump's wealth could be a positive when it comes to money and politics. Voters nationwide are more inclined to prefer a candidate who uses their own personal wealth to fund their campaign (28 percent), rather than one who raises money through donations (13 percent). Views are similar across party lines. Still, for a majority of voters - 56 percent - it doesn't matter if a candidate uses their own money or donors' money to fund their campaigns.

While most registered voters view the Republican candidates as mostly attacking each other, 46 percent of Republican voters think the candidates are mostly explaining what they would do as president; thirty-five percent say they are mostly attacking each other.


Fifty-nine percent of Americans think most immigrants to the U.S. (not specifically illegal immigrants) contribute to society rather than cause problems. Most Democrats and independents hold this view, while Republicans are divided, with 43 percent saying most immigrants contribute to the country and 42 percent saying that they cause problems.

Americans continue to think that most illegal immigrants currently in the U.S. should be able to apply for legal status, including 61 percent who support a path to citizenship. Among Republicans, more than half (55 percent) back legal status, but 41 percent think illegal immigrants should be required to leave the country.

When asked specifically about jobs, most say illegal immigrants generally take jobs that Americans don't want. Republicans (42 percent) are more likely than Democrats (18 percent) and independents (24 percent) to say illegal immigrants take jobs from Americans.

Most Americans think illegal immigrants are just as likely to commit crimes as U.S. citizens. Republicans, however, are somewhat more inclined to say illegal immigrants are more likely to commit crimes (33 percent) than U.S. citizens (11 percent).


This poll was conducted by telephone July 29-August 2, 2015 among a random sample of 1,252 adults nationwide, including 1047 registered voters. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Media, PA. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. The margin of error for the sample of 408 Republican primary voters is 5 percentage points.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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