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Poll: GOP voters like Carson's personality, Trump's ability

A new Bloomberg poll shows that Republican voters think former neurosurgeon Ben Carson has the right temperament to be president, but they believe businessman Donald Trump would be more effective in the White House.

Trump hangs onto a narrow lead in the poll, as the first-choice pick of 24 percent of registered Republicans. Twenty percent picked Carson, 12 percent picked Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and 9 percent picked Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

The poll also put Trump and Carson in a head to head matchup on specific qualities. Sixty-five percent said Carson had the better temperament to be president, versus 23 percent who said the same of Trump. But 73 percent said Trump knows how to get things done, whereas only 20 percent said Carson was stronger on that quality.

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"Carson's greatest strength has always been who people think he is as a person," said J. Ann Selzer, whose Iowa-based Selzer & Co. conducted the poll. "Trump's greatest strength has always been what people think he can do."

Voters did give Carson the edge on working effectively with Congress -- 62 percent said he would be best at it, whereas 30 percent said Trump would. But Trump got higher marks on fixing immigration, combating Islamic terrorism, dealing with Russian President Vladimir Putin and having the right life experience to be president.

In a similar matchup between Rubio and Cruz, voters said Rubio had the better temperament to be president (47 percent picked him, while 28 percent said Cruz), and 46 percent said he would be most effective at working with Congress. Twenty-nine percent picked Cruz.

The pair was evenly matched on the question of who knows how to get things done (36 percent picked Rubio and 35 percent picked Cruz). Rubio got higher marks on his ability to deal with Putin, while Cruz would be better at combating Islamic terrorism, voters said. One of their starkest differences was on immigration, where 44 percent said Cruz would do more to solve the problem of illegal immigration and just 35 percent picked Rubio.

On policy, voters seem more moderate than some of the candidates running for the 2016 presidential nomination on immigration. Half of Republican-leaning adults surveyed said they favor continuing President Obama's program to defer deportation for people brought to the country illegally as children, a program Rubio has said he would end. More than half of Republicans, 54 percent, said it would be wrong to round up and deport the 11 million immigrants estimated to be living illegally in the U.S. -- which is part of Trump's plan for immigration.

Carson's biggest strength comes among those who self-identify as Christian conservatives and voters in the south, which Selzer said could give him a boost because many southern states hold their primaries early in the election cycle.

The poll surveyed 1,002 adults between Nov. 15 and 17. The overall sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The sample of 379 registered Republicans and those who lean toward the GOP has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.0 percentage points.