Trump Still Polling on Top After Debate Disaster: Can Nothing Stop the Donald?

Donald Trump is still the 2016 Republican frontrunner, according to a poll by NBC News taken in the two days following the GOP’s first nationally televised debate last week. 

Trump was at 23 percent, while his next-closest competitor, Ted Cruz, was at 13 percent, a jump of 7 points from a week before. Ben Carson was third at 11 percent, followed by Carly Fiorina (8 percent), Marco Rubio (8 percent), Jeb Bush (7 percent) and Scott  Walker (7 percent). The jumps by Fiorina and Cruz were the largest in the field.

Notably, more than half of Trump’s supporters (54 percent) said that they would support him if he ran as an independent candidate and not a Republican.

“During the Republican debate, Trump was met with both boos and cheers from the crowd as he said he would not rule out running as an independent if he didn’t get the Republican nod,” the poll’s analysis. “About 1 in 5 Trump supporters said they would support the eventual Republican candidate, while about the same number said it would depend.”

The poll, conducted this past Friday and Saturday of more than 3,500 voting age adults, reveals that the first nationwide debate has shaken up some aspects of the crowded GOP field—but not dislodged Trump from the lead, despite his criticism of Fox News’ Megyn Kelly for her aggressive line of questioning on previous misogynist statements.   

The poll also found that Trump, while maintaining his lead, elicits the strongest positive and negative reactions among Republican and likely Republican voters. It also found that Carly Fiorina’s incisive and sharply critical comments in the first debate panel, especially going after Hillary Clinton, were especially well-received among Republican voters. 

“Among Republican and Republican-leaning voters who watched either of the debates or followed coverage of the debates in the news, Carly Fiorina emerged as the clear winner,” it said. “Twenty-two percent said Fiorina won or had the best performance in the debate, followed by 18% who said Trump had the best performance. However, another 29% said Trump did the worst in the debate, clearly showing how polarizing he is. When the candidates’ negative performance percentages are subtracted from their positive percentages, Fiorina notched a positive 20, whereas Trump scored a negative 11. Both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz did well, with net scores of positive 12 and 11. Rand Paul also fared poorly, scoring a negative 11.”

NBC’s poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent, which means apart from Trump, the GOP’s top tier of candidates now includes Cruz, Carson, Fiorina, Bush, Rubio and Walker. Other candidates, including Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, were far below, at 2 percent and 1 percent respectively.

One quarter of the poll respondents said that debate performances were very important in their decision-making. The next GOP debate is scheduled for September 16 at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. It will be moderated by CNN.    


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