Donald Trump is still the clear front-runner of the 2016 GOP presidential field.
A new Economist/YouGov poll released on Friday actually showed Trump gaining support in the last week, despite a controversy over his comments questioning Sen. John McCain’s (R-Arizona) status as a “war hero.”
According to the poll, the number of registered Republican primary voters whose responded that Trump is their first choice jumped from 15% at the beginning of July to 28% last week. Another 10% of voters pick him as their second choice.
That puts the real-estate magnate far ahead of the next Republican candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), as well as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who saw his numbers jump following his campaign announcement earlier this month.
The line of thinking was that Republican primary voters — generally much more hawkish and supportive of the military than Democrats — wouldn’t take kindly to Trump’s dismissive comments about McCain’s status as a prisoner of war.
But so far, any backlash doesn’t appear to have materialised. In fact, Trump has only gained support in the survey. And the poll found that 32% of GOP primary voters don’t think that Trump needed to apologise.
And the YouGov poll isn’t the only poll to show that Trump is still comfortably in the lead. A Monmouth University poll of GOP voters in Iowa showed that Trump’s support remained unchanged following the McCain flap. And an ABC/Washington Post poll released earlier this week found him nearly doubling Bush’s support, as well.
Pollsters have warned that early polls not reliable indicators of real support that will translate into votes. Voters are still not tuned into to the election, and at this point, candidates with high name recognition who can dominate the news cycle can see inflated support. Trump — a media sensation with decades of high-profile entertainment ventures, real-estate deals, and reality-television show experience — is perfectly positioned to take advantage of that.
Many pollsters have pointed to Trump’s unfavorability rating, which remains higher than other GOP candidates in most polls. The Economist/YouGov poll showed the real-estate magnate’s unfavorability ratings did rise slightly following his comments about McCain.
“The poll results with regard to candidate standing are ephemeral at this stage, primarily a function of name recognition,” University of Michigan political science professor Michael Tractor, a polling expert, told Business Insider last month, as Trump began his surge. “Trump has greater name recognition than many of the others, especially the governors. But name recognition is not the same as support.”
Some polls, however, have shown Trump’s favorability numbers climbing. And the real-estate mogul has bulldozed his way into the forefront of issues that are hugely important in the 2016 race — especially with Republican primary voters.
Trump was one of the first 2016 candidates to call attention to the death of Kathryn Steinle, a 32-year-old woman who was allegedly murdered by an immigrant living in the US without permission.
Trump got a shout-out during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this week from one of the witnesses, who thanked him for bringing attention to the issue of violent crime committed by immigrants living in the US without permission.
And earlier this week, House Republicans passed an immigration bill that Democrats dubbed “The Donald Trump Act.”
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