Is the race for the Republican nomination finally shaking out? Four candidates get double-digit backing -- and then there’s a steep drop-off to the rest of the field.
The latest Fox News national poll on the 2016 election finds that Donald Trump has the edge, as GOP primary voters by wide margins identify him as the best candidate on the economy, as well as the one most likely to beat presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The poll also finds Ben Carson remains within striking distance of Trump.
Here are the numbers: Trump has the backing of 26 percent of Republican primary voters and is closely followed by Carson at 23 percent. The next tier includes two first-term Cuban-American senators: Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio at 11 percent each. Those four capture the support of 7 in 10 primary voters (71 percent).
From there, Jeb Bush, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, and Rand Paul receive 4 percent each.
Carly Fiorina garners 3 percent, down from 5 percent last month and 9 percent in September.
The poll, released Wednesday, is one of two national telephone polls conducted entirely since the October 28 CNBC Republican debate.
Since mid-October, support for Kasich is up 3 percentage points, Trump and Rubio are up 2 points, and Cruz is up 1 point. Carson has held steady while Bush has dropped by 4 points.
Chris Christie has 2 percent now, up from 1 percent last month.
Men (31 percent) are more likely than women (21 percent) to support Trump. The top choice among women GOP primary voters is Carson at 25 percent.
The favorites among white evangelical Christians include Carson (33 percent), Trump (23 percent) and Cruz (12 percent). Those three are also the top picks among the Tea Party movement, although in a different order: Trump (26 percent), Cruz (24 percent) and Carson (19 percent).
When each primary voter’s first and second-choice preferences are added together, Carson (43 percent) has the edge over Trump (41 percent).
Trump supporters go for Carson (36 percent), Rubio (10 percent), Bush (9 percent), and Cruz (9 percent) as their second-choice picks.
Turning to the Democratic side, front-runner Hillary Clinton outdistances Bernie Sanders by a 56-31 percent margin.
Previous Fox News polls included several Democratic contenders who are now out of the running, most notably Vice President Joe Biden. Even so, we can compare the new results to how things stood before the first Democratic debate and Clinton’s Capitol Hill testimony on Benghazi. Clinton’s current 25-point margin over Sanders is mostly unchanged from last month when she had a 26-point lead without Biden in the race.
The next Republican presidential debate will be hosted by Fox Business Network and The Wall Street Journal on November 10 in Milwaukee and will focus on the economy.
Views on the economy remain ugly, yet they have improved compared to four years ago. While only 21 percent rate the economy positively (1 percent “excellent” and 20 percent “good”), that’s up from a 5 percent positive rating in December 2011. Most voters -- 79 percent -- still say the economy is in “only fair” (44 percent) or “poor” shape (35 percent).
Thinking only about economic issues, voters prioritize government spending (36 percent) and jobs (28 percent) over income inequality (16 percent) and taxes (6 percent).
More GOP primary voters say economic issues (38 percent) will be most important in deciding their vote for the nomination than say national security (26 percent), immigration (15 percent) or social issues (7 percent).
And that helps Trump. No other candidate comes close to the real estate mogul’s 42 percent rating when primary voters are asked who is most qualified to handle the economy. The next closest is Cruz at 10 percent, while 9 percent say Carson, 7 percent Rubio, and 5 percent each for Bush and Kasich. Fiorina, a former CEO, garners just 3 percent.
There’s much less consensus on which candidate is most qualified to be commander-in-chief, yet Trump still has the edge: 19 percent pick him, while 17 percent say Carson, 13 percent Cruz, 10 percent Rubio and 9 percent Bush.
But who can WIN? Twice as many Republican primary voters say Trump (37 percent) is the one most likely to beat Clinton than Carson (18 percent). Another 11 percent say Rubio has the best odds. All other candidates are in the single digits on electability.
By a 55-34 percent margin, voters think Clinton would win a one-on-one debate with Fiorina, the only female Republican candidate. Women say Clinton would prevail by 60-30 percent. Democrats (86 percent) are far more likely to say Clinton would win than Republicans are to pick Fiorina (62 percent).
The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 1,230 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from November 1-3, 2015. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points for all registered voters, and 4 points for Democratic primary voters and 4.5 points for Republican primary voters.