Donald Trump continues to dominate the race for the Republican nomination, according to a new Fox News national poll of registered voters.
Trump leads with 36 percent among self-identified GOP primary voters. Ted Cruz captures 19 percent and Marco Rubio receives 15 percent.
Jeb Bush and Ben Carson get nine percent a piece, and John Kasich gets eight percent.
The poll, released Thursday, was conducted Monday through Wednesday evenings -- after a heated Republican debate Saturday in South Carolina (and also after Valentine’s Day Sunday).
Trump’s success is due to his ability to make in-roads with core elements of the GOP base.
For example, white evangelical Christians voting in the GOP primary favor Trump (28 percent) and Cruz (26 percent) over Rubio (15 percent) and Carson (15 percent).
Cruz has a slim one-point edge over Trump among those who identify as “very” conservative (29-28 percent). Another 16 percent back Rubio.
Men (40 percent) are more likely than women (32 percent) to make Trump their first choice. Still, he’s the favorite for each.
Nearly six in 10 Republicans want the next president to be someone from outside the political establishment -- and those voters go heavily for Trump (55 percent vs. 15 percent for Cruz and 11 percent Carson).
Meanwhile, Trump is the candidate Republican voters trust to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Thirty-nine percent would put Trump in the room with Putin -- that’s more than double the 18 percent who say Cruz. Fourteen percent say Rubio and 10 percent Bush.
For those pundits who thought the Republican faithful would fall back in line when faced with the possibility of Trump making Supreme Court appointments, consider this: Trump ties Cruz as the candidate GOP primary voters think would do the best job handling nominations to the high court (26 percent each).
Taking into consideration that this is an election year, 62 percent of all voters say it is the responsibility of current leaders, President Obama and the Senate, to act to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Scalia’s recent death. Compare that to 34 percent who think the president shouldn’t get to nominate someone for a life-time appointment this late in his term.
Despite Trump’s strengths in the primary race, he’s the weakest of the GOP candidates in hypothetical matchups against Clinton. Rubio (+4) and Kasich (+3) perform best against Clinton. Cruz and Bush each top Clinton by just one point.
Trump trails the Democrat by five points: Clinton 47 percent vs. Trump 42 percent. Sanders trounces Trump by 53-38 percent.
By a slim 49-48 percent, Republicans think Trump “has the temperament” to serve effectively as president, while voters overall say he doesn’t by 67-30.
Republicans say by 62-31 percent that Rubio “has the toughness” to serve effectively. By comparison, most voters aren’t so sure: 43 percent say he does, while 46 percent disagree.
Is Cruz likeable enough to do the job? By two-to-one most Republicans say he has the “personality” to serve effectively as president (65-30). Overall, voters are more likely to say no (44 percent yes vs. 49 percent no).
Who could kids look up to in the White House? GOP primary voters think Carson (26 percent) is the best role model for children today, while nearly half say Trump is the worst (49 percent).
The president is on television -- a lot. Voters say they would “most dread” watching Trump (40 percent) and Clinton (31 percent) on television for the next four years. Democrats are more likely to say Trump (56 percent) than Republicans are to say Clinton (50 percent).
Independents? They would dread watching Trump the most (40 percent), followed by Clinton (27 percent).
The Fox News poll is based on landline and cellphone interviews with 1,031 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from February 15-17, 2016. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points for all registered voters, and 4.5 points for the Republican primary voter sample (404).