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Story highlights

Trump tops 40% mark among Republican voters for the first time in CNN/ORC polling

More than two-thirds say Trump is most likely to capture the nomination

Washington CNN —  

Donald Trump has hit a new high in the race for the Republican nomination, according to a new CNN/ORC Poll, with more than 4-in-10 Republican voters nationwide now saying they back the billionaire.

And more than two-thirds of Republicans say he’s the candidate most likely to capture their party’s presidential nomination.

Trump has topped the 40% mark for the first time in CNN/ORC polling, standing at 41%. That more than doubles the support of his nearest competitor, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who notches 19% support in the poll. No other candidate hit double-digits. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio landed at 8%, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 6%, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 5%, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 4%, and the rest at 3% or less.

Despite the new high-mark for Trump, the GOP race remains fairly stable compared with where it was in the most recent CNN/ORC poll in late December.

CNN/ORC poll results: 2016 Republicans

In that poll, Trump stood at 39%, Cruz at 18% and Rubio at 10%. Carson’s 4-point dip, from 10% to 6%, between the two surveys is the largest change in the field, and it is not large enough to be a statistically significant change given the new poll’s 5-point margin of sampling error.

Trump’s lead is clearly significant, however, and the poll finds him well ahead of the field among a range of GOP subgroups. He leads among both men and women, younger and older voters, white evangelicals, conservatives and both self-identified Republicans and independents who lean toward the party.

There are two subgroups where Trump’s lead is less dominant: college graduates and tea party supporters. Even among those groups, however, he remains at the head of the pack. Among those holding degrees, 26% back Trump, 20% Cruz, and tea party supporters split 37% for Trump, 34% for Cruz.

As Iowa shifts, national views stable

Trump’s supporters are more likely than those backing other candidates to say that they’ve definitely made up their mind (70% of Trump’s supporters say they are locked in compared with 40% who back other candidates).

And the prospect of a Trump candidacy generates more enthusiasm overall (40% of Republican voters say they would be enthusiastic about a Trump nomination) than the possibility of Cruz (25% enthusiastic) or Rubio (18% enthusiastic) at the head of the ticket.

Trump’s dominance continues when voters assess which of the GOP candidates would best handle top issues.

Cruz allies tout his Latino background as general election benefit

Trump holds his widest advantage on handling the economy: 60% of GOP voters say Trump would best handle it, a 48-point lead over Ted Cruz. Likewise, Trump has a 55% to 16% edge on handling illegal immigration.

His margin is smaller, though still significant, on handling foreign policy. Republican voters in the poll rated terrorism their most important issue in considering a candidate for president: 49% called it “extremely important,” outpacing the share calling the economy, government spending or illegal immigration as central to their vote.

Trump has gained ground over the course of the campaign on the values issues that are often meaningful among Republican primary voters.

Trump rips Cruz: ‘Lie after lie’

The share who say Trump would do the best job on social issues has grown from 15% in September to 28%. Cruz trails Trump by just 4 points on that matter.

And about one-third of Republicans say they think Trump is the candidate who “best represents the values of Republicans like yourself,” 34% choose Trump, 9 points ahead of Cruz at 25%. No other candidate hits double-digits on that measure.

Trump’s case for the presidency rests at least in part on his standing as a political outsider. The poll finds that a broad swath of GOP voters (55%) say they feel completely unrepresented by the government in Washington, and among those voters, Trump holds a 47% to 19% lead over Cruz.

The poll also finds Trump is widely seen as the candidate best able to win in November: 63% of Republicans say so, compared with 16% who see Cruz as best positioned to win and 10% who name Rubio.

But in hypothetical general election, Trump appears to fare slightly worse than either Cruz or Rubio when matched up against either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. All six match-ups are close, with no one candidate leading another outside the margin of error of 3.5 percentage points for registered voters. But Rubio and Cruz each hit 50% support when matched against Clinton, while Trump stalls at 47%.

Cruz: Trump ‘could be unstoppable’ if he wins Iowa

Rubio and Sanders produce a near-even split, 49% Sanders to 48% Rubio, while the Democratic senator hits 50% against either Trump or Cruz.

Overall, a majority of registered voters (56%) now say they think Trump will win his party’s nomination for president, and that rises to 68% among Republican voters. Last summer, 40% of registered voters said they thought Bush would top the GOP ticket in 2016 – now, just 5% say so.

The CNN/ORC Poll was conducted by telephone January 21-24 among a random national sample of 1,002 adults. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. For results among the 405 registered voters who are Republicans or independents who lean toward the Republican Party, the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 5.0 percentage points.