Republican presidential candidates Dr. Ben Carson, Donald Trump and Jeb Bush line up for a photo op before the CNN Republican Debate begins at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Sept. 16, 2015, in Simi Valley, Calif.
Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC

Voters still think Trump will win GOP nomination, but Cruz and Rubio are on the rise


Donald Trump continues to hold a commanding lead in the Republican presidential nominating contest, according to our most recent poll. Trump leads the pack with 35 percent support among Republican and Republican-leaning voters – a full 15 points over second-place Ted Cruz. Third place Marco Rubio has increased his support to 17 percent – up 5 percent from last week. These numbers are according to the NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking poll conducted online February 1, 2016 through February 7, 2016 among a national sample of 10,707 adults aged 18 and over, including 9,484 who say they are registered to vote.

While Trump continues to lead overall, Republicans’ opinions as to who will win have changed dramatically following the results of the Iowa caucus. While a plurality still believe that Trump is most likely to win the Republican nomination (42 percent), this has fallen by 20 percent in the past week alone. No candidate now commands a majority of Republican opinion, but Cruz and Rubio have equally benefitted from Trump’s decline. The percentage of Republicans who think that Cruz will be the eventual nominee has risen 10 percent to 31 percent following his win in Iowa. The percentage thinking Rubio will be the nominee has also risen by 10 percent to 18 percent following Rubio’s strong third-place finish in the Hawkeye State. 

Digging deeper reveals interesting differences in how the overall support for these candidates has changed in the past two weeks. Rubio’s rise in overall support and perception of his likelihood of winning the nomination coincides with an increase in support among Republicans regardless of their conservatism. The figure below shows the change in support for each candidate in the last week by the conservatism of self-identified Republican registered voters. Between the most recent poll results and those of last week, Rubio’s support has increased by 6 percent among those that are very conservative, by 4 percent among conservatives and 7 percent among moderates. 

In contrast, support for Cruz has remained largely unchanged following his victory in Iowa – his support among the very conservative Republicans has increased by 2 percent from his level of support last week; his support among conservatives has increased by 1 percent; and his support among moderates has remained unchanged at 9 percent

Rubio’s increase in support over the last week appears to be coming at the expense of Trump. Trump’s support among those who identify as very conservative has decreased by 6 percent in the last week; his support among conservative Republicans has fallen 5 percent; and his support among moderates has declined by 3 percent. 

Graphics by Sam Petulla

The NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking poll was conducted online from February 1, 2016 through February 7, 2016 among a national sample of 9,690 adults aged 18 and over, including 10,707 who say they are registered to vote. Respondents for this non-probability survey were selected from the nearly three million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. Results have an error estimate of plus or minus 1.4 percentage points. A full description of our methodology and the poll can be found here.