Donald Trump was up double digits in an overnight poll conducted in the wake of Thursday’s 2016 GOP presidential debate, with the real estate mogul maintaining a healthy lead amid blowback from remarks he made about Fox News host Megyn Kelly, one of the debate moderators.
Mr. Trump was the first choice of 23 percent of Republican primary voters in the NBC News online survey conducted Friday night into Saturday by SurveyMonkey, followed by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 13 percent and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 11 percent.
Mr. Cruz picked up the most support from before Thursday’s event, jumping 7 points. Mr. Carson’s support ticked up 3 points from 8 percent, while Mr. Trump’s mostly held steady, bumping up one point from 22 percent.
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina — who participated in the debate earlier Thursday among candidates outside the top 10 in an average of recent public polling — picked up 6 points to jump to 8 percent, putting her in a tie with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
Twenty-two percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters who watched either of the debates or followed coverage in the news said Ms. Fiorina did the best job in the debate — the highest percentage of any of the 17 total candidates who participated in both events.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker both dropped 3 points and were tied at 7 percent apiece, followed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky at 5 percent apiece.
To the potential consternation of party elders, 54 percent of Trump supporters said they would vote for him for president as an independent candidate. During the prime-time debate Thursday, Mr. Trump would not commit to ruling out a potential independent bid and supporting the eventual GOP nominee.
Eighteen percent said Mr. Trump did the best job in the debate, putting him in second on that question behind Ms. Fiorina. However, 29 percent said he did the worst job in the debate, putting him first on that question as well. His net score of -11 was tied with Mr. Paul for the worst.
Speaking on CNN Friday evening, Mr. Trump said of Ms. Kelly, one of his questioners: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
The remarks, which got him disinvited from the 2015 RedState gathering of conservative activists held over the weekend, were roundly criticized by his 2016 GOP opponents, though Mr. Trump said that only a deviant would think he was talking about menstruation.
The survey of 3,551 adults included 1,591 registered Republicans, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for that subgroup.