- The Washington Times - Friday, September 4, 2015

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has the highest net favorability of the 17 major GOP candidates running for president in 2016 among Republicans, with rival Donald Trump seeing the biggest increase over the past few weeks, according to survey results released Friday.

Fifty-seven percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents surveyed from Aug. 19 to Sept. 1 said they have a favorable opinion of Mr. Carson, compared to just 6 percent with an unfavorable one, for a net favorability of +51, Gallup reported.

Mr. Trump’s +32 (63 percent favorable, 31 percent unfavorable) was a 16-point jump from his +16 rating in a survey taken from Aug. 5-18 and put Mr. Trump in sixth place in the field.

SEE ALSO: Donald Trump: I’m hoping for Ben Carson ‘to really hit me at some point’

“Despite some political analysts’ expectations that Trump’s bombastic style and controversial statements could begin to weaken his standing among Republicans, the businessman and TV personality’s net favorable score has actually jumped over the past two weeks, and he is now in a much stronger position image-wise than in mid-July,” wrote Gallup’s Frank Newport. “From a broad perspective, these data show no signs yet of an overall backlash among rank-and-file Republicans to his campaign, style or issue positions.”

Mr. Trump said Friday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” he hopes Mr. Carson will start coming after him because he loves to counter-punch.

The candidate with the second-biggest improvement behind Mr. Trump from the Aug. 5-18 time period was Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who like Mr. Carson has also avoided attacking Mr. Trump. Mr. Cruz’s +41 score (55 percent favorable, 14 percent unfavorable) is a 7-point increase and put him in third behind Mr. Carson and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who had a net favorable rating of +42 (55 percent favorable, 13 percent unfavorable).

Close behind were former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at +38 (57 percent favorable, 19 percent unfavorable) and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina at +37 (45 percent favorable, 8 percent unfavorable). Ms. Fiorina’s net favorability increased five points compared to the previous two weeks.

Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s net score decreased by 12 points over the last few weeks, going from a +27 to a +15 (33 percent favorable, 18 percent unfavorable). Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was seventh behind Mr. Trump at +31 (44 percent favorable, 13 percent unfavorable), but he saw a six-point drop from Aug. 5-18.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who had the second-highest familiarity rating behind Mr. Trump, had a net favorability of +19 (52 percent favorable, 33 percent unfavorable), also a six-point drop from Aug. 5-18.

Mr. Newport wrote that “the two best-known candidates are now in a verbal shoving match of sorts. How effective Bush’s ads, speeches and appearance in the Sept. 16 debate will be in slowing down Trump’s momentum remains to be seen. At this point, the paths of the two best-known candidates have clearly diverged, with Trump going up and Bush going down.”

Results for the poll were based on interviews conducted July 8-Sept. 1 on the Gallup U.S. Daily Survey, with a random sample of 13,996 Republicans and GOP-leaning independents.

Each candidate was rated by a random subset of respondents, with a sample size of around 1,000 within each two-week period.

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