By Reid Wilson
November 10, 2015 at 6:00 am ET
As he faces new scrutiny over details of his personal story, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson has nonetheless become one of the most well-liked candidate seeking the Republican presidential nomination, a new poll finds.
The Morning Consult tracking survey shows two thirds of Republican primary voters view Carson favorably, more than any candidate other than real estate mogul Donald Trump.
And while Trump’s fan base has largely been static since he entered the presidential contest, Carson’s image has steadily improved: Today, just 22 percent of registered voters say they have no opinion or have never heard of Carson, down from 39 percent who said they didn’t know him in early August.
By contrast, 32 percent of registered voters say they don’t know enough about Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to form an opinion, 31 percent don’t know enough about Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and a whopping 52 percent don’t know enough about Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R). All but 8 percent of registered voters have formed an opinion of Trump.
Carson is one of only three candidates who scores a higher favorable rating than unfavorable rating, along with Rubio and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). And Carson, whose personal story and professional success has been well-documented in African American communities, is also the only Republican contender to have a positive image among black voters.
Trump continues to lead the Republican field with 34 percent of the vote, the new tracking poll shows, with Carson running in second place, at 19 percent. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) wins 8 percent of the vote, followed by Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) at 7 percent. No other contender scores more than 3 percent of the vote.
Trump’s lead is based on strong support from Republican men, 42 percent of whom say they will back the New Yorker. And among Republicans who say national security is their paramount concern, Trump takes a strong 44 percent of the vote. Carson performs better among women voters than among men, and among those who say they care most about education, Medicare and Social Security.
The competition for the Democratic presidential nomination is still former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s race to lose. Clinton easily leads Sanders, 54 percent to 28 percent, while former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) struggles at just 3 percent.
Clinton holds her strongest lead among African American voters, two-thirds of whom say they will support the former Secretary of State. Sanders leads Clinton among only one demographic sub-group: Voters between the ages of 18 and 29 choose Sanders by a 48 percent to 38 percent margin.
Clinton’s own favorable rating has improved markedly since October, when she faced questions over her response to the attacks on American diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, and her decision to keep personal emails on a private server run out of her home.
After facing down Republican members of Congress last month, and after a strong performance during the first Democratic debate, 46 percent of registered voters say they see Clinton favorably now, though 50 percent still view her unfavorably.
The Morning Consult tracking survey polled 4,002 registered voters between Nov. 5-8, for a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. The poll included subsamples of 1,567 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, and 1,739 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. The full survey carried a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points; the subsamples of Republicans and Democrats carried margins of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points and 2.3 percentage points, respectively.
Reid Wilson previously worked at Morning Consult as an editor.