Ben Carson Overtakes Donald Trump In New National Poll

One unqualified outsider with a history of saying outrageous things replaces another unqualified outsider with a history of saying outrageous things, at least according to yet another new poll.

Ben Carson Donald Trump

Following on the heels of a series of polls out of Iowa that show him passing Donald Trump in the race for the Republican nomination, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson is now leading Donald Trump in a national poll conducted by CBS News and The New York Times:

Ben Carson has surpassed Donald Trump and now narrowly leads the Republican field in the race for the nomination in the latest national CBS News/New York Times Poll.

Twenty-six percent of Republican primary voters back Carson, giving him a four-point edge over Trump (22 percent). Support for Carson has quadrupled since August.

The rest of the Republican presidential candidates lag far behind in single digits. Marco Rubio is now in third place (eight percent), followed by Jeb Bush (seven percent) and Carly Fiorina (seven percent). All other candidates are at four percent or lower.

Carson has made gains across many key Republican groups. In a reversal from earlier this month, he is now ahead of Trump among women and is running neck and neck with him among men. Carson’s support among evangelicals has risen and he now leads Trump by more than 20 points with this group.

Carson performs well among conservative Republicans and those who identify as Tea partiers. Trump does well with moderates and leads Carson among those without a college degree – although Trump had a larger advantage with non-college graduates earlier this month.

But the state of the race can change. Seven in 10 Republican primary voters say it is too early to say for sure that their mind is made up about which candidate they will support. This percentage is about what it was at a similar point in the Republican race four years ago.

While Carson may have moved to the top of the pack, Trump’s supporters are more firm in their candidate choice than Carson’s. More than half of Trump voters say their minds are made up about which candidate to back, compared to 19 percent who are currently backing Carson.

More from The New York Times:

Ben Carson has taken a narrow lead nationally in the Republican presidential campaign, dislodging Donald J. Trump from the top spot for the first time in months, according to a New York Times/CBS News survey released on Tuesday.

Mr. Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, is the choice of 26 percent of Republican primary voters, the poll found, while Mr. Trump now wins support from 22 percent, although the difference lies within the margin of sampling error.

The survey is the first time that Mr. Trump has not led all candidates since The Times and CBS News began measuring presidential preferences at the end of July.

No other candidate comes close to Mr. Carson and Mr. Trump. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida received 8 percent while former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive, are each the choice of 7 percent of Republican primary voters.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio each received support from 4 percent of those surveyed.

The poll represents a single waypoint in a long nominating process that has already seen considerable volatility. The third Republican debate is on Wednesday, which could further scramble the unsettled field. Such early polls have proven unreliable predictors of the eventual winner, and the first nominating contest, the Iowa caucus, is still more than three months away.

Indeed, the new survey shows that the vast majority of Republicans have not firmly made up their minds: Seven in 10 of those who expressed support for a candidate said it was too early to say for sure who they would support. Just 28 percent indicated that their minds were made up.

More than half of the Republican primary voters surveyed said they were now paying “a lot” of attention to the campaign, essentially unchanged from a CBS News survey in early October.

Over the same period, Mr. Carson has gained five percentage points, while Mr. Trump has fallen by five percentage points.

If nothing else, this poll suggests that the rise we’ve seen in Carson’s favor in the Hawkeye State is something more than just a fluke and that we’re likely to see more evidence in the coming days and weeks that Ben Carson is posing a serious challenge for Donald Trump, who has essentially been the undisputed and untouchable leader in the GOP race since July. On the surface, it’s hard to see what exactly it is that might be accounting for this. The most recent national polls released before the debate did show Carson getting a little bit closer to Trump, but they certainly weren’t hinting at the kind of rise that we’re seeing here, or what is clearly a fall on Trump’s part that has been sufficient enough to cause him to slip in to second place. In Iowa at least, one could point to a large ad buy from Club for Growth, as well as commercials from the Carson campaign that have started to run in South Carolina and seem likely to spread elsewhere, as a possible cause for what’s happening in the polls there. It’s not at all likely, though, that a media campaign that’s largely been limited to one state would have this kind of impact on the race.

A more probable explanation for the poll shift we seem to be seeing, I suppose, is the fact that this poll seems to indicate that Republican voters are starting to pay closer attention to the race than they have to date. This would suggest, of course, that a great deal of Trump’s rise over the past three to four months has been as much about his celebrity status and the media attention that his outrageous statements get from the press as it has been about actual support in the polls, but that conclusion runs in the face of polling data that shows that Republicans have started to take Trump more seriously as time goes on. Additionally, it’s hard to say that there’s been any individual event that one could point to as the reason for either Carson’s rise or Trump’s fall as reflected in theAse polls. For that reason, Trump’s seemingly decline now, which may end up proving to be temporary, is as puzzling as his rise in the polls was when he entered the race. This is especially true when you take into account that the person who seems to be replacing him at the top of the polls, while admittedly far less bombastic than Trump, isn’t really any better when it comes to policy positions or rhetoric. Ben Carson may be much more soft-spoken than Trump, but he’s no less ridiculous in many of the things he believes. This is, after all, the man who has a long  history of inflammatory rhetoric that most recently appeared to include the suggestion that Holocaust victims were partly to blame for their fate and the suggestion that the Department of Education should be turned into some kind of monitor to weed out “political bias” in higher education. He’s just as much of an ignoramus on basic policy issues as Trump is. And now he appears to be moving into the top spot in the race for the Republican nomination just three months before the Iowa Caucuses. For months now, Republicans have been hoping for the day when Donald Trump would start declining in the polls, and they’ve reached it. The fact that he’s being replaced by someone equally as ridiculous as he is, though, probably means that they aren’t exactly popping the champagne corks right now.

The fact that this potentially important shift in the polls is happening now promises to make the next several weeks quite interesting. The next Republican debate, of course, will be held tomorrow in Colorado and there will be another debate two weeks later in Wisconsin. Among other things, it will be interesting to see how Trump reacts to the fact that he is no longer the undisputed leader in the Republican field. At least initially, his response has been to dismiss the numbers and try to continue with the message that his campaign is a winning one, something he repeated this morning on Morning Joe when apparently first learned about the new CBS/New York Times numbers. That argument isn’t going to hold up, though, if more polling comes out that mirrors what we’ve been seeing for the past several days, and considering the fact that a large part of Trump’s campaign of late has been to cite the polls as evidence that he’s “winning” while everyone else is losing. One can expect that Trump will likely try to attack Carson more vigorously, which we’ve already seen in Trump calling Carson “super low energy” and raising questions about his faith, but the problem Trump and other candidates face there is Ben Carson is not an easy candidate to attack not the least because he tends not to fight back and because his soft-spoken nature even in response to these attacks ends up making the attacker look like something of a bully. Additionally, with Trump now apparently showing signs of vulnerability it’s likely that we’ll see some of the other Republican candidates, all of whom continue to languish in the single digits, go after Trump more vigorously than they have in the past. Whether that will work is something only time will tell, and it’s well worth remembering that Trump very could bounce back from these setbacks. If he does, and if he then continues to rise in the polls then he could end up being very well-positioned once the voting actually starts in February. This is far from being over yet. Indeed, we haven’t even approached the end of the beginning.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. gVOR08 says:

    As I said yesterday with respect to Iowa polling, Bwahahahahahahahahaha, wheeze, cough, pant, ahh, ahh, bwahahahahahahahahahaha.

  2. Mu says:

    Doesn’t the campaign always have the religious fanatic take the lead around this time of year. Huckabee in 08, Santorum in 12 and now Carson. Someone should correlate that to the availability of christmas decorations at Costco.

  3. Modulo Myself says:

    Carson is the heart of the GOP. He’s not going to win but he’s laying it out there and people want to hear it.

    PC is bad plus let’s police liberal academics. Religious freedom and tolerance for my views plus no Muslim citizens allowed as President. I’m not a bigot or a hater but pro-choice people support slavery. The list is endless. It’s just that now the participation trophy bubble that conservatives occupy has made it hard to keep the loud parts loud and the soft parts soft.

  4. But I was assured that Trump was inevitable! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    If memory serves, there were an equal amount of “Stop spoiling our fun!” comments directed your way as there were “Trump is inevitable!”

  6. @Neil Hudelson: ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. stonetools says:


    Chris Cizilli, for one, thinks something new is happening:

    The dirty little secret in Republican politics these days is that the longtime pillars of the party โ€” politicians and ex-politicians, major donors and the consultant class โ€” are further removed from the views of the GOP base than at any time in modern memory. They simply do not understand what the heck is happening within and to their party.

    He thinks its possible that this may be the year of the outsider. Looks like the MSM is signing on to the idea that the establishment candidate just may not win the nomination this time.

  8. al-Ameda says:

    Speaking as a Democratic Party voter, all I can say is … right on.

  9. JohnMcC says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Maybe you could have gotten a bottle of Kentucky’s finest — Blanton’s (IMHO) — from me?

    I’m not surprised that Mr Trump is losing the affection of the great unwashed but I had expected that he’d last until the convention. It’s still possible that he’s going to appear in Cleveland with a considerable phalanx of committed followers augmented by whatever amount of paid cheerleaders he needs and create a reality TV show ad hoc in real time.

    In my dreams, it might still happen.

  10. Ron Beasley says:

    Trump will drop out once the campaign does not adequately feed his ego. Carson was always in the race to increase book sales and his speaking fees. It will eventually come down to a race between Bush and Rubio. Marco Rubio is not the sharpest knife in the kitchen but that may be what the establishment wants as long as they can find a Cheney like VP who will take charge.

  11. CSK says:

    Oh, the Trump Fan Club has already invented a giant conspiracy to explain Carson’s surge. Please don’t ask me to explain it fully, but it has something to do with Karl Rove and the Chamber of Commerce.

  12. Modulo Myself says:


    Oh, I think they know where this is all coming from. I also think that the establishment GOP is not so refined as they believe they are; there’s just an incentive to get it together and act halfway normal in light of the recent evidence that secular multicultural America is not Satanic.

  13. Larry Jackson says:

    @gVOR08: well well well the time has finally come. First iowa, and now nationally. Trump is so confused and doesn’t know what to do. He is now attacking carson hard

  14. @JohnMcC: It is just one poll, so even had we made the bet, it isn’t a settled issue yet.

  15. Ron Beasley says:

    Trump is right about one thing political polling has become a farce in this age of cell phones and caller ID. I still have a land line although I plan to drop it soon. When I do answer the phone if it is a pollster I hang up.

  16. Gustopher says:

    So, we’re up to 55% of Republicans who want someone with no experience now?

    And Republicans are beginning to wake up and take things seriously, preferring a calm, reassuring, quiet crazy to a bullying loudmouth crazy. rather than having red meat thrown to them, they would like it cut up on the plate, and passed to them.

    If Christie hadn’t run for reelection, had he taken a few years off to watch Fox News and then educate himself further by dipping into the well of crazy, he would really be doing well. He can switch from bully to sensitive on command.

  17. grumpy realist says:

    @Ron Beasley: Carson is probably enough of a nut that he thinks he’s be a wonderful POTUS. I don’t see him dropping out unless he gets shoved.

    The question is whether Trump will be able to make a comeback.

  18. cian says:

    Trump will drop out once the campaign does not adequately feed his ego. Carson was always in the race to increase book sales and his speaking fees.

    That’s it in a nutshell., and it can’t be long now until they’re both gone. Did anyone see Carson’s interview with Chris Wallace on the topic of Medicare? Car crash. Tires everywhere, steering wheel spinning, broken glass, blood, body parts spread all over the place.

    As for Trump, the Cocktail Lounge and Grill just called, they want their drunk back..

  19. C. Clavin says:

    So now…after spending oodles of money creating the astro-turf movement we call the Tea Party…Charles Koch is not happy with how his experiment in social engineering has worked out.

    โ€œItโ€™s mainly about personalities…your mother sucked rotten eggs.”

    Oops…poor little Richie Rich screwed up. And of course it’s not his fault.

  20. David M says:

    This is good news for all the GOP candidates. Carson gets more publicity for his book tour. Trump hasn’t been overtaken by a real candidate. The Not-Trumps are seeing the Donalds poll numbers dropping. Why should any of them be unhappy?

  21. charon says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    It will eventually come down to a race between Bush and Rubio.


  22. grumpy realist says:

    @charon: Cruz is the slimy sleazy used-car salesman selling you a rusted Pinto with a dead body in the trunk. As the late, great, Steve Gilliard said about Mr. 9-1-1: “There won’t be room for all the axes, knives, and hatchets aimed at his body.”

  23. Ron Beasley says:

    @charon: My friends in Texas tell me Cruz may not be able to hang onto his Senate seat in the red but trending purple Lone Star state.

  24. Ron Beasley says:

    @grumpy realist: @grumpy realist: Snake oil salesman would probably be a better description of Cruz.

  25. Ron Beasley says:

    @grumpy realist: @grumpy realist: Snake oil salesman would probably be a better description of Cruz.

  26. Tillman says:

    I feel like I had just written the comment that said Cruz wouldn’t get the nomination when every political writer in the media decided at once, “Hey, let’s own Tillman over and over again across the political Internet by pointing out how Cruz could easily get the nomination.”

    Maybe if he breaks out at the next GOP debate, but I’m betting on the prettier Cuban.

  27. charon says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Cruz has been raising a lot of cash, and reputedly has a great ground game.

    If or when Carson/Trump voters stop being Carson/Trump voters, Cruz looks to me like a more appropriate alternative to them than Bush/Rubio.

    I used to live in Texas, my conservative son still does, hard for me to imagine a purple Texas.

  28. grumpy realist says:

    I just had to quote this:

    Washington (CNN)Donald Trump said he doesn’t understand his recent drop in polls, but he continued his attacks on Ben Carson, who has knocked him from the top spot in Iowa and — in at least one survey — nationwide among Republicans.

    “I don’t get it,” Trump said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Tuesday. “I’m going there (to Iowa) actually today and I have tremendous crowds and I have tremendous love in the room and, you know, we seem to have hit a chord. But some of these polls coming out, I don’t quite get it. “

  29. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Full blown sociopath is a better description of Ted Cruz …

  30. Neil Hudelson says:


    I used to live in Texas, my conservative son still does, hard for me to imagine a purple Texas.

    It won’t be purple this electoral cycle, but the biggest urban areas are either blue, or rapidly trending blue. Not sure about the medium size urban areas, however a lot of those tend to be college towns, so…

    The biggest issue, IMO, is the Texas Dems lack of strategy and skill in the state. Like the national party, they like to go after the big seats like Mayors and City Councilors, while ignoring incredibly important offices like county commissioner, auditor, etc.. Without the lower ticket offices in your control, it’s hard to build the infrastructure you need to build out long term political success.

    This is a state that will burn down its own voting machines when too many latinos are registered. In a climate like this, you need your clerks and commissioners to have a D next to their name.