A new weekly tracking poll from NBC News finds Donald Trump opening a big lead over Ted Cruz among evangelical voters nationwide. The poll, conducted by NBC News and Survey Monkey, shows a 14 point shift in favor of Trump over the past week.
According to the survey, Trump has 37 percent support among evangelicals, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has the support of 20 percent of evangelicals. Last week, Trump led Cruz by just 3 points in the tracking poll.
Dr. Ben Carson is third among evangelicals with 11 percent while Marco Rubio is fourth with 10 percent. Both candidates saw slight up-ticks in their support among evangelicals over the past week.
Last week, the animosity between Trump and Cruz intensified as voting in the Iowa caucus neared. Trump dominated headlines early in the week with an endorsement from Sarah Palin. Trump also made an explicit appeal to evangelicals with a widely publicized speech at Liberty University. The son of Jerry Falwell also spoke strongly in support of Trump.
Political commentator Glenn Beck endorsed Ted Cruz in response to many of these events. Immediately prior to his endorsement of Cruz, Beck spoke forcefully against Donald Trump and made overt appeals to evangelicals in opposition to Trump.
Most of the NBC survey was conducted before Beck’s outbursts against Trump, but may have had a negative impact on Cruz at the end of the poll survey. Of course, because we don’t have more detail on the survey, it is also possible that Beck’s remarks stemmed a larger surge to Trump among evangelicals.
Regardless of the impact of specific moves by the campaigns, which aren’t tracked closely by most voters, this survey shows a clear move by evangelicals towards Trump nationally over the past week.
Interestingly, though, the overall make-up of the Republican primary race changed little over the past week. Trump continues to lead the Republican field by more than 20 points. He currently has the support of 39 percent of Republicans, while Ted Cruz is in second with 17 percent. Rubio fell slightly to 10 percent support.
No other Republican candidate earns more than double-digit support.
The race shifted just 5 points over the past week, with Trump’s support up one point and Cruz’s support down 4 points nationally. One would expect such a dramatic shift in evangelicals to have a larger impact on the overall race, since evangelicals make up a sizable portion of Republican primary voters.
It is also surprising that, in the NBC poll, results among evangelicals match so closely the results among the overall Republican electorate. Considering the poll’s margin of error, there is almost no difference between the candidates’ standing among evangelicals and the wider Republican electorate.
The NBC poll hasn’t released internal numbers of its poll that breaks-out the number of evangelicals in its sample. Overall, the on-line tracking poll is based on results from just over 2,000 Republican voters. The results were compiled between January 18-24.