(Bloomberg) — Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson has moved into a dominant position in Iowa, surpassing former front-runner Donald Trump as evangelical Christians begin to coalesce around him in the state that will cast the first 2016 nomination ballots.
A new Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll shows the retired neurosurgeon is backed by 28 percent of likely Republican caucus participants, up 10 percentage points since late August. Trump is supported by 19 percent, down 4 points.
Those planning to caucus for Carson are drawn to his personal story and his status as a non-career politician, the poll shows, and they view him as someone who approaches issues with common sense and with guidance from his faith in God.
“His standing has improved in every way pollsters traditionally measure,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of West Des Moines-based Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll. “This might be a wake-up for Donald Trump.”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, at 10 percent, is the only other candidate in double digits. He’s followed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at 9 percent. The horse-race numbers for the top four mirror a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday, with the main exception being that the earlier poll had Rubio in third place with 13 percent.
The Iowa Poll, taken Oct. 16-19, included 401 likely Republican caucus participants. On the full sample, it has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points; the margin is higher in subgroups.
Evangelical Christians, who represent 42 percent of likely Republican caucus participants in the poll, appear to be aligning behind Carson. He received support from a third of that group, up from 21 percent in August, when he only narrowly led Trump with that key segment.
Cruz is unlikely to make large gains without support softening for Carson or Trump, who hold a combined 51 percent of evangelical likely GOP caucus participants.
Carson’s rise has also been fueled by gains with Tea Party supporters. Among those who consider themselves part of the limited-government movement, he gets a third of the support, up from 21 percent in August.
More than two-thirds of likely GOP caucus-goers also say that on the basis of religion alone, it would be unacceptable for a Muslim to be a U.S. president—a view Carson espoused in a Sept. 20 appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press.
Likely Republican caucus participants, meanwhile, remain uncertain about Trump’s Christian credentials. Only about a third consider him a committed Christian, while 28 percent say he isn’t and 40 percent say they’re not sure. His favorability declined slightly, to 59 percent, and the proportion of likely Republican caucus-goers who say they would never vote for Trump also ticked up 5 points to 34 percent.