It's official: Donald Trump is now leading the Republican presidential candidate field.
That's according to a new Economist/YouGov poll, the first national survey showing Trump leading the field of Republican candidates. The billionaire real estate magnate turned reality television star leads among registered Republican voters who were asked to list their first and second choices for president between July 4 and 6.
The poll found 15% of respondents listed the Donald as their preferred candidate, while 12% said he would be their second choice:
While presidential polls this early in the race often tend to reflect name recognition and overstate a candidate's actual level of support, the numbers are still surprising given the degree of controversy Trump has generated in recent weeks.
During his campaign launch at Trump Tower in New York City last month, the candidate spoke of the need to strengthen the United States' southern border and crack down on illegal immigration. Of Mexicans, Trump said:
"They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
His remarks have widely been denounced as insensitive and racist. But Trump has doubled and tripled down on the comments since then, even as legions of his former business associates, from NBC to NASCAR, rushed to cut business ties with him.
Despite the bad press, the same YouGov poll also found that Trump's favorability among Republicans had steadily improved, rising from 38% to 49% over the last three weeks.
As the first poll to clearly put Trump at the head of the pack, the numbers also shine a spotlight on YouGov. Over the years, the polling shop has had a fairly reliable record of predictive success. During the 2014 midterm elections, the agency reported that it ran 35 polls and had a 94% polling success rate. On the other hand, Nate Silver takes a dimmer approach, giving the agency a C+ in FiveThirtyEight's evaluation of polling groups.
With the Republican front-runner having openly dismissed the largest demographic minority subgroup in the U.S. as rapists and disease spreaders, the party can only hope for a miracle as it heads into its first debate on August 6.