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Trump is Republicans' least-liked candidate, and one of their front-runners

Donald Trump is simultaneously the most widely disliked candidate in the Republican field and, at least for now, among its front-runners, according to new polls that illustrate how deeply polarizing the billionaire real estate developer is.

Almost half of voters surveyed don't just have an unfavorable view of Trump, but a "very unfavorable" one, according to a Economist/YouGov poll released Thursday. Almost 1 in 3 registered Republicans has a very unfavorable opinion -- far more than for any other GOP candidate.

That's actually a bit of an improvement for Trump. Over the last four weeks, as he announced his candidacy, then came under sustained criticism for his remarks about Mexican immigrants, the percentage of Republicans viewing Trump favorably has increased from 38% to 49%, the YouGov polls show.

And Trump now leads the GOP pack in the YouGov survey, with 15% calling him their preferred candidate and an additional 12% listing him as their second choice. Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, were closely bunched behind Trump in the survey.

The survey came after several state polls showed Trump among the top GOP candidates.

So which Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are providing Trump his base of support?

According to the YouGov poll, two-thirds of those who list Trump as their first or second choice say they support the tea party movement -- notably higher than the 47% of Republicans overall who support the tea party.

Trump's backers are considerably less likely to have a college education than Republicans as a whole and are also more likely to identify themselves as "very conservative."

One other thing about Trump's backers, the poll showed: They don't necessarily expect him to win. Only 7% of those surveyed said Trump was the "most likely" to gain the nomination. Bush continues to lead on that, with 29% seeing him as the most likely nominee.

Asking voters whom they expect to win has often proved to be a more reliable predictor of votes than asking which candidate they support.

The YouGov survey is based on an online panel, with responses weighted to match U.S. demographics. The poll included 452 Republican and Republican-leaning independent voters.

For more on politics and policy, follow @DavidLauter.

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