Donald Trump and Ben Carson remain the leaders in the Republican presidential field, both in California and nationally, but two freshman senators, Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, have moved into a solid second tier, a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll shows.
Complete results of the poll, looking at voter attitudes one year ahead of the 2016 election, as well as the race on the Democratic side, will be released on Sunday. The poll, conducted online by SurveyMonkey, surveyed 2,009 voters in California and 3,035 nationwide. It has an error estimate of plus or minus 3 percentage points for the statewide sample and 2.5 points for the national sample.
Trump and Carson are virtually tied for the lead among Republican voters in California, with 20% for Trump, the businessman and reality TV star, and 19% for Carson, the retired neurosurgeon. Nationally, Trump holds a small lead over Carson, 25%-21%.
While those two nontraditional candidates continue to hold the lead, Rubio and Cruz have moved up to become the top contenders among those with more typical political credentials.
Rubio is in third place in the poll, at 14% in California and 12% nationally. Cruz is at 11% in California and 12% nationally. Jeb Bush, the party's one-time front-runner, has faded to 4%, both statewide and nationally.
One particular point of strength for Rubio -- he has gained support among college-educated Republicans and is now in first place among that group in California.
The Republican primary electorate in recent elections has been divided about evenly between voters with college educations and a blue-collar wing without college degrees. Trump has built a strong lead among the less-educated wing of the party, and Rubio's support among college graduates could provide him an important base as the primary season develops.
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