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Donald Trump widens lead to 2-to-1 margin over closest competitor in new poll

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump listens to a question at the World Trade International Bridge in Laredo, Texas, Thursday, July 23, 2015. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Donald Trump has widened his national lead in the latest Monmouth University Poll of Republican voters and now holds a more than 2-to-1 advantage over his nearest rivals, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker.

The poll also found that few GOP voters like the idea of a Top 10 debate, with many preferring back-to-back debates with the field randomly split in half.

When Republicans and Republican-leaning voters are asked who they would support for the GOP nomination for president, Donald Trump leads the pack at 26 percent, with Jeb Bush (12 percent) and Scott Walker (11 percent) following behind. The remainder of the top 10 includes Ted Cruz (6 percent), Mike Huckabee (6 percent), Ben Carson (5 percent), Chris Christie (4 percent), Rand Paul (4 percent), Marco Rubio (4 percent), and John Kasich (3 percent).

Carly Fiorina and Rick Perry each earn 2 percent and Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, and Jim Gilmore each get 1 percent or less. Another 10 percent of GOP voters say they still are unsure who they will support for the party's nomination.

Compared to the Monmouth University Poll released three weeks ago, Trump's support has increased by 13 points. Walker's support has increased by 4, while Bush and Cruz have decreased by 3 points. No other candidate's support has changed by more than 2 percentage points, but the undecided vote went down by 8 points.

Trump's support spans nearly all demographic groups:

--Ideology - Trump leads Walker 27 percent to 16 percent among very conservative voters; has 22 percent support among somewhat conservative voters to 14 percent for Bush and 12 percent for Walker; and takes 28 percent of the moderate to liberal voter compared to 20 percent for Bush.

--Tea Party - Tea Party supporters back Trump (35 percent) over Walker (15 percent) and Cruz (11 percent). Non-Tea Party supporters split their top support between Trump (20 percent) and Bush (16 percent).

--Age - Trump (26 percent) has a clear lead over Bush (15 percent) and Walker (12 percent) among voters age 50 and older. Those under 50 years old also prefer Trump (26 percent) over Walker (10 percent) and Bush (9 percent).

--Gender - Trump leads among both male and female Republicans, with men (32 percent) giving him a large advantage over Bush (13 percent) and Walker (11 percent). Women (20 percent) give him a narrower lead over Walker (12 percent) and Bush (11 percent).

"Republican support for Donald Trump just continues to grow with no clear sense of who his constituency really is," said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch. "This makes it very difficult for his opponents to figure out how to take him on in the upcoming debate."

The top 10 candidates in the field, based on a national polling average, will make it into the first sanctioned GOP debate later this week. Few Republican voters are on board with this idea. When presented with three possible scenarios to determine who gets into the first debate, nearly half (45 percent) prefer to have two back-to-back debates with the field randomly split in half. Another 29 percent say it would be better to put all the declared candidates together on one stage. Just 23 percent favor using polls to select a top 10 group of candidates for the main debate while having the remaining candidates participate in a separate debate.

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