Despite consistently topping opinion polls, Betfair punters have been sceptical of Donald Trump's bid for the US Presidency. After two more surveys showing an extended lead, however, the billionaire just hit his highest rating yet. Paul Krishnamurty reports.
"Doubts about the reliability of these polls persist. Finding an accurate sample for any poll is difficult nowadays, especially one restricted to voters that will actually turn out on a freezing February night for a caucus vote."
After nearly six months topping the polls for Republican Nominee, Donald Trump continues to confound conventional wisdom. Rather than falling away under scrutiny as the race gets serious, two surveys out yesterday showed the billionaire significantly extending his national lead.
Bloomberg record him 4% ahead, PPP say 7%. In both cases, fellow non-politician Ben Carson is in second place, with Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz vying for third place on about half Trump's total.
Betfair punters, who have remained sceptical of these outsider candidacies throughout, are finally beginning to take him seriously. Trump traded at his lowest odds to date this morning at [4.6] for the nomination and [10.0] for the presidency. That equates to a 22% and 10% ratings respectively. Only Rubio, at [2.32] (43%) and [5.6] (18%), is rated likelier amongst Republicans.
Although Carson has fallen, it is notable that his poll numbers haven't disintegrated after a couple of catastrophic weeks in terms of media coverage. Moreover, as with the previous CNBC debate, the fact both outsiders were widely deemed to have been eclipsed by the likes of Rubio and Cruz in last week's Fox debate seems to have made little impact.
With just over two months until the opening Iowa Caucus, punters need to ask if the time has come to abandon conventional wisdom. Republican poll respondents seem to be watching a different debate to the commentariat, and being attacked by the mainstream media doesn't seem to have much effect.
71% of GOP supporters say they are not bothered by questions regarding the accuracy of Carson's biography. Sixty six percent say they are not bothered by questions about Trump's ability to run a campaign without offending large numbers of Americans.
Alternatively, doubts about the reliability of these polls persist. Finding an accurate sample for any poll is difficult nowadays, especially one restricted to voters that will actually turn out on a freezing February night for a caucus vote.
Deeper analysis of polls show that Trump supporters are on average less likely to do so. That cannot be said of Carson, who remains very popular with evangelicals, whose support was pivotal for the last two Iowa winners, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.
Furthermore, opposition to Trump both within the Republican Party and wider country remains substantial. In this Bloomberg poll, Trump gets a dire -27% favourability rating with the country, and just +13% with GOP supporters. The second figure compares to +50% for Rubio, 46% Carson and 35% for Cruz.
These underlying numbers do not point towards a Trump presidency and cast doubts over his ability to win the nomination, once this field shrinks and voters' options are reduced. Once second preferences are added, Trump falls behind Carson and his lead over Rubio shrinks to 8%. Nevertheless, perhaps it is understandable that earlier layers may be beginning to get jittery.