There's been a lot of coverage of Donald Trump's good poll numbers with Republicans over the last week- what's gotten less attention is that Trump's popularity with GOP voters is a brand new development.
We did a national poll asking about Trump just two months ago in mid-February and found that only 31% of Republicans had a favorable opinion of him to 53% with a negative one. Fast forward seven weeks and our latest national poll for Daily Kos found that Trump's favorability with GOP voters is now a positive 40/33 spread. That represents a 29 point increase in his net favorability over just a very short period of time.
The strength Trump is showing in horse race polls is a less function of Republicans admiring him due to his being a prominent successful businessman for decades and much more a positive reaction to all his far right rhetoric just in the last few months.
Interestingly Trump has achieved these higher numbers with Republicans without really seeing his numbers get any worse with Democrats or independents- although his numbers with both of those voter groups certainly are quite bad. In February his favorability spread with Democrats was -40 at 21/61 and now it's basically unchanged at -41 (18/59). It's a similar story with independents- he was at -22 (30/52) in February and he's still at -22 (25/47) although the 10% increase in his 'not sures' suggest some people just don't know what to think of his current foray into politics.
Trump's the only prominent Republican considering the race whose numbers have gone in the right direction with the party base of late. Comparing their April 2009 numbers to their March 2011 numbers Mike Huckabee's favorability is down a net 7 points with Republicans, Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin are down a net 18 points each, and Newt Gingrich is down a net 25 points. The declining popularity of the GOP frontrunners with their base is a clear sign that Republican voters are looking for a different face and for now Trump's filling that role.