Donald Trump is now the frontrunner in the Republican nomination race, according to the latest poll.
The tycoon has the backing of 15 per cent of likely Republican voters - a four point lead over Jeb Bush and Rand Paul, and six points ahead of Scott Walker, Marco Rubio and Mike Huckabee.
Trump also has the largest share of second preference votes, according to the Economist/YouGov poll, with 12 per cent of candidates choosing him as a backup, over Scott Walker on eight per cent.
Jeb Bush, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio were selected as backup candidates by seven per cent of voters, while Mike Huckabee trails on six per cent.
The shock lead for Trump opened up three weeks after he launched his election campaign with an astonishing attack on Mexican immigrants.
Promising to build a wall along America's southern border, he said rapists, drug dealers and killers were being allowed to flood into the country thanks to lax border controls.
While the comments led to several of Trump's lucrative business deals collapsing, it seems to have struck a chord with sections of the Republican voter base.
The poll shows Trump's approval rating is particularly high among Tea Party members, as two-thirds of those who said they were backing him identified with the ideology.
Trump's approval rating among Republicans has also rocketed in recent weeks.
On June 15, the day before he announced he was running for the GOP nomination, just 38 per cent of voters had a favorable opinion of him, while 47 per cent were unfavorable.
By the start of this month the 'favorable' votes overtook the 'unfavorable' ones for the first time, and now 49 per cent of people approve of Trump, compared with 43 per cent who don't.
But despite Trump's lead, there are signs his popularity could be short lived, with many voters thought to be backing him only in order to send a message to the other candidates.
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