Washington (AFP) - Step aside, Donald Trump. The brash billionaire must now share frontrunner status in the US Republican presidential nominations battle with retired neurosurgeon and fellow political outsider Ben Carson, fresh polling showed Wednesday.
The conservative Carson, the only African-American in the 2016 White House race, is virtually tied at the top with Trump, trailing him by one percentage point, according to the Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday.
But their trend lines are dramatically different.
Tuesday's NBC/Wall Street Journal poll has Carson surging into a six-point lead, quite a showing for a candidate who has largely shunned traditional campaign strategies and refused to play rough and tumble campaign politics with his rivals.
That follows a New York Times/CBS News poll from last week, just before the most recent Republican primary debate in which Carson remained largely on the margins, that showed Carson edging ahead of Trump nationally.
Americans are still a full year from electing the man or woman who will succeed President Barack Obama, but the first state-wide primary votes to determine the Democratic and Republican nominees are less than three months away.
Carson, who has shown strength with evangelical Christians as well as independent voters, is a soft-spoken but controversial political neophyte.
To date he is the only Republican who has shown an ability to muster enough support to knock Trump off is perch, or at least share the top spot.
Trump leads with 24 percent support compared with Carson's 23, according to Quinnipiac, with Florida Senator Marco Rubio next at 14 percent followed by Texas Senator Ted Cruz with 13 percent.
No other candidate tops three percent except former Florida governor Jeb Bush, the son and brother of two presidents, who was languishing at four percent.
Nine percent of voters remain undecided, according to the poll of 502 registered Republicans, with a margin of error of 4.4 percent.
In a telling sign of how topsy-turvy the Republican race still is, a full 63 percent of respondents said they might change their mind.
"With the election one year away, Ben Carson has surgically cut away all but one GOP opponent and taken a scalpel to Hillary Clinton's lead," assistant Quinnipiac poll director Tim Malloy said, referring to survey figures showing Carson besting the Democratic frontrunner by 10 points in a head-to-head matchup.
"But a year is an eternity in presidential campaigns and this race already has left some former front-runners on life support."
Clinton edges Trump 46 to 43 percent in a hypothetical general election matchup, but she loses 46 to 41 percent in matchups against both Rubio and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.