A key argument against taking Donald Trump's candidacy seriously is evaporating

Trump: 'I'm Not Going Anywhere'
Trump: 'I'm Not Going Anywhere'

Donald Trump's continued dominance of the Republican presidential field has confounded many top pollsters and analysts since he soared to the top of the field in July.

And a new poll shows that Trump may not be finished surprising them yet.

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A CBS poll released on Sunday found Trump largely in the same position he has been in most major polls in the last several months: on top.

The real-estate mogul again led the pack, with 27% of likely Republican primary voters picking him as their preferred nominee as of today.

That placed Trump ahead of his closest competitors — retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who garnered 21% in Sunday's poll, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who placed third with 9%.

But though some experts may dismiss the findings as another non-predictive, still-early poll, another result lent credence against such an argument.

According to CBS, 42% of voters surveyed reported paying "a lot" of attention to the presidential race, compared to 36% who reported paying a lot of attention last month. CBS reported that the percentage is notably higher than in the past two election cycles.

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Moreover, voters reported that they are more interested in the race at this point than they were in the last election. Sunday's poll found that 70% of voters said this presidential race was "interesting," compared to the 40% who reported that the presidential race was interesting in October 2011.

So while more people have begun paying attention to the race and increasing numbers have reported an interest in the cycle, Trump's numbers have not budged.

The findings suggest a potential flaw in one of the most widely circulated theories of the race at this point: That Trump's poll numbers are artificially high because of his celebrity status, since voters haven't begun taking a long, serious look at the race to this point.

It comes as Trump is facing questions over his staying power as the Republican front-runner, as his numbers look to have plateaued slightly over the past few weeks.

Despite Trump's consistently high poll numbers, most polling analysts have remained convinced that he will not be the nominee. Indeed, political pundits and analysts have consistently noted that early-cycle polls are typically not indicative of whether a candidate will actually go on to win the nomination.

At an event in New York last month, Nate Silver, the editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight, said the ambivalence of voters at this stage in the race is the main reason he still doesn't believe that Trump will be the nominee.

"People haven't given [the candidates] more than two seconds' worth of attention. ... Calm down — it's not a tennis match where you're going back and forth all the time," Silver said. "Keep calm."

Though it's unclear if voters are serious about who their selection will be, they are certainly paying more attention at this point than in past cycles.

CNN knew even before the second Republican debate that the event would be the most highly watched program in its history. Prior to September's debate, for which 23 million Americans tuned in, the most-viewed contest was a Democratic presidential debate in January 2008. Only slightly more than 8 million watched that debate.

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Originally published