Ben Carson wins Southern Republican straw poll ahead of 2016 presidential election

Doctor-turned-politician Ben Carson easily won the Southern Republican Leadership Conference straw poll held in Oklahoma on Saturday in the first major survey on the popularity of at least 17 declared or prospective candidates for the Republican Party's nomination for the November 2016 election.

Carson, a popular social conservative who is a fierce opponent of Obamacare, won 25.4 percent of the vote. Also getting considerable shares of the vote were Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz who received 20.5 percent and 16.6 percent of the vote, respectively.

The rest of the candidates received single-digit vote percentage. They are: Gov. Chris Christie, 5.3 percent; Gov. Rick Perry, 5 percent; Gov. Jeb Bush, 4.9 percent; Sen. Rand Paul, 4.1 percent; Sen. Marco Rubio, 4.1 percent; Gov. Bobby Jindal, 4.1 percent; Carly Fiorina, 2.7 percent; Gov. Mike Huckabbe, 2.7 percent; Sen. Rick Santorum, 1.9 percent; Donald Trump, 1.2 percent; Mark Everson, 0.8 percent; Sen. Lindsey Grahan, 0.5 percent; Gov. John Kasich, 0.2 percent; and Gov. Jim Gilmore, 0 percent.

A total of 958, or 64 percent of the conference attendees, participated in the straw vote.

The poll participants were asked: "If the presidential Republican primary was held today, for whom would you vote?"

Of the straw poll participants, 75.3 percent came from Oklahoma, followed by Texas, 8.2 percent; Arkansas, 6.1 percent; outside southern region, 4.7 percent; Tennessee, 1.4 percent and others.

Asked to pick the most important issues to them, 46 percent of the respondents chose national security issues like Iran, ISIS, Israel and Russia while 39.6 percent picked economic issues like taxes, government spending and jobs creation. The remaining 14.4 percent chose social issues like abortion, gun rights, school prayer and same-sex marriage.

On membership, respondents were allowed to choose more than one. A total of 58.1 percent said they are gun owners while 42.5 percent said they are Tea Party members.

About 36 percent said they are members of the Family Research Council or Christian Coalition; 30.6 percent said they are members of Americans for Tax Reform; 25.8 percent said they belong to the National Right to Life or Susan B. Anthony's List; and 25 percent from the Eagle Forum or Concerned Women of America.

"This was an energetic and inspiring conference," conference chair Steve Fair said in a press statement issued after the straw poll. "If the level of interest in this straw poll is any indicator, a Republican candidate will be well positioned to retake the White House in 2016."