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SALT LAKE CITY — Donald Trump continues to be the front-runner in the GOP presidential nomination race, but he's languishing in fourth place in a new poll of Utah voters.
The new UtahPolicy.com poll by Dan Jones & Associates comes as former Utah governor and 2012 presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. is suggesting Trump has a shot at winning the White House.
"People really are hungry for change. They were last time, but it hadn't reached the 212-degree boiling point. This time it has," Huntsman told USA Today's weekly "Capital Download" video series.
Huntsman said that's why he thinks Trump, "despite sometimes the over-the-top rhetoric that would have done in any other candidate in earlier election cycles, probably has some real legs."
Utah voters, though, picked Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio over the billionaire reality TV star known for making provocative statements.
One of Trump's recent pronouncements, that Muslims should be barred from entering the United States in light of terrorist attacks here and abroad, went too far for Utahns, pollster Dan Jones said.
"I'm very proud of the Utah voter," Jones said.
He said the largely Mormon electorate already views Trump as "too boisterous," and voters were turned off by his statement that faith should determine who is allowed to come to America.
Last month's visit to refugee camps in Greece and a refugee shelter in Germany by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles had "great impact," Jones said.
Cruz led the poll conducted Dec. 8-14 with 15 percent, but Jones said he may not remain the favorite of Utah voters because of his contentious reputation in Washington.
Carson, tumbling in the national polls, was second at 14 percent, followed by Rubio at 13 percent. The poll of 622 Utahns has a margin of error of plus or minus nearly 4 percent.
University of Utah political science professor Matthew Burbank said Trump may be hurt in Utah because he "does not particularly appeal to people who are strongly religious."
In this election, Burbank said, voters who may like Trump's stands have plenty of other conservative choices. He said it's telling that Trump's support in the Utah poll also lags among Republican voters.
Among only the smaller group of GOP voters surveyed, the new poll showed Cruz with the support of 20 percent; Carson and Rubio with 18 percent each; and Trump trailing the trio with 12 percent.
Murray resident Kathleen Ward, who describes herself as a "passionate" Trump supporter, said more Utahns aren't joining her because they're "taught to love our neighbor, but Trump is going against the grain."
Ward said Trump's call for barring Muslims may not be fair, "but I can see where he's coming from. What would you do? Would you save the Muslim or your own child? … I can appreciate he has the guts to say that."
Huntsman told USA Today that for Trump to succeed in 2016, he's going to have to change his rhetoric, "which is bright hot and really playing on the emotions of fear with respect to our place in the world and our economic conditions."
Trump would have to be seen as "a problem solver, working both sides of the aisle and working toward big goals for the country, which is where I think most Americans will want to see a general election candidate," Huntsman said.
Now the co-chairman of No Labels, a nonprofit group advocating bipartisan cooperation, as well as chairman of the Atlantic Council, a foreign affairs think tank, Huntsman said he's not looking at an independent run for president next year.
Huntsman said there are "a lot" of people encouraging him to get in the race, and he tells them he's "a public servant first and foremost. I always want to help my country where I can, but you don't want to embark on a suicide mission."
But the 55-year-old also did not rule out another bid for the White House in the video interview.
"Health and family permitting, at some point that may be something we take a look at," Huntsman said.
And while he said he's "a lifelong Republican," Huntsman said the GOP is at risk of going out of business because it hasn't been responsive to voters. He said the party needs "an overarching, coalescing theme," such as fighting terrorism.
Jones questioned Huntsman's analysis of Trump's chances.
"Jon was in the trenches," Jones said. "He actually was a presidential candidate, so I have a lot of respect for his opinion. But that will be a difficult task for Trump because of his mannerisms and his style of attacking rather than listening."