Donald Trump, Muhammad Ali

Donald Trump accepts his Muhammad Ali Award from Ali at Muhammad Ali’s Celebrity Fight Night XIII March 24, 2007, in Phoenix. Ali is criticizing Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, for his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States and calling on Muslims “to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda.“

CHICAGO — Almost two-thirds of likely 2016 Republican primary voters favor Donald Trump’s call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S., while more than a third say it makes them more likely to vote for him.

Those are some of the findings from a Bloomberg Politics/​Purple Strategies PulsePoll, an online survey conducted Tuesday, that shows support at 37 percent among all likely general-election voters for the controversial proposal put forward by the Republican front-runner.

“We believe these numbers are made up of some people who are truly expressing religious bigotry and others who are fearful about terrorism and are willing to do anything they think might make us safer,” Doug Usher, who runs polling for Washington-based Purple Strategies, said in his analysis of his poll’s findings. “This indicates that, despite some conventional wisdom expressed in the last 48 hours, this is unlikely to hurt Trump at least in the primary campaign.”

Support for Trump’s proposal remains virtually unchanged even after voters are told both sides of the argument. On one side, they were told that “leaders from across the political spectrum have condemned this policy” as one that will make the U.S. “less safe by alienating the allies we need to fight ISIS.” They were also told that Trump has said it is needed until more is known about the threat and that the nation “cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad.”

When voters were provided with this additional information, support for the proposal remains essentially unchanged, with 64 percent of likely Republican primary voters saying they favor the idea. That includes 52 percent who say they strongly support the proposal.

After being told about the idea, 37 percent of likely Republican primary voters say it makes them more likely to support the billionaire real estate mogul, while 16 percent say less and 46 percent say it has no impact.

Among all likely general-election voters, including Democrats and independents, 18 percent say it makes them more likely to back Trump, while 33 percent say less likely and 44 percent say it has no impact.

While Trump has considerable strength among likely Republican primary voters, the survey shows weakness for him in a general election. Including all likely voters, 33 percent view him favorably and 64 percent unfavorably.

That’s a worse favorability rating than President Barack Obama, who was at 51 percent favorable and 47 percent unfavorable in this survey. It’s also worse than Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, who is seen favorably by 45 percent and unfavorably by 52 percent of likely general-election voters.

Those with less education are more likely to be strongly supportive of Trump’s Muslim proposal, with 34 percent of those without a college education feeling that way compared to 22 percent of those who do have a college education. Older voters, evangelical Christians, and whites are also more likely than the overall general election population to favor Trump’s plan.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points on the full sample and higher on subgroups, such as likely Republican primary voters, where it’s 7 percentage points.

Ali delivers shot

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali on Wednesday criticized Trump’s proposal, calling on Muslims “to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda.”

Ali, one of the most famous Muslims in the world, issued a statement saying, “True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so called Islamic Jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion.”

He added, “I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is.”

Ali’s statement Wednesday, first reported by NBC News, did not identify Trump by name but was directed at “presidential candidates proposing to ban Muslim immigration to the United States.”

Billionaire balks

A billionaire who is backing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has launched a personal campaign against Trump, calling him an insecure, narcissistic bully who needs to be stopped.

Mike Fernandez, a Cuban-born major Republican donor from Miami who built his fortune in the health care industry, has bought full-page newspaper ads blasting Trump and planned to run a pro-Latino television ad during Tuesday’s GOP debate coverage designed to counter Trump’s anti-immigration message. He is also launching a website this week to be called “Stop The Bullyionaire.”

“My issue with Trump in attacking the Latinos is that it’s the Mexican-Americans today, is it the Puerto Ricans tomorrow, and is it the Venezuelans the day after that and then the Cubans are right behind it. He’s a dangerous individual,” said Fernandez, whose $3 million contribution to Bush’s Right to Rise super PAC through the first six months of the year makes him the largest individual donor.

Fernandez joins others in targeting Trump. A super PAC backing Ohio Gov. John Kasich and the conservative group Club for Growth are producing anti-Trump videos and GOP strategist Liz Mair is raising money for an anti-Trump campaign. He criticized the Republican National Committee for not doing more to denounce Trump, even at the risk he’ll run an independent campaign.

“I have said to them, ‘The longer you drag this out, the more painful it’s going to be,‘” Fernandez said. “So go independent. Let him do it now. Minimize the damage and at least you know who you’re dealing with versus waiting till the last minute and you have no chance to devise a strategy.”

Fernandez began the campaign before Trump’s statement this week that Muslims should be banned from entering the country, but he mentioned the remarks as another example of why he’s hoping to knock Trump down as a front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination.

A Trump campaign spokeswoman didn’t return a phone call or email seeking comment.

Fernandez likened the attraction to Trump to the rise of dictators like Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Germany’s Adolf Hitler in a nation where people are growing increasingly frustrated with government.

“It can happen here, too,” Fernandez said. “I pray that that it’s not the case. This is a very strong signal that we are on the edge and we need to bring it back.”

Despite donating millions of dollars to Republican candidates and the Florida and national GOP, he said he would vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton over Trump.

“If my choice is between supporting somebody that lies and somebody who’s insane, I’m going to vote for the liar,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tribune News Service