Boris Johnson holds a more than 20 point lead over George Osborne in the race to be the next Prime Minister.
Tory activists will choose the resident at No 10 for the first time ever when David Cameron stands aside. He has already made clear he will quit before the next election and his career could be brought to an abrupt end by defeat in the EU referendum on June 23.
Party rules require Conservative MPs to whittle down the field to just two contenders before Tory members make the final choice.
And today’s YouGov poll for The Times shows Mr Johnson is the clear front runner.
The YouGov poll of 1,005 Conservative Party members indicated Mr Johnson had a big lead over all his rivals, including a more than 20-point advantage over George Osborne He stands far ahead on 43 per cent, leading Mr Osborne’s score of 22 per cent.
Assuming both men made the run off, a forced choice in the poll shows Mr Johnson sweeping to victory Mr Osborne by 56 per cent to 38 per cent.
In the overall poll, Theresa May is a close third on 19 per cent, according to the survey of more than 1,000 party members.
Newer choices, who only entered Parliament in 2010 and reached the front rank of government in the second half of the last Parliament, were far behind.
Sajid Javid scored 7 per cent in the poll and Nicky Morgan, who has already declared she would like to run, scored just 1 per cent.
Mr Johnson would beat Mrs May by 20 points if they contend the final run off.
Mr Osborne appears set for a narrow win over Mrs May if they are chosen as the final candidates – the poll suggests he leads 46 per cent to 42 per cent.
As Chancellor and a key ally of the Prime Minister, Mr Osborne has long been seen as the strongest contender to take over from Mr Cameron.
But he had a dangerous run in with Conservative MPs – particularly newly elected MPs – over planned cuts to tax credits.
A rebellion on his own benches forced him to an expensive u-turn as he threw out the whole £4.4billion cut at November’s autumn statement.
Assuming the two men make it into the run off, both pick up ground – but the poll suggests Mr Johnson still wins the race for No 10 by 56 per cent to 38 per cent
Mr Johnson, pictured campaigning for Brexit in Northern Ireland on Monday, appears have become the front runner to take over as Tory leader, overtaking George Osborne, pictured at the G20 in Shanghai last week
By contrast, London Mayor Mr Johnson was seen as having boosted his chances by declaring for the Vote Leave campaign last month.
The decision, which was said to have ‘absolutely infuriated’ Mr Cameron, has made him the standard bearer of the Brexit camp.
But the YouGov findings suggested the move handed Mr Johnson a five point bump compared to all his rivals by making the announcement.
In other findings, the poll confirmed the Tory grassroots remain firmly eurosceptic despite the campaign by the Prime Minister to keep Britain In.
Some 59 per cent of Tory members appear ready to back a Brexit while just 31 per cent plan to follow Mr Cameron’s recommendation.
Europe was ranked as the second most important issue facing Britain today by 55 per cent of the sample. It was only beaten by concern over asylum and immigration, which was ranked as most important by 58 per cent.
More than half of Tory members, 54 per cent, continue to back the Prime Minister’s plan to step down as Tory leader and Prime Minister in 2019 or before – but 20 per cent say he should stay on.
Mr Osborne appears to have the upper hand against third placed Theresa May, leading 46 per cent to 42 per cent. The contest could happen if Mr Johnson fails to win enough support in the first round which is controlled by Conservative MPs