Businessman Donald Trump is leading by a 2-1 margin over his closest rivals heading into Tuesday’s Republican primary, according to a Suffolk University poll of likely voters taken Feb. 24 to Feb. 26.
Trump (43 percent) easily led Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (20 percent) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (17 percent), while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (9 percent), the Iowa caucus winner, polled a distant fourth, just ahead of retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (4 percent), with 7 percent undecided.
“Massachusetts could deliver Donald Trump’s biggest margin of victory thus far,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “With Ted Cruz out of the top three, both Marco Rubio and John Kasich are splitting the anti-Trump vote and hurting each other.”
Despite his third-place showing, Kasich is the most well regarded Republican among the major candidates tested (60 percent favorable-to-21 percent unfavorable). Trump (56 percent favorable-to-34 percent unfavorable) and Rubio (51 percent favorable-to-32 percent unfavorable) were close behind but carried slightly higher negative ratings. Ted Cruz had the highest negatives (37 percent favorable-to-48 percent unfavorable).
Likely Republican primary voters had mostly negative views of the Democratic contenders: former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (79 percent unfavorable-to-15 percent favorable) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (61 percent unfavorable-to-28 percent favorable).
Preferences not set in stone
The poll showed that many voters are firm in their first choices for the GOP nomination, but the door is still open for some last-minute switching. Sixty-eight percent said that their minds were made up, while 28 percent said that they might change their minds between now and Tuesday.
Marco Rubio (20 percent) was the top second-choice candidate over Kasich and Cruz, who were the second choices of 17 percent and 14 percent respectively. Trump was the second choice of 11 percent, while Carson was the second choice of 8 percent.
“The second-choice statistics suggest that, as candidates continue to drop out, Rubio will benefit more than his opponents,” said Paleologos. “And with so many Republican candidates staying in the primary races, they will continue to split the anti-Trump vote. Time is running out and it is getting late in the game.”
Early perceptions for November suggest Trump vs. Clinton.
Setting aside their personal choices, likely Republican voters predicted the November outcome as follows: 50 percent said Trump would be the next president, 18 percent said Clinton, and 5 percent projected Rubio.
The statewide Suffolk University survey was conducted through live interviews of land line and cell phone users. All respondents indicated that they are very likely to vote in the upcoming Massachusetts Republican primary on Tuesday, March 1. The survey of 500 voters was conducted Wednesday, Feb. 24, through Friday, Feb. 26. The margin of error is +/-4.4 percentage points at a 95 percent level of confidence. Results are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310, firstname.lastname@example.org.