Metro

Poll shows huge lead for Trump among Mass. GOP voters

GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Mike Stone/REUTERS
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has opened up a broad lead in Massachusetts before Tuesday’s GOP primary, getting double the support of his closest competitor, according to a new poll.

With 43 percent support among likely Republican voters, Trump shows strength across a range of demographics that reflects his performance in states that have already voted. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida is running second with 20 percent, and Ohio Governor John Kasich a close third with 17 percent, according to the Suffolk University survey.

Trump has drawn almost no institutional support from Massachusetts Republicans, but the state appears on the verge of handing him his most lopsided victory yet. The billionaire leads in all regions of the state and across all age cohorts, and commands majority support in self-
described union households.

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Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who won the Iowa caucuses before Trump went on a spree of three straight victories, lagged in fourth place, at 9 percent, while retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson captured just 4 percent. Only 7 percent said they were undecided.

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“He’s got a unique blend of strength, leadership, independence, and anti-Washington that’s resonating among Republican primary voters in Massachusetts, and it’s different than in other states, because Cruz is not a factor,” said Suffolk pollster David Paleologos. “The end result is you’ve got this big lead, this big landslide lead.”

The results show more moderate Republican and unenrolled voters split between Rubio and Kasich, echoing the party’s inability nationally to coalesce firmly behind an alternative to Trump. At 60 percent, Kasich drew the survey’s highest favorability ratings.

Fully half of those polled said they expect Trump will become the next president, while 18 percent said they expect Democrat Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, to win the White House. Just 5 percent thought Rubio would prevail in November.

With primaries across the country, more delegates are at stake on Super Tuesday than in any other day of the nominating contest, and Trump’s dominance in states that voted previously have positioned him to consolidate an already hefty delegate lead. Trump’s largest victory margin came in the most recent contest, a 22-point win over Rubio in the Feb. 23 Nevada caucuses.

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While the nominating contest tops the ticket, GOP primary voters will also vote for state committee candidates Tuesday. Governor Charlie Baker, seeking to wrest seats away from conservatives and increase control of the party apparatus, has launched a slate of more moderate challengers.

Baker draws a favorability rating of 78 percent in the GOP poll, with just 9 percent disapproving. Nearly three-quarters of those with an unfavorable view of the governor say they will vote for Trump.

Baker has occasionally criticized Trump and has said he does not expect to vote for him. But his chosen candidate, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, rocked the Republican Party on Friday by endorsing Trump, after dropping out because of his disappointing finish in New Hampshire.

Baker’s effort to pull out moderate voters could change the jockeying for second place here, Paleologos said.

“If Baker’s revolution that he’s waging in all these state committee districts is successful, he’s going to draw out more [voters] against the core state committee Republicans, and that could help Kasich. I don’t know if that’s going to get him to second place,” he said.

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Trump is viewed favorably by 56 percent of those polled, with 35 percent reporting unfavorable opinions. Cruz is “under water” in public opinion, with just 37 percent holding favorable opinions of the first term-senator, and nearly half viewing him negatively.

Trump leads among both male and female voters, though he does better with men. Kasich performs better with women, while Rubio is even, according to the poll.

The survey of 500 likely Massachusetts Republican primary voters was conducted Wednesday through Friday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at jim.osullivan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JOSreports.