WASHINGTON - A new U.S. political survey shows Republican voters continue to favor billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump for the party's presidential nomination by a wide margin over his two remaining challengers, while the Democratic contest between former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has narrowed.
The NBC News/Survey Monkey poll released Tuesday showed the brash Trump with 48 percent support among Republicans, well ahead of Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a conservative firebrand in the halls of Congress, who has 27 percent. Ohio Governor John Kasich has 18 percent.
Trump also has a significant edge in winning delegates to the Republican national convention in July, where the party will pick its 2016 presidential nominee. It is not clear if Trump, a political novice and one-time television reality show host, will be able to win a majority of delegates ahead of the quadrennial gathering. If he falls short, the nomination would be decided in contentious balloting until a nominee is chosen.
In the Democratic contest, the survey showed Clinton, the country's top diplomat from 2009 to 2013, ahead of Sanders by a 49-to-43 percent margin among Democratic voters, her narrowest edge since the tracking poll was started in late December.
Sanders, a democratic socialist who has centered his campaign with attacks on the country's growing income inequality, easily won three state nominating contests against Clinton on Saturday, but trails far behind her in claiming delegates to the party's July national convention where the nominee will be selected.
Trump ahead but not broadly popular
Even as surveys show Trump with a lead among Republicans, nearly two-thirds of Americans view him unfavorably. Majorities also have unfavorable views of Clinton and Cruz, but not by as much as Trump. Sanders and Kasich, who have not been attacked by political partisans as much as the front-running candidates, have positive favorability ratings.
The next contest in the months-long, state-by-state nominating process is April 5 in the midwestern state of Wisconsin, where pre-election surveys show Trump and Cruz locked in a close Republican match, with Kasich trailing. In the Democratic race, the polls show Clinton with a slight edge over Sanders.
The eventual party nominees will square off in November's national election, with the winner replacing President Barack Obama, who leaves office in January 2017.
U.S. political surveys have consistently shown Clinton defeating Trump in a hypothetical face-off, leaving many Republicans to worry about the party's chances to retake the White House. The surveys also mostly show her defeating Cruz, but losing to Kasich. Sanders also fares well in the polling against Trump and Cruz and less so against Kasich.
The problem for Kasich, the polls notwithstanding, is that he has no mathematical chance of claiming enough delegates to win the Republican nomination ahead of the national convention. He is banking on the hope that neither Trump nor Cruz can win a first-ballot victory either, opening up the voting for the nomination on a second ballot and possibly beyond that.