Raleigh, N.C. — Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton have sizable leads in the presidential race among likely North Carolina voters a week out from the state's primary, according to a WRAL News poll released Tuesday.
SurveyUSA polled 1,555 likely voters statewide – almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats – between Friday and Monday to gauge opinions leading up to the March 15 primary. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
Trump tops U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas 41 percent to 27 percent among likely GOP voters. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ohio Gov. John Kasich trail far behind, at 14 and 11 percent, respectively.
The billionaire businessman Trump, who is scheduled to hold a rally in Fayetteville on Wednesday night, outdistances Cruz across almost every demographic breakdown, with huge leads among male voters, older voters, the working class, gun owners and those who never went to college. He also has a surprising 42-31 percent advantage among self-described evangelicals, a group that has boosted Cruz's candidacy in other states.
Cruz, who spoke at a Raleigh-area church on Tuesday, holds a narrow lead over Trump among GOP voters who say they are part of the tea party movement, and the two men are tied among voters ages 18 to 34.
SurveyUSA noted that a strong showing by Cruz in Tuesday's Michigan primary could eat into Trump's lead in North Carolina, noting a bandwagon effect in Cruz's polling after he won caucuses in Kansas and Maine on Saturday and finished close behind Trump in the Louisiana and Kentucky primaries. Likely North Carolina voters polled before the Saturday election results were known favored Trump by a 42-23 percent margin, but the margin shrank to 39-33 percent in Trump's favor in polling done after Saturday.
It shows some vulnerability on Trump's part, and now Ted Cruz is proving he can win more than just his home state. He's got a record," said David McLennan, a political science professor at Meredith College in Raleigh. "Today will be big because there's voting going on in Mississippi and Michigan."
McLennon said voter turnout will likely make or break Trump's chances in North Carolina.
"We've seen some good early voting numbers in North Carolina. A bigger turnout on the Republican side could mean a really good day for Donald Trump," he said.
On the Democratic side, Clinton holds a commanding lead of 57 percent to 34 percent among likely Democratic voters over U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Clinton has sizable leads among both men and women and wins by a landslide among black voters, 74 percent to 20 percent. Sanders, meanwhile, holds a distinct advantage among the relatively small number of Latinos surveyed.
As he has shown throughout his campaign, Sanders' strength lies with young voters. He holds a 64-34 percent advantage among voters ages 18 to 34 in the WRAL News poll. Once voters hit age 35, however, the polling clearly favors Clinton, with anywhere from 18- to 51-point margins in her favor.
Sanders also has a 17- to 20-point lead among independent voters who plan to cast a Democratic ballot in the primary, but hard-core Democrats back Clinton by even larger margins.