Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump still have the lead in Virginia's upcoming presidential primaries, according to a new poll from the Wason Center at Christopher Newport University — but both have lost ground in recent months to others in the race.
Clinton leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders 52 percent to 40 percent with likely voters in the March 1 contest, according to the poll. Trump leads the crowded Republican field with 28 percent, followed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at 22 percent and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at 19 percent.
There have been few independent surveys of Virginia in recent months. Christopher Newport University’s last poll, in October, found the same front-runners: Clinton and Trump. At the time, however, neither Sanders, Rubio nor Cruz performed nearly as well; all have gained ground in the past few months.
In the new poll, released Tuesday, both Clinton and Trump are viewed less favorably by the overall electorate than their rivals. Thirty-nine percent of Virginia voters view Sanders favorably, compared with 33 percent for Clinton. Likewise, only 30 percent of voters view Trump favorably.
At the same time, a slight majority — 52 percent — of all Virginia voters say they are less likely to vote for a candidate, who, like Sanders, identifies as a democratic socialist. An identical majority is less likely to vote for a candidate, who, like Trump, called for a ban on non-citizen Muslims entering the country. Across the spectrum, voters are interested in picking a candidate who can win the general election — two-thirds say it's more important than agreeing on all the issues.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich appears to be the least divisive Republican in the field, but that's because 39 percent of voters don't know enough about him to form an opinion. He takes only 7 percent of Republican voters in the survey. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush fares worse, winning only 4 percent of voters, despite being far better known. Kasich aside, Rubio is the only candidate on the Republican side viewed more favorably than unfavorably.
Only 8 percent of likely Democratic voters and 6 percent of likely Republican voters say they are undecided, giving the trailing candidates little time to catch up before Super Tuesday. Republicans appear more engaged: 50 percent say they plan to vote, compared with 39 percent of Democrats.
The pollsters interviewed 735 Virginia voters, including 408 on landline phones and 327 on cellphones, from Feb. 3 to 14, 2016. The margin of error for the whole survey is +/- 4.3 percent.