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Clinton leads Sanders by more than 2 to 1 in Florida, Post-Univision poll finds

Hillary Clinton in Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday. (Ty Wright/Bloomberg News)

One week before Florida's delegate-rich primary, Hillary Clinton holds a commanding lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Sunshine State, according to a new Washington Post-Univision News poll.

Clinton leads Sanders (Vt.) 64 to 26 percent among likely Democratic primary voters in the state, buoyed by the state’s older electorate who trust her to handle a range of issues.

After a surprise loss in Tuesday’s Michigan primary and a win in Mississippi, the new survey suggests Clinton could continue to grow her delegate advantage in racially diverse Southern states.

So far, Clinton has accumulated almost twice as many delegates as Sanders, and she is more than halfway toward achieving the 2,382 needed to secure the nomination. Florida’s primary awards 246 delegates, making it the biggest prize of the five states voting Tuesday, and Democrats’ proportional awarding of delegates raises the stakes for Clinton to maximize her winning margin.

Washington Post-Univision Poll: Florida primary voters

Sanders’s next opportunity to shift that dynamic is in Miami at Wednesday’s debate, sponsored by The Washington Post and Univision.

He faces an uphill battle. Florida’s older electorate benefits Clinton in a primary season that has divided sharply along generational lines all year.

The poll finds Clinton leading Sanders by 53 percentage points among Democrats age 65 and older, compared with a 26-point lead among those younger than 50. The survey was conducted by the independent Bendixen and Amandi International and the Tarrance Group, a Republican firm.

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Clinton holds a lopsided 72 to 16 percent lead among nonwhite Democrats in Florida, including a 68 to 21 percent lead among Hispanic voters, who were oversampled in the survey and weighted back to their appropriate share of the electorate. Among whites, Clinton leads by a smaller, though still substantial, 22 percentage points.

Eight years ago, Hispanic voters were a core part of Clinton’s victory in the state, supporting her by nearly 2 to 1 over Barack Obama, according to the network exit poll.

Mirroring exit polls in earlier states, the Post-Univision poll found a sizable gender gap in support for the Democratic nomination, with Clinton leading Sanders by 71 to 21 percent among women but by a narrower 55 to 32 percent among men.

Sanders has clear potential to make inroads. Fully 7 in 10 likely voters have a positive view of him, nearly as high as Clinton’s 76 percent, though far more see her in a “very favorable” light. By a 46 to 39 percent margin, more voters say that Sanders is more honest and trustworthy than Clinton.

Despite that, though, Sanders’s reputation is overwhelmed at this point by huge advantages for Clinton on other personal attributes and issues. More than 8 in 10 say that Clinton has a better chance of winning a general election, more than 6 in 10 prefer her personality and temperament, and a small majority says she would do more to bring change to Washington.

A 56 percent majority of Democratic voters in Florida think Clinton generally holds views closer to their own, compared with Sanders. When voters were asked about specific issues, they trusted Clinton by more than 2 to 1 to handle terrorism, immigration, the economy and health care.

This Washington Post-Univision poll was conducted on March 2 to 5 among a random sample of 449 likely voters in Florida's March 15 Democratic primary, including interviews on land-line and cellular phones. The survey included an oversample of Hispanic likely voters, which were weighted back to an estimate of their share of the primary electorate. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus six percentage points for overall results; the error margin is nine points for results among the sample of 184 Hispanic likely voters.

Emily Guskin contributed to this report.