The Republican primary in Massachusetts next week is Donald Trump’s to lose.
Trump is backed by a stunning 50 percent of Republican primary voters in Massachusetts, according to a new poll from Emerson College Polling Society.
That’s more than triple that of his closest competitor, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who has 16 percent of the GOP electorate’s support, according to the poll. Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas came in third and fourth with 13 percent and 10 percent, respectively.
Trump’s numbers are similar to the last Emerson poll of Massachusetts voters conducted in October, in which the real estate scion garnered 48 percent of voters’ support. Ben Carson, on the other hand, dropped from 14 percent in October to a paltry 2 percent in this Emerson poll.
“Carson’s drop seems to have helped Cruz and Trump,’’ said Spencer Kimball, who conducted the poll. “But we did have Trump at 48% in October suggesting he has a stronger base in [Massachusetts] than expected.’’
However, a Boston Globe/Suffolk University poll in November pegged Trump’s support at a milder 32 percent.
Trump’s dominant position in Massachusetts is buoyed by high favorability ratings, as 64 percent of likely GOP voters view him favorably compared to 32 percent who view him unfavorably. Political analysts have argued that Trump would hit a ceiling with voters because he is viewed warily by Republicans and extremely negatively by independent and Democratic voters. In South Carolina, for example, 50 percent of Republican primary voters viewed him favorably, compared to 41 percent unfavorably, according to a Monmouth University poll [PDF].
But the Emerson poll suggests that dynamic does not apply for Republicans in the Bay State.
The poll consisted of interviews with 289 likely GOP primary voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.7 percent.
On the Democratic side, however, the primary is now a toss-up.
Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are locked at 46 percent support apiece, according to the Emerson poll. Men favor Sanders over Clinton by a 60 to 35 percent margin, while women favor Clinton by 56 to 34 percent.
The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.75 percent.
A total of 11 states hold primaries or caucuses next Tuesday, and Massachusetts is one of two states where Sanders has shown some life. Sanders has struggled to make inroads with African American voters, who make up a large share of the Democratic primary vote in most of the states voting next week.
Kimball said the Emerson poll’s subset of results that looked at race are too small to extrapolate. But among those who said race relations was their top issue, 61 percent support Clinton while 36 percent support Sanders, he said.