Poll shows Trump, Clinton with big leads in Virginia

Donald Trump is expanding his lead over the rest of the Republican field in Virginia, and Hillary Clinton enjoys a nearly two-to-one lead over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, according to a Monmouth University poll of likely presidential primary voters.

Trump leads his rivals with 41 percent of the vote just days ahead of next week's Super Tuesday vote. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio holds second place, with 27 percent, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is in third with 14 percent.

The Monmouth poll, which was conducted Monday through Wednesday, shows Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is campaigning in the Commonwealth this week, is tied with retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 7 percent.

Trump leads "among nearly every other demographic group, though, with some of his strongest support coming from voters who have only a high school education," the poll found. Forty percent of likely Republican primary voters "have a strong preference but are still open to considering other candidates." Twelve percent remain undecided.

Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said: "Trump said he loves the poorly educated and apparently they love him back."

With pressure building from some quarters for candidates such as Kasich to bow out of the race in order to solidify support behind an alternative to Trump, Monmouth polled various match-ups to determine what effect a narrower field would have on the Virginia results.

Trump still came out on top.

According to the poll analysis, "In a race against just Cruz and Rubio, Trump garners 42 percent support, which is similar to his vote share in the current five-person contest. Rubio’s support would increase slightly to 32 percent while Cruz’s support would increase slightly to 19 percent."

Were Rubio to drop out, and Kasich remain in the race, the poll found that "Trump would potentially get 45 percent, Cruz 27 percent, and Kasich 22 percent."

On the Democratic side, Clinton has a commanding 60-to-33-percent lead over Sanders. One of her strongest sources of support comes from African-American voters, who back her over Sanders 70 percent to 19 percent.

Sanders is also struggling with younger voters in Virginia, a significant change from his performance in other states. Among voters under 50 years of age, Sanders has a slim 46-to-45-percent lead over the former first lady, U.S. senator, and secretary of state.

“The ace in the hole for Sanders so far has been younger voters. But this group is not giving him quite the same advantage in Virginia as it had in prior contests,” Murray said. 

The Republican portion of the poll has a margin of error of 4.8 percentage points. The Democratic portion has an error margin of 5.6 percentage points.