Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton hold leads a week ahead of the Kansas presidential caucuses, but large swaths of voters say they’re still undecided, a new poll shows.
A plurality of voters in each party say they’re undecided. Both parties will hold caucuses March 5.
Clinton, a former first lady, senator and secretary of state, leads Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the Democratic race by 33 percent to 23 percent in the survey. Forty-four percent of Democratic respondents say they’re undecided.
44 percent of Democratic respondents are undecided
33percent support Hillary Clinton
23percent support Bernie Sanders
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Billionaire Trump has support among 26 percent of Republican respondents, while Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are deadlocked for second place, at 14 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
Another 39 percent of GOP voters say they’re undecided, while the rest are divided among other candidates.
39 percent of Republican respondents are undecided
26percent support Donald Trump
14-13 percent support Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, respectively
Only 40 percent of the poll’s respondents said they planned to attend the caucuses. Of those who planned to attend, 57 percent said this would be their first time to participate.
The poll was conducted by the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University and paid for by the university and newspapers across the state, including The Eagle. It surveyed 440 Kansas voters between Feb. 19 and 26. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.
Trump is the most popular candidate overall, with support from 16 percent of the poll’s respondents, while Clinton has support from 15 percent. Those totals combined are smaller than the 40 percent who say they don’t know who they will support.
The high number of undecided voters “should mean a ton of politicking in the next few days,” said Chapman Rackaway, a political scientist at the university.
Struggling to find a candidate
On the Republican side “the Trump candidacy is just such an unexpected phenomenon” that some voters who don’t support Trump may still be struggling to find a candidate to get behind, said Michael Smith, a political science professor at Emporia State University.
“Marco Rubio is kind of emerging as the more or less mainstream Republican alternative to Trump, but it could be that a lot of the people polled still don’t know that much about Marco Rubio, still don’t know that much about Ted Cruz,” he said. “It could also be that they’re not comfortable with any of them.”
Rubio has won endorsements from Gov. Sam Brownback, Sen. Pat Roberts and Rep. Mike Pompeo, while Cruz has the backing of Rep. Tim Huelskamp.
For Democrats it’s a question between “the head and the heart,” Smith said.
“A lot of Democrats really are liking Bernie Sanders … but there’s a lot of skepticism that he could win the election with that democratic socialist label,” he said.
Rackaway said the high number of undecided Democrats “probably speaks to a lot of ambivalence that people have. They’re not really excited about Hillary Clinton, but Bernie Sanders isn’t the obvious alternative choice to them.”
The phone survey showed deep frustration with both President Obama and Gov. Sam Brownback among respondents. Only 21 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with Brownback’s job performance compared with 34 percent for Obama.
“I think people just don’t trust him any more – and that includes, obviously, members of his own party,” Rackaway said.
Eileen Hawley, the governor’s spokeswoman, said in a statement that Kansans “reelected Sam Brownback to a second term as Governor based on his record of growing the economy, reforming welfare, stabilizing education funding and protecting the Constitution.”
Rackway said one reason Trump leads among all Republican candidates is that many Kansas voters feel disaffected.
“If there’s one thing we know about the Kansas voter right now, it’s that they’ve got a ton of apprehension. … There’s a sense that the regular, old politician just isn’t cutting it for them and so Trump represents a significant change,” he said.
The Democrats have 37 delegates up for grabs in Kansas, while the Republicans have 40. It will take 2,382 delegates to win the Democratic nomination and 1,237 to win the Republican nomination.
Clinton and Sanders have each won 51 delegates after the first three Democratic contests, but Clinton has won support of 453 super delegates, which dwarfs Sanders’ 20 and brings Clinton’s total to 504, according to RealClearPolitics, a site tracking the delegate count.
Trump has won 81 delegates so far, while Rubio and Cruz have each won 17.