Donald Trump remains the front-runner among the GOP presidential pack nationwide, but Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have risen to take second and third place, respectively, a new Quinnipiac Poll shows.
But the poll offers are unique look at how much people like these candidates and would be willing to vote for them in hypothetical general election matchups.
Among Republicans, Marco Rubio is the strongest, most-liked candidate just days after he took third place in the Iowa Caucuses and days ahead of the New Hampshire primary. For Democrats, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is the most liked in head-to-head matchups in a general election against Republicans.
"While Trump, Clinton and Cruz wallow in a negative favorability swamp, by comparison, Rubio and Sanders are rock stars," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.
The GOP rankings:
- Trump, 31 percent,
- Sen. Ted Cruz, 22 percent;
- Sen. Marco Rubio, 19 percent;
- Ben Carson, 6 percent;
- Jeb Bush, 3 percent;
- Chris Christie, 3 percent;
- John Kasich, 3 percent
- Carly Fiorina, 2 percent
About 9 percent of likely GOP voters are undecided.
The results mirror those of other polls taken over the past few days. Nationwide, Trump's lead is shrinking. A PPP poll
showed Rubio and Cruz tied for second place against Trump, who leads nationally. Rubio also rises to second plac
e in some recent New Hamsphire polls.
In the Democratic race nationwide, Clinton has 44 percent, with Sanders at 42 percent, and 11 percent undecided.
According to the survey's pollsters, on the Republican side, Rubio is the strongest candidate to go up against Hillary Clinton, defeating her 48 to 41 percent.
In other general election matchups:
- Clinton tops Trump 46 – 41 percent;
- Clinton ties Cruz 45 – 45 percent
Republican voters don't like Trump, and do like Rubio by a wider margin. Some 30 percent say they "would definitely not support" Trump, while 15 percent say they would not support Cruz and 7 percent say no to Rubio.
Sanders has the highest favorability rating among top candidates, while Trump has the lowest.
"Democrats nationwide are 'Feeling the Bern' as Sen. Bernie Sanders closes a 31-point gap to tie Secretary Hillary Clinton," said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. "And despite the Iowa setback, Donald Trump is way ahead of his GOP opponents. But that's not the whole story nine months before Election Day. In mano a mano, or mano a womano, face-offs with all contenders, Sanders and Rubio would be the candidates left standing,"
Among Democrats, Sanders has a greater likeability than Hillary Clinton. In the general election:
- Sanders defeats Trump 49 – 39 percent;
- Sanders edges Cruz 46 – 42 percent;
- Sanders and Rubio are tied 43 – 43 percent.
The survey was conducted Feb. 2-4 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.
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