BOSTON >> Donald Trump tops the ticket among likely Republican primary voters in Massachusetts, as the Grand Old Party puts a premium on candidates' ability to create "real change" over the candidates' experience.
On the Democratic side, voters are basically split on the experience v. change question, as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just edges U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, according to a poll conducted earlier this week and released on Friday ahead of Tuesday's voting.
Trump takes 40 percent of the Republican vote, according to the survey conducted by The MassINC Polling Group for WBUR. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are both tied for second place at 19 percent each, while U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz took 10 percent of the vote and Ben Carson trailed in last place at 5 percent.
Clinton has 49 percent over Sanders's 44 percent, but that lead is within the poll's 4.9 percent margin of error.
After 15 years of American troops countering Islamist extremists in the Middle East, the two parties were also sharply divided on national security.
The Republican primary voters strongly agreed President George W. Bush had kept America safe during his presidency and disagreed that President Barack Obama has done so. For likely Democratic primary voters the converse was true.
Republican Gov. Charlie Baker enjoys a high favorable/unfavorable ratio with both Democrats (56/18) and Republicans (78/9). Baker is viewed favorably by a larger percentage of Democratic-primary voters than Democrat U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, who is 49/10 among Democratic primary voters. Among his own party's primary voters, Baker is viewed more favorably than Pope Francis (67/17).
Democrats meanwhile view President Barack Obama's favorability (81/13) on par with Pope Francis (77/5), and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren's favorability (73/14) roughly corresponds to Sanders's.
Voters in both parties agree that if President Barack Obama nominates someone to replace the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the U.S. Senate should take a vote. Voters planning to participate in the Republican primary only narrowly supported that position and 55 percent of them believe replacing Scalia should be left to the next president. At state Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr's request, the state Senate on Thursday postponed action on a resolution urging the US Senate to swiftly consider a nominee if one is made.
Democratic voters favor Obama making a nomination and the Senate taking a vote by more than 80 percent.
Trump's critics have ripped him for not offering specific plans and policy proposals but the poll shows Massachusetts voters believe he is the most capable candidate in the GOP field to handle an array of issues, from reforming the immigration system to handling foreign policy, improving the economy, working with Congress to get things done and improving America's standing in the world.
Sanders has cast Clinton as beholden to Wall Street, while Clinton has touted her experience leading the diplomatic arm of government for four years under Obama. Voters trusted Sanders more on addressing income inequality and reforming campaign finance, while Clinton was counted on more to handle foreign policy challenges, work with Congress and keep the country safe.
Bay Staters will head to the polls Tuesday along with voters in Georgia, Texas, Vermont and several other states that cumulatively offer the most delegates in one day so far in the presidential primary.
Trump heads into Super Tuesday following wins in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada after Cruz's victory in the Iowa caucuses. Clinton edged Sanders in Iowa and Nevada and is expected to win in South Carolina on Saturday. Sanders beat Clinton in the New Hampshire primary.
The poll surveyed 418 likely Democratic primary voters and 386 likely Republican primary voters by phone Sunday through Tuesday.