Donald Trump leads GOP field in new national poll

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump answers questions from the media ahead of a campaign stop in Spencer, Iowa, Dec. 5, 2015.

Reuters/Mark Kauzlarich

Donald Trump has a commanding lead over his GOP presidential opponents in a new national poll from Suffolk University / USA Today.

The survey, conducted December 2-6 -- before Trump announced his controversial proposal to bar Muslims from entering the U.S. -- shows the businessman leading with 27 percent support among likely Republican primary and caucus-goers. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas comes in second at 17 percent, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida wins 16 percent support, while retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson earns 10 percent. The rest of the GOP candidates remain in the single digits.

Twenty-two percent of surveyed voters chose Cruz as their "second choice," while 15 percent named Rubio.

"The Republican side is beginning to shake out, at least at the national level," David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, said in a statement. "Both Senators Cruz and Rubio are vying hard to be the Republican alternative to Trump, but there are seventeen percent undecided still, which keeps the door open for one of the single-digit candidates to make a splash in Iowa or New Hampshire and shake the race up further."

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dominates, with 56 percent support of likely Democratic primary and caucus-goers nationally. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont wins 29 percent, and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley earns 4 percent support.

In head-to-head match ups, Clinton just barely bests the leading GOP candidates -- except for Rubio. Voters nationwide prefer Rubio over Clinton, 48 percent to 45 percent. Matched up against Trump, Clinton leads 48 percent to 44 percent; against Cruz, Clinton leads 47 percent to 45 percent; and against Carson, the Democrat leads 46 percent to 45 percent.

The nationwide survey has a 3-point margin of error among all voters, a 5.2 percent margin of error among likely Republican voters, and a 5.1 percent margin of error among likely Democratic voters.

When asked whether they would still support Trump if he ran as an independent rather than as a Republican, 68 percent of Trump's backers said they would, while 18 percent would not and 11 percent were undecided. However, Sulfolk notes that this question was posed to fewer than 100 voters, giving it a much larger margin of error than the rest of the poll.