Poll Finds Donald Trump at 50 Percent in New York State

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets supporters after speaking at a campaign rally on April 11, 2016 in Albany, New York.
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

The latest poll from Siena College finds Donald Trump with a commanding lead over his rivals in next week’s New York primary. His support, however, is just at the 50 percent threshold he would need to engineer the large haul of delegates he hopes can secure him the GOP nomination.

Trump currently has 50 percent support among likely Republicans voters. Ohio Governor John Kasich is in second place with 27 percent support. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is a distant third with 17 percent support.

A Trump victory in the April 19 primary in his home state has never been in doubt. Uncertain, based on this poll, is whether he will hit the 50 percent threshold he needs to trigger New York’s winner-take-all rules.

If a candidate wins the state with a majority of the vote, the winning candidate receives all 14 of the state’s at-large delegates. Another 81 delegates are awarded through the state’s 27 congressional districts. If a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in any congressional district, that candidate receives 3 delegates. If a candidate wins with less than 50 percent in a district, he receives 2 delegates and the second-place candidate receives 1 delegate.

If a candidate wins the state vote with less than 50 percent, the state’s 14 at-large delegates are awarded proportionally to all candidates finishing with more than 20 percent of the vote.

“Trump looks like he will cruise to victory in his home state, as Cruz did in Texas and Kasich in Ohio. The real question is will he get a majority of Republican votes or simply a very high plurality? Currently, exactly half of likely Republican voters are with the Donald, while Kasich is in sole possession of second place,” Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said. “Trump has a 19-point lead with women and an even larger 27-point lead with men. He leads by 34 points in New York City, 20 points in the downstate suburbs and 23 points upstate.”

In terms of reaching the important 50 percent threshold, Trump is strongest in the city and weakest in upstate New York. The GOP frontrunner has 56 percent support in the city. In the city’s suburbs, Trump has 52 percent, while in upstate New York, his support is at 48 percent, just below a majority. The upstate region makes up the largest pocket of Republican voters.

While the upstate region has a large majority of the Republican voters in the state, only around 8 of the state’s 27 congressional districts are located there. The majority of the state’s congressional districts are centered around New York City and its suburbs, even though there are relatively fewer Republican voters there. Trump is well positioned to sweep the delegates in these districts.

The Siena College poll of 469 likely Republican voters was conducted April 6-11 and has a margin of error of 5 percent. Its the third public poll conducted in that time period. The others, conducted by Quinnipiac and NBC/WSJ showed Trump with 55 and 54 percent support statewide. Considering margins of error, Trump currently is on the edge of winning the majority support he needs to win a large share of the state’s delegates.

An advantage for Trump is that Cruz, who has the most comprehensive campaign organization of all the candidates, is running a distant third in the state. Cruz, though, runs relatively better in both the city and upstate than in the suburbs. If his superior organization allows him to outperform his polling numbers, which has happened often during the primary season, he could ensure Trump falls short of an outright majority in the upstate districts and make a couple of the city districts more competitive.

Kasich is in the best overall position to challenge Trump enough to keep him below an outright majority. While he doesn’t have the organizational infrastructure of Cruz, he is campaigning aggressively across the state. His favorable rating in the state is higher than both Trump and Cruz. If he gained just a few points from Trump, he would seriously wound the frontrunner’s hopes of winning the bulk of New York’s delegates.

Trump’s singular disadvantage, again, is a lack of a campaign organization to maximize his support. Trump has often performed a few points below his polling numbers because he doesn’t have a campaign infrastructure to drive turnout of his supporters. This is the biggest factor driving the uncertainty of his ability win a majority of the vote.

Trump’s victory in New York is assured. The only question, which is amplified by the Siena poll, is whether he can hit the majority threshold. He effectively loses a delegate in every congressional district he wins by less than 50 percent of the vote.

The difference between winning 70 or 90 delegates in the state may seem small, but it would have a huge impact in Trump’s race to secure 1,237 delegates, the minimum needed to win the nomination. It is a testament to the unconventional nature of this year’s primary contest that the Republican nomination could hinge on a few thousand votes spread across one of the most Democrat states in the country.