Justin Sullivan, Andrew Harrer—Getty Images
March 23, 2016 6:00 AM EDT

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the definitive front-runners in the Republican and Democratic primaries but they may not be the candidates with the best chances in the general election, according to a survey of national voters.

The Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday shows both the Republican and Democratic nomination races as anything but close. Among Republicans, Trump leads at 43%, with 29% of respondents supporting Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and 16% backing Ohio Gov. John Kasich. On the Democratic side, Clinton leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders 50% to 38% nationally.

In head-to-head general election match-ups, however, Kasich and Sanders do better against their opponents in November. While a Clinton beats Trump in a general election 46% to 40%, Sanders handedly tops the billionaire 52% to 38%. Kasich defeats Clinton 47% to 39%, while Sanders bests Cruz 50% to 39%—all margins larger than Clinton or Trump.

“Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton may have the overall leads among primary voters, but there is not a lot of love in the room as a big percentage of Americans say of the front- runners, they could take ‘em or leave ‘em,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “Though short on delegates and short on time, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Gov. John Kasich can hang their hats on the fact that if folks went to the polls today, they’d fare better than the other candidates.”

Both Sanders and Kasich have little hope of gaining either nomination, as the delegate math simply doesn’t add up. Sanders, a self-proclaimed “socialist,” has made headway on the left, especially among the youth vote which has turned out in overwhelming numbers for him during the primaries. Kasich was drowned out during a largely crowded Republican field and has only begun to emerge as others have dropped off—winning his home state of Ohio last Tuesday and its valuable delegates.

A head-to-head between Kasich and Sanders sees them nearly dead even, at 45% and 44% respectively, according to the poll.

The poll was conducted by Quinnipiac University from March 16 to 21 using a survey of 1,451 registered voters with a margin of error of +/-2.6%.


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