PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Donald Trump is more popular among Rhode Island Republican voters than he is in national polls.
Forty-three percent of those sampled in a Brown University poll favor the businessman, and they span all classes.
"You give me a category, Trump is winning it. High income, low income, religious, not religious. Trump is winning every category among Republicans," said pollster and professor James Morone of the Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy.
The poll has Marco Rubio second with 25 percent.
Brown polled two times, once after New Hampshire and once after South Carolina. Rubio's numbers just about doubled after the stronger finish in South Carolina, but Trump climbed as well.
"The fact that Trump is polling this strong, way away from the election, suggests that he actually has legs. That he's really hit a chord. And he's hit a chord with Republican voters across the board," Morone said.
He will do much less well in the general election, Morone predicts, because he still has a high percentage of unfavorable opinions.
"Trump's unfavorables, when you move from the Republicans to the entire Rhode Island electorate, Trump's unfavorables are sky high, 63 per cent unfavorable," Morone said.
Given Rhode Island's Democratic tendency, what's probably more relevant from this poll is the Democratic numbers. It's tilted toward Hillary Clinton currently, but right after New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders was ahead.
In early February, Morone tells NBC 10, it was "Bernie Sanders winning big in most categories 48 percent Sanders, 41 percent Clinton. That surprised us, because Clinton won by 20 points back in 2008, so this was a major problem for her. "
It was solved apparently by the caucus in Nevada. The second poll showed positions switched, with Clinton up by 9 points, 49 percent to 40 percent.
Morone explained where some of the support comes from.
"The biggest switchers, African-Americans. A 24 percent rise among African-Americans in Rhode Island. She now completely dominates that category. We also, interestingly, got a big shift with men, so the Clinton numbers with men rose 12 percent," Morone said.
He also theorizes that the current battle over filling the seat of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is bringing Democrats back to a traditional candidate.
"The Supreme Court debacle when Republicans said we are not even going to consider any Supreme Court appointee that Obama puts forward. I think in a good blue state like Rhode Island, people suddenly think, 'Wait, we're shooting with real bullets here,'" Morone said.
The Rhode Island presidential preference primary is April 26.