An Alaska Dispatch News poll found registered voters in the state have their eyes on two candidates that would have been considered unlikely front-runners just a year ago: real estate billionaire and reality TV star Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the self-proclaimed democratic socialist.
Alaskans' favorites emerge as voters in Iowa gear up for the nation's first caucus, just a week away. The final tally in Iowa isn't always a predictor of the eventual party nominees, but it does start the winnowing of the field. Trump has consistently led polls for months, but with so many Republican candidates still in the race, it is hard to see how the numbers might shift if there were fewer candidates running.
In that sense, the poll does suggest something interesting: a split between what nonparty voters want and what the party-voters are likely to give them. The numbers suggest many voters dislike both Trump and Clinton, and that those two may have the best chance of getting delegates' votes at the national conventions, should all things remain the same.
The poll questioned registered voters on their presidential picks based on party, if they had one to declare. Those that said they are not affiliated with a political party were given the option of selecting from a Republican-only ballot or one "with candidates of all other parties only," in much the same way Alaska voters choose a ballot in the August primary election.
Republicans surveyed and those that chose an all-Republican ballot identified Trump as clear the front-runner: 28.4 percent, with Texas Sen.Ted Cruz trailing in second with 19.1 percent.
Since the poll was taken before former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin endorsed Trump in Iowa last week, there's no indication what kind of impact her support might have in the state.
But among registered Republicans polled, Trump holds a much smaller lead over Cruz, 27.9 percent to 23.8 percent, essentially within the margin of error. Dr. Ben Carson came in third with 8.5 percent, while 13.4 percent were still undecided.
In a recent straw poll taken by the Alaska Republican Party, participants chose Cruz as the front-runner, with 34 percent of the vote. Trump was second, at 27 percent.
Trump had stronger support in the ADN/Moore poll among those who are not registered Republicans, at 29.2 percent, with Cruz much further down the list, clustered with Carson and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in the 10-13 percent range.
Over on the Democratic side, Sanders was far ahead of Hillary Clinton -- drawing 47.5 percent to her 33.5 percent. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley is in the low single digits.
But Clinton took the lead (though, still, within the margin of error) when it came down to registered Democrats, who preferred Clinton (44.2 percent) over Sanders (41.1 percent).
The opposite was true among those with no party affiliation: 51.5 percent selected Sanders, and Clinton fell to 26.8 percent.
The takeaway? Plenty of Alaskans are "feelin the Bern," but not necessarily those who are going to show up to caucus. But that remains a big unknown: In 2008 the party added 10,000 Democrats to its list when crowds turned out to caucus for President Barack Obama. More than 2,000 registered as Democrats the day of the caucuses that year.
Trump and Clinton: not well-liked
One reason for the stark divide among those looking at the non-Republican ticket could be hefty "negative" feelings about Clinton by everyone but Democrats.
"Despite their prominence in their respective races, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are neck and neck in the contest for the most unpopular political figures in Alaska," said Ivan Moore, the pollster who collected the data for ADN.
Overall, 57.4 percent of registered voters polled said they have "negative" feelings about Clinton. Her negative rating is up over 90 percent among Republicans, and over 50 percent among the unaffiliated. Democrats, on the other hand, rated her much more favorably, with just 13.9 percent having negative feelings for the former secretary of state.
Trump also garners bad feelings from many registered voters -- 56.8 percent of them. That includes an unsurprising high 86.5 percent negative from registered Democrats, and more than 60 percent among those unaffiliated with a party.
Both Sens. Cruz and Rubio had mixed results of positive and negative reviews. And quite a few voters had no idea who they are: about 25 percent for Cruz and 30 percent for Rubio.
Head-to-head: everybody beats Hillary
The closest of those races was against Trump, with 49.3 percent to Clinton's 44.1 percent, with 6.5 percent undecided.
While there was a strong divide along party lines in that matchup, Clinton did win among the largest group -- those with no party affiliation. In that breakout, Clinton drew 49.4 percent to Trump's 43.7 percent, with 6.9 percent undecided.
Cruz and Rubio, on the other hand, both win handily against Clinton, by margins of 19.4 percent and 18.8 percent respectively.
About the Poll
Polling for Alaska Dispatch News was performed by Ivan Moore Research as part of The Alaska Survey, a quarterly, multiclient project. The questions asked on behalf of ADN were only a portion of the questions asked to 750 Alaskans across the state, on a variety of topics. The questions were asked by live people over the phone. Of those polled, 300 were on landlines and 450 on cellphones.
The results presented here were asked of the 651 people polled who self-identified as registered voters. The people polled were not selected from "likely voters" via voting rolls, intended to predict eventual voting outcomes, but instead to gather a snapshot of how Alaskans feel about the candidates in the field now.
Those polled were party-affiliated at very similar rates to the overall voter registration in the state: 16.7 percent said they are registered Democrat, 29.2 percent said they are registered Republican, 1 percent said they are registered to another party, and 53 percent said they are not registered as a member of any party.
The latest voter registration statistics from the state Division of Elections as of April 3, 2015 showed 13.8 percent registered Democrats, 26.7 percent Republicans, 4 percent in the Alaskan Independence Party and Alaska Libertarian Party, and 54.5 percent are either undeclared or nonpartisan. In surveys, it is common for respondents to self-report party identification at somewhat higher rates than actual party affiliation.