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Poll: Clinton, Sanders in a dead heat for Nevada

Story highlights

  • Likely Democratic caucusgoers in Nevada are split almost evenly between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders ahead of Saturday's caucuses
  • The results suggest the extremely close race hinges on divided opinions on the economy

Washington (CNN)Likely Democratic caucusgoers in Nevada are split almost evenly between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders ahead of Saturday's caucuses, according to a new CNN/ORC Poll.

Though Clinton holds an edge over Sanders on handling a range of top issues, the results suggest the extremely close race hinges on divided opinions on the economy.
    Overall, 48% of likely caucus attendees say they support Clinton, 47% Sanders. Both candidates carry their demographic strong points from prior states into Nevada, with Clinton holding an edge among women, while Sanders tops the former secretary of state among voters under age 55.
    One exception emerges though: Although the pool of potential caucusgoers in Nevada is more racially diverse than those who participated in Iowa or New Hampshire, the racial divide among likely caucusgoers isn't nearly as stark as among voters in South Carolina, with both white and non-white voters about evenly divided between the two candidates.
    The economy is rated the top issue by 42% of likely Democratic caucusgoers, and which candidate would better handle it seems a central division in the race.
    Overall, Clinton holds broad advantages as more trusted on foreign policy, race relations, immigration and health care, but likely caucusgoers are split 48% for Clinton and 47% for Sanders on the economy. Among those likely caucusgoers who call the economy their top issue in choosing a candidate, more support Sanders: 52% back him vs. 43% for Clinton.
    When asked who would do more to help the middle class, Sanders narrowly tops Clinton among all likely caucusgoers, 50% to 47%. Likely caucusgoers are also split on which candidate best represents Democratic values, 50% say Clinton does, 49% Sanders.
    As was the case in Iowa, Sanders' support rests partly on those who are not regular participants in the caucus process, and turnout could play a role in whether the results reflect this close a race on Saturday.
    Clinton fares better among those who say they are definitely going to participate in the caucus, as well as among those who say they have regularly participated in the past. Newer voters are more likely to back Sanders, as are those a bit less certain they'll show up on Saturday.
    The Republican side seems set for less suspense when that party holds caucuses on Tuesday, February 23. The poll finds businessman Donald Trump holding a wide lead, topping the field with the support of 45% of those likely to caucus. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are closely matched in the race for second place, with Rubio at 19% and Cruz at 17%. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (7%), Ohio Gov. John Kasich (5%) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (1%) lag well behind those three.
    Nearly 6-in-10 likely GOP caucusgoers say they have definitely decided whom to support, with about one-quarter still trying to make up their minds.
    As in the South Carolina poll, Trump dominates the field on handling top issues, including the economy (61% trust Trump most), illegal immigration (58% Trump), ISIS (55% Trump) and foreign policy (42% Trump). He holds a smaller edge over Cruz and Rubio on handling social issues -- 28% say Trump would handle those best, 21% Cruz and 20% Rubio.
    Trump is also widely seen as most likely to change the way things work in Washington (64% say he's best on that measure), and as the candidate with the best chance of winning in November (56% say Trump has the best shot).
    In Nevada, unlike South Carolina, Trump has a significant advantage on the question of who best represents Republican values: 35% name Trump, 22% Cruz, 20% Rubio.
    The CNN/ORC Nevada Poll was conducted by telephone February 10-15 among a random sample of 1,006 adult residents of the state. Results among the 245 likely Republican caucusgoers have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 6.5 percentage points. For results among the 282 likely Democratic primary voters, it is plus or minus 6 percentage points.