The Elon University Poll released its latest results Monday afternoon, revealing a big lead for Republican Donald Trump and a dwindling lead for Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The poll surveyed 1,530 likely North Carolina voters to gather public opinion about which candidates would perform well in the North Carolina primaries.
"We had to get a large sample size because we're really interested in two simultaneous races: the Democrats and the GOP," said Kenneth Fernandez, director of the Elon Poll and assistant professor of political science and policy studies. "The nice thing about the Elon Poll is that it has a twice as large response rate as the national average."
Of the five remaining Republican candidates — Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Ohio Gov. John Kasich — Trump placed first with 28 percent of the votes. Cruz and Rubio finished in second and third with 19 percent and 16 percent respectively. Carson came in fourth at 10 percent while Kasich rounded out the pack at 7 percent.
While Trump was the clear favorite with a 9 percent lead, about 15 percent of respondents said they were undecided.
Clinton finished first among Democratic-leaning voters, but lost substantial ground since the last Elon Poll was conducted in November 2015.
In the November poll, Clinton was the clear favorite among Democratic voters in North Carolina, with a 33 percent lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). In this February Poll, Clinton's lead has declined by 23 percent. Clinton finished first in the latest Elon poll with 47 percent of the vote to Sanders' 37 percent. Fourteen percent of voters declared themselves undecided.
Fernandez said Trump and Sanders' recent popularity has come as a major surprise to many pollsters and political pundits.
"Who would've thought that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump would have done so well?" Fernandez said. "Most of the political scientists and pundits say these are not viable candidates. Boy, have Trump and Sanders proven [them] wrong. They are still in the game."
Though the Elon Poll's five-minute survey primarily focused on which candidates would likely win the North Carolina primaries, it also addressed the backup options voters had for Republican nominees.
Twenty-two percent of voters said Rubio would be their backup choice while 18 percent cited Cruz as their second option. Trump was the least likely backup choice for voters, polling at less than 9 percent.
The next Elon Poll is scheduled to be released in April with a focus on more state-level issues.