Clinton reclaims NH lead; Trump still up big

| Tom Jensen

PPP’s new New Hampshire Democratic poll finds that Hillary Clinton’s moved back into the lead in the state. She gets 41% to 33% for Bernie Sanders with Joe Biden at only 11%, Martin O’Malley at 4%, and Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb each at 2%. Since PPP last polled New Hampshire in August Clinton’s gone up 6 points from her then 35% standing, while Sanders has dropped 9 points from his then 42% standing.

Clinton’s rise comes as her image with Democratic voters in the state has improved by a good amount. Her favorability (+56 at 73/17) has improved a net 18 points from August when she was at +38 (63/25) with primary voters. The key for her is that she has narrowed things up among Sanders’ core groups of supporters. With ‘very liberal’ voters Sanders leads her only 43/42, with men Sanders leads her only 35/34, and with younger voters Sanders is ahead 42/34. Meanwhile Clinton remains dominant with the groups most friendly to her- she’s up 50/24 with seniors, 47/31 with women, and leads by at least 8 points with every ideological group besides ‘very liberal’ voters.

Independents are a big part of the puzzle even keeping New Hampshire competitive at all. They account for about a third of the Democratic primary electorate, and Sanders has a 40/32 advantage over Clinton with them. Among actual Democrats Clinton leads Sanders by 18 points at 47/29, pretty similar to the national picture- it’s really the unusual representation of non-Democrats in the Democratic primary in the state that has the race there looking competitive.

Joe Biden is actually the most popular of the candidates in New Hampshire, with a 78/10 favorability rating. But it doesn’t equate to much support for the nomination (11%) and Biden lags behind Clinton, 24/21, even when it comes to who voters’ second choice would be. If Biden doesn’t end up running for the nomination Clinton will benefit, since 40% of Biden voters say she would be their second choice to only 15% for Sanders. Reallocate Biden backers to their next pick, and Clinton’s lead over Sanders goes up to 45/35.

We also asked Republicans who their pick for the Democratic nominee would be and Biden and Sanders tie at 20% with Webb at 16%, Clinton at 9%, O’Malley at 8%, Chafee at 7%, and Lawrence Lessig at 1%. We also broke down these responses by whether GOP voters wanted that person to be the Democratic nominee because they liked them, or because they thought that person would be easier to defeat in the general. Among those picking a Democrat simply because they like them, Biden gets 27% to 23% each for Sanders and Webb, 12% for Clinton, and 11% for O’Malley. Among those picking a Democrat because they think it would be easier to beat them in the fall, 26% pick Sanders to 19% for Chafee, 17% for Biden, 16% for Webb, and 11% for Clinton.

On the Republican side Donald Trump continues to reign supreme. He leads the pack with 28% to 12% for Marco Rubio, 11% for Ben Carson, 10% for John Kasich, 9% for Jeb Bush, 8% for Ted Cruz, 7% for Carly Fiorina, 4% for Rand Paul, and 3% for Chris Christie. Rounding out the field for the Republicans are Rick Santorum at 2%, Lindsey Graham, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and George Pataki all at 1%, and Jim Gilmore at less than 1%.

Trump is by some metrics weaker in New Hampshire than he was when we polled in August though. Then he was at 35% and had a 56/32 favorability rating, now he’s at 28% and has a 48/42 favorability rating. Then he led hypothetical head to head match ups with Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush by an average of 17 points. Now he trails that same trio by an average of 3 points- he still leads Bush by a reduced margin of 49/41 but he trails Carson 48/39 and Rubio 49/42. Additionally he trails Carly Fiorina 47/44. So he’s certainly still well out ahead, but his dominance is not quite what it was.

Trump continues to lead with every demographic group we track. He’s at 35% with Tea Party voters, 32% with younger voters, 28% with men, 28% with Republicans, 28% with ‘somewhat conservative’ voters, 27% with women, 27% with independents, 26% with seniors, 26% with moderates, 25% with evangelicals, and 23% with ‘very conservative’ voters. It’s particularly interesting that with evangelicals Trump gets his 25% to 3% for Mike Huckabee and 1% for Rick Santorum. But their weak support even with their base groups is a reflection of how little appeal they have in the state- Santorum at 32/38 and Huckabee at 37/45 have negatively favorability ratings even with Republican voters.

Three candidates have made progress in New Hampshire over the last couple months. Rubio has gained 8 points to go from 4% to 12%, Carson has gained 5 points to go from 6% to 11%, and Cruz has gained 4 points to go from 4% to 8%. New Hampshire makes yet another state where Carson is the most popular of the Republican candidates (60/26 favorability) and the one most frequently named as a second choice (15% to 11% for Fiorina and 10% for Kasich). Rubio’s 55/25 favorability makes him the second most popular of the candidates in New Hampshire. 

The only candidate to drop more than one point over the last couple months in the Granite State is Carly Fiorina. In August she was in third place at 10%, but now she’s dropped to 7th place at 7%. Fiorina remains popular- her 53/25 favorability rating puts her in the company of Carson and Rubio as the only ones over 50% in New Hampshire. But when it comes to who people actually want for the nomination GOP voters are finding other options more compelling. 

There’s another group of candidates whose support for the nomination hasn’t gone up much in the last couple months but who have improvement in their favorability numbers that could equate to at least the possibility of increased support further down the line. Chris Christie’s improved 17 points from -11 (35/46) to +6 (45/39). Rand Paul’s gone up 16 points from -15 (34/49) to +1 (41/40). And Jeb Bush has seen a 10 point improvement from -3 (38/41) to +7 (45/38).

John Kasich’s campaign seems to be sputtering a little bit. He was in 2nd place at 11% in August and now finds himself in 4th place at a similar 10%. His favorability numbers have dropped from +27 (49/22) to +16 (45/29). He does lead the poll of who Democrats would support for the Republican nomination with 22% to 17% for Donald Trump, 10% for Jeb Bush, 7% for Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina, 5% each for Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, and 4% for Rand Paul. But that popularity with Democrats may help explain why Kasich is polling at 1% with voters who identify themselves as ‘very conservative.’

Among Democrats saying they want someone to be the Republican nominee because they actually like the person Kasich gets 34% to 10% each for Christie and Fiorina. Among Democrats saying they want someone to be the Republican nominee because they think it would be easier to defeat that person, Trump gets 50% to 15% for Bush, and 10% for Cruz.

Full results here

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