Trump Maintains Lead in NH; Dem Race Close

| Tom Jensen

PPP’s newest New Hampshire poll finds Donald Trump leading in the state by 14 points. Trump’s position in the state has been steady over the last three months- we found him at 28% in mid-October, 27% in early December, and we find him at 29% this month. 5 other candidates are in double digits but pretty closely clustered and all well behind Trump- Marco Rubio at 15%, Chris Christie and John Kasich at 11%, and Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz at 10%. Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina at 4%, Rand Paul at 3%, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum at 1%, and Jim Gilmore with less than 1% round out the field. 

Trump actually ranks 8th out of the 12 candidates in New Hampshire in net favorability with only 49% of GOP voters seeing him favorably to 44% with a negative opinion. But his support has the greatest intensity among the top level candidates- 68% of his supporters say they’re firmly committed to him compared to 63% for Cruz, 58% for Bush, 46% for Rubio, 40% for Christie, and just 34% for Kasich on that metric. Looking at the race just among those who say their mind is totally made up, Trump’s support goes up to 38% to 13% for Rubio, 12% for Cruz, 11% for Bush, 9% for Christie, and 7% for Kasich.

The establishment split is what’s keeping Trump in such a good position. In a pared down field of the candidates generally viewed as the top 3 in the overall race Trump would lead Rubio by just 2 points, 36/34, with Cruz back at 19%. And Trump trails Rubio 52/40 and Cruz 46/39 in head to head match ups while leading Bush just 46/45. But as long as Rubio and Christie and Kasich and Bush are all in the race they’re splitting the vote enough to let Trump’s passionate base give him a big lead.

The candidates with the biggest gains since our last poll in early December are Bush (up 5 points from 5% to 10%), Rubio (up 4 points from 11% to 15), and Kasich (up 3 points from 8% to 11%). Bush and Kasich have also had notable gains in their favorability ratings. Bush has gone from negative territory last month (38/45) to positive ground (44/42). It may not sound like much but it’s been a long time since we found Bush with an above water favorability anywhere. Kasich’s improved from 38/35 to 46/30.

The bottom’s dropped out on Ben Carson whose support has gone from 9% to 4% and whose favorability has gone from 52/30 to 48/34. Interestingly the other candidate whose seen his support drop is Ted Cruz, who’s gone from 13% to 10% with his favorability remaining steady at 54/29 this month to 53/28 last month. Cruz is still pretty well positioned overall though. He’s the most frequent second choice of voters in the state at 17% to 11% each for Bush and Rubio, and 10% for Christie. More importantly he’s the overwhelming back up pick of Trump supporters at 37% to 10% for Rubio with no one else in double digits. If Cruz wins Iowa and it causes Trump voters to be demoralized, he’s easily the candidate most likely to see his supporters come their way. 

A couple of notes on things in the news:

-27% of GOP primary voters in the state say they support the Oregon protesters who have taken over a federal building in Oregon to 39% who say they oppose them and 34% who don’t have an opinion either way. Cruz voters (50/24) are strongly in favor of their efforts while Trump voters (32/33) are pretty evenly divided. Rubio (25/43), Kasich (20/41), Christie (20/38), and Bush (6/75) voters all express strong opposition to the protests.

-20% of GOP primary voters in the state say they think Obama is going to take all Americans’ guns away during his final year in office to 64% who think he will not. Rubio voters (29%) are actually most likely to have this belief followed by 25% of Trump’s, 24% each of Cruz and Christie’s, then all the way down to 10% of Kasich’s and 9% of Bush’s.

-52% of GOP primary voters say they’re offended by bilingual phone menus, to 40% who say they aren’t. This is actually a big dividing line in the GOP race. Among voters who aren’t offended by having to press 1 for English and 2 for Spanish, the race is tied with Rubio and Trump each at 19%, Bush at 14%, Kasich at 13%, Christie at 11%, and Cruz at just 6%. But among voters who are offended by such things, Trump leads with an overwhelming 36% to 13% for Cruz, 12% for Christie, 11% for Rubio, 8% for Kasich, and just 6% for Bush. 

Things remain extremely close on the Democratic side, with Hillary Clinton at 47% to 44% for Bernie Sanders, and 3% for Martin O’Malley. There’s an incredible divide between the Democrats and independents planning to vote in the primary- Clinton leads Sanders 55/36 with Democrats, but Sanders almost completely cancels that out with a 59/29 advantage among non-Democrats planning to vote in the primary. That’s just one of several big dividers in the Democratic race- Clinton leads 51/38 with women while Sanders leads 50/42 with men, and Clinton leads 54/36 with seniors while Sanders is up 46/45 with everyone else.

Sanders is more broadly popular than Clinton, with an 85/8 favorability rating to her 69/24 standing. Clinton’s supporters are a little more committed though with 68% of them saying they will definitely vote for her to 62% of Sanders’ voters who say they’re firmly with him.

Full results here

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