Monmouth Poll: For Christie in New Hampshire, a Sign of Life

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Holds Election Night Party

Seemingly running in place in many of the summer and fall presidential polls, Gov. Chris Christie now shows at least some forward motion in New Hampshire, that state where the New Jersey governor continues to concentrate his biggest retail presence, according to today’s Monmouth University Poll.

Billionaire Donald Trump maintains his sizable lead in the Granite State’s GOP Primary, while neurosurgeon Ben Carson holds onto second place, but the latest Monmouth University Poll recorded a new third place occupant – Marco Rubio, rising on the strength, apparently, of his debate performance last week.  GOP primary voters are also unhappy with the recent budget deal reached by Congress, and their ire is directed at both parties, the poll finds.

One-in-four (26%) likely GOP primary voters in New Hampshire continue to back Trump for the presidential nomination. Carson (16%) places second and Rubio (13%) comes in third, followed closely by Ohio Governor John Kasich (11%).  Other contenders include Ted Cruz (9%), Jeb Bush (7%), Carly Fiorina (5%), Chris Christie (5%), and Rand Paul (3%).  None of the other six candidates included in the poll registers higher than 1%.

Most of these results are within a few points of each candidates’ vote share back in September, except for Rubio whose support has tripled from 4%.  In the past two months, Christie’s support has increased by 3 points, while support for Trump and Fiorina have each decreased by 2 points, all within the survey’s margin of error. No other candidate’s vote share changed by more than one percentage point since September.  When voters’ first and second choices are combined, Trump (35%), Carson (31%), and Rubio (27%) clearly stand out from the rest of the field, including Kasich (18%), Cruz (18%), Bush (17%), Fiorina (14%), and Christie (13%).

Other than Rubio’s rise, “the contours of the New Hampshire primary have not shifted significantly since September,” according to the poll.  There are few differences in levels of support among different demographic groups, although Carson actually does slightly better among those under the age of 50 (22%) than he does among older voters (13%).  Carson also does better with women (20%) than men (12%), while Kasich does better with men (15%) than women (6%).

“Marco Rubio’s standout performance in the last debate seems to have paid dividends in a contest that was supposed to be dominated by his former mentor Jeb Bush,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch.  “Rubio’s new-found support seems to be a little softer than for other candidates at the front of the pack, but it is not particularly solid for anybody.”

Currently, only 1-in-5 (20%) likely primary voters say they are completely decided on who they will support, 39% say they have a strong preference but are willing to consider other candidates, 22% have only a slight preference, and 19% say they are really undecided.  Just 1-in-3 voters say they would be very (11%) or somewhat (21%) unhappy if their chosen candidate did not win the Republican nomination.  Half (50%) say they would be okay with a different outcome and 18% say their feeling would depend on who becomes the nominee.  Among the front-runners, Rubio supporters (18%) are the least likely to feel unhappy if someone else won the nomination.

There have been some shifts in fundamental voter opinion of the candidates over the past two months, the poll finds. Carson continues to enjoy the best ratings in the field, but he is now joined by the surging Rubio who has very similar numbers.  Carson’s 64% favorable and 19% unfavorable rating is slightly off his 73% – 10% high mark in September.  Rubio’s 62% favorable and 19% unfavorable rating marks an increase from his already solid 50% – 26% showing two months ago.

Trump’s 49% favorable and 43% unfavorable rating is somewhat less positive than his 54% – 36% rating in September.  In fact, most of the leading candidates have seen their ratings slip.  This includes slight declines for Fiorina (54% favorable and 26% unfavorable now, compared to 58% – 21% in September) and Cruz (46% – 32% now, compared to 50% – 28%), and much larger drops for John Kasich (45% – 31% now, compared to 54% – 19%) and Paul (29% – 51% now, compared to 37% – 43%).

Two exceptions to this pattern are Bush and Christie.  Bush’s current rating of 44% favorable and 42% unfavorable is a slight improvement over his 39% – 45% showing in September.  Christie’s rating has improved much more dramatically, now standing at a very positive 54% favorable and 32% unfavorable, compared to a negative 38% – 46% result two months ago.

“Candidate ratings can be a leading indicator for potential shifts in the vote choice.  These results could be good news for Christie and bad news for Kasich.  However, both have to contend with a surging Rubio,” said Murray

The Monmouth University Poll also found that 54% of likely Republican primary voters are aware of the federal budget plan that was passed by Congress last week. Among this group, just 29% approve of the deal and 58% disapprove.  A majority (62%) feels that Congressional Democrats did not compromise enough in reaching this deal.  Only 19% say the Democrats compromised the right amount and 9% say they compromised too much.  Likely voters in the Granite State primary are also dissatisfied with Congressional Republicans.  Over half (53%) say GOP members of Congress compromised too much to get this deal, compared to 24% who say they compromised the right amount and 16% who say they compromised too little.

Monmouth University conducted the poll by telephone from October 29 to November 1, with 410 New Hampshire voters likely to vote in the Republican presidential primary.  This sample has a margin of error of +4.8 percent.  The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch.

Monmouth Poll: For Christie in New Hampshire, a Sign of Life