Real estate tycoon Donald Trump has increased his already sizable lead in the New Hampshire Republican primary while three candidates battle for second place according to this afternoon’s Monmouth University Poll. Only 1-in-3 voters have completely locked in their vote choice, while 1-in-4 are still very much up for grabs. Another 4-in-10 voters have a strong candidate preference but are willing to keep their options open.
About 1-in-3 (32%) likely GOP primary voters in New Hampshire currently back Donald Trump for the presidential nomination, up from 26% in November. The next tier of candidates includes Ted Cruz (14%), John Kasich (14%), and Marco Rubio (12%), with Chris Christie (8%), Carly Fiorina (5%), Jeb Bush (4%), Rand Paul (4%), and Ben Carson (3%) trailing behind. While the order of placement has shifted, all of these candidates are within a few percentage points of their showing two months ago, with Cruz showing the biggest gain of the second tier – 5 points since November. The only candidate who experienced a substantial fall in fortunes is Carson – who has plummeted from 16%. None of the other three candidates included in the poll registers higher than 1%.
One month before New Hampshire heads to the polls, 1-in-3 (32%) likely Republican voters say they are completely decided on who they will support, which is up from 20% in November. Trump supporters (46%) are the most likely to say their candidate choice is completely locked in.
Another 42% of the electorate say they have a strong preference but are willing to consider other candidates. The remaining 1-in-4 say they either have only a slight preference (15%) or are really undecided (12%), which is down from 4-in-10 who were similarly uncommitted two months ago. Combining voters’ first and second choices, Trump has the potential support of 40% of likely voters and Cruz may be able to get up to 35% support, compared to 23% for Rubio, 20% for Kasich, 20% for Christie, 13% for Bush, and 11% for Fiorina.
“As Granite State voters start to firm up their decision, it’s looking more and more unlikely that Trump will be toppled from his perch. The real fight is for second place,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.
New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary is known as the ultimate arena for retail politics. Indeed, 4-in-10 (41%) likely Republican voters report having seen at least one of the presidential candidates in person. That’s up from 15% in July. Fiorina (14%), Christie (14%), Trump (13%), Bush (11%), Kasich (11%), and Rubio (10%) have been the biggest draws. Less than 1-in-10 voters have attended a Cruz (7%), Paul (5%), or Carson (5%) event. Interestingly, a number of Republican primary voters also say they have seen Democrats Hillary Clinton (5%) and Bernie Sanders (3%) in the flesh.
Overall, New Hampshire voters hold a generally favorable opinion of the Republican field and the majority would be able to live with a variety of candidates becoming the GOP nominee. This includes Trump (26% would feel enthusiastic and 30% satisfied), Cruz (20% enthusiastic and 44% satisfied), Rubio (13% enthusiastic and 51% satisfied), or Christie (9% enthusiastic and 47% satisfied).
Most candidates have seen only minor shifts in fundamental voter opinion of them over the past two months. Ted Cruz’s ratings have gone up to 57% favorable (from 46% in November) and 24% negative (from 32%). Views of Donald Trump (52% favorable to 40% unfavorable) have ticked up slightly, while views of Marco Rubio (56% favorable to 28% unfavorable) have dipped slightly.
Views of Chris Christie (50% favorable to 36% unfavorable) have gone down a bit but he still holds onto the net positive margin he achieved in November after turning around prior negative ratings. Voter opinion of John Kasich (43% favorable to 32% unfavorable) has remained stable over the past two months. Jeb Bush (39% favorable to 47% unfavorable) continues to hold the only net negative rating among the race’s top contenders. The candidate who has suffered the most significant downturn in voter opinion, though, is Ben Carson (46% favorable to 34% unfavorable), whose favorable number has dropped by 27 percentage points since September.
The Monmouth University Poll also found that the top issue for Granite State Republicans in making their vote decision is national security and terrorism (35% first choice / 20% second choice), followed by the economy and jobs (20% first choice / 21% second choice). The next tier of issue concerns includes taxes and government spending (13% first choice / 14% second choice) and immigration (8% first choice / 10% second choice). Gun ownership (4% / 9%), health care (4% / 6%), social issues (3% / 6%), education (2% / 3%), and drug addiction (1% / 1%) rank much farther down the list.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from January 7 to 10, 2016 with 414 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, NJ.