Sen. Bernie Sanders is beginning to show some life against Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire with the Democratic presidential primary there less than eight months away, according to a Suffolk University poll of likely Granite State Democratic primary voters.

Clinton, the former secretary of state, was the choice of 41 percent, followed by Vermonter Sanders (31 percent), Vice President Joe Biden (7 percent), former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (3 percent), and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee and former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia tied at 1 percent. Fifteen percent of likely Democrats were undecided.

“Most political observers felt that Hillary Clinton’s large early lead among Democratic voters would eventually shrunk a bit over time,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “But in New Hampshire right now, the lead has shrunk a lot, and this is a much different Democratic primary race than we are seeing in other states so far.”

The poll depicts a clear gender gap, with Clinton carrying women 47 percent to 28 percent but trailing Sanders among men 35 percent to 32 percent. Geographically, Clinton easily carried the central and highly populated southern counties of Rockingham and Hillsborough, but Sanders led 47 percent to 26 percent in the five counties in northern and western New Hampshire, including Cheshire, Coos, Grafton, and Sullivan counties—which border his home state—and Carroll County.

Although Clinton enjoys a 10-point lead statewide, she leads Sanders 38 percent to 35 percent among those who “know both” of the candidates.

“This signals that Clinton is leading because more voters have never heard of Sanders,” said Paleologos. “Perhaps the most telling statistic is political philosophy.” Clinton led Sanders among self-identified moderates 46 percent to 26 percent, but among those identifying as liberal, the race is tied at 39 percent.

“Don’t underestimate the power of the progressive nerve network,” said Paleologos. “It is alive, far reaching, and it is translating into political muscle in the New Hampshire Democratic primary.”

In open-ended responses, the top reasons voters who do not support Clinton gave were that they “don’t trust her” (12 percent), that she’s “been around too long” (9 percent) and that they are “tired of Clintons” (6 percent). Some non-Clinton voters cited reasons more neutral or positive, including “need more info/too early” (13 percent) and “prefer/like Bernie Sanders” (10 percent).

When voters were asked about three issues that have dogged Clinton, 51 percent said that the private email server and deletion of emails would hurt her in the general election; 48 percent cited the Clinton foundation donations; and nearly 46 percent pointed to Benghazi as hurting her if she were the Democratic nominee.

Among 15 possibilities, the top issues that likely voters wanted candidates talking a lot about were health care (90 percent), job creation (88 percent), energy (88 percent), income inequality (85 percent) and the nation’s infrastructure (82 percent).

Polling history

In the 2014 New Hampshire general election, the final Suffolk University poll predicted a 3-point win for Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen over Republican Scott Brown; Shaheen won by 3 points. In the last contested Democratic primary for president in New Hampshire, in 2008, both Suffolk bellwether polls correctly predicted a Hillary Clinton win, while all other polling indicated a comfortable win for Barack Obama. Clinton won by nearly 3 points.

Methodology

The statewide survey of 500 likely voters in New Hampshire’s Democratic presidential primary was conducted June 11-15, 2015, using live telephone interviews and a split sample of landline and cell phone numbers. The margin of error is +/-4.4 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. Marginals and full cross-tabulation data are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310.