Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (14 percent) leads businessman Donald Trump (11 percent) in the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary contest, according to a poll from the Suffolk University Political Research Center.
With the primary seven months away, the rest of the crowded GOP field remains in single digits, with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at 8 percent; Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) 7 percent; retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, 6 percent; and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, 5 percent. Following closely behind Christie were Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas); and businesswoman Carly Fiorina, who were tied at 4 percent each. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Ohio Gov. John Kasich were tied at 2 percent, while six other candidates, including former New York Gov. George Pataki, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich combined for 4 percent. A significant 29 percent were undecided.
“Jeb Bush continues to lead, but Donald Trump has emerged as an anti-Jeb Bush alternative in New Hampshire,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “Many of those who like Trump are voting for him, and although many more dislike him, the unfavorables are split up among many other candidates. It’s the politics of plurality.”
Trump repeatedly attacked Bush on issues like immigration and common core educational standards immediately after formally declaring his candidacy a week ago.
Among self-identified conservatives, Trump (13 percent) topped the field by besting Walker (11 percent) and Bush (10 percent). Among self-identified moderates, Bush (20 percent) crushed all opponents, with Trump (9 percent) coming in a distant second.
“The large field of candidates is working for Trump now, but the field will winnow in August with the first of many televised Republican debates,” said Paleologos. “And the question is, who among the growing list of candidates will be selected to participate.”
When New Hampshire GOP primary voters were given the opportunity to approve or deny each candidate for an appearance on the debate stage, 10 candidates were chosen ahead of Trump, as follows:
- Bush (83 percent)
- Rubio (81 percent)
- Walker (74 percent)
- Paul (72 percent)
- Cruz (71 percent)
- Perry (71 percent)
- Christie (68 percent)
- Fiorina (65 percent)
- Huckabee (64 percent)
- Santorum (63 percent)
- Trump (60 percent)
- Carson (59 percent)
- Graham (55 percent)
- Jindal (54 percent)
- Kasich (52 percent)
- Pataki (52 percent)
- Ehrlich (31 percent)
- Mark Everson, former government administrator (30 percent)
- Jim Gilmore, former Virginia governor (28 percent)
Overall, 49 percent of likely voters had an unfavorable opinion of Trump, while 37 percent viewed him positively. Among those favorable to Trump, 89 percent want him in the debates, but among those unfavorable to him, 32 percent want him in.
“This is where Trump’s unfavorability is limiting people’s tolerance to hear what he has to say, and voters would rather see other candidates in the debate,” said Paleologos. “Trump’s controversial candidacy is being constructed in a way that gives him visibility and exposure in the short term but may also limit his growth in the long run, like a glass ceiling.”
Republican satisfaction with the GOP candidates has grown since March. More than 69 percent of Republican primary voters are very or somewhat satisfied with the field of candidates, compared to 55 percent in Suffolk University’s March poll.
Positives for Rubio
Like Bush, Rubio scored high in many polling areas: He polled in fourth place at 7 percent behind Bush, Trump and Walker; he was the second choice behind Bush for the upcoming televised debates; he trailed only Bush for second-choice votes among all the candidates; and he had the highest favorable/unfavorable rating of all of the candidates (61 percent favorable – 14 percent unfavorable), topping Bush’s 58 percent favorable – 26 percent unfavorable.
Immigration and other issues
Voters expressed strong views on the immigration issue. Asked if illegal immigration is an “act of love,” 81 percent strongly or somewhat disagreed, while 12 percent strongly agreed or somewhat agreed.
The top issues that Republican primary voters want candidates addressing, in descending order, included terrorists groups/ISIS (91 percent), reducing the national debt (90 percent), health care (87 percent), taxes (86 percent), immigration (86 percent), job creation (86 percent), and stopping Iran from developing a nuclear bomb (84 percent).
History of Suffolk Research in New Hampshire
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 percent. In the 2012 New Hampshire Republican presidential primary, the final Suffolk poll correctly predicted the 1-2-3 order of finish (Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Jon Huntsman) among the 33 listed GOP candidates on the ballot.
The statewide survey of 500 likely New Hampshire Republican presidential primary voters was conducted June 18-22, 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 available on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310.