With the Democratic primary in New Hampshire less than four months away, Hillary Clinton (37 percent) and Bernie Sanders (35 percent) are deadlocked for the Democratic nomination for president when Joe Biden, who is still on the fence, is included in the tally, according to a Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll of likely Granite State Democratic primary voters.
However, 50 percent of those polled said that Biden should not enter the presidential race at this point, while 36 percent said that he should join the fray.
Appraising the debate
A majority of likely voters who watched the first televised Democratic debate Tuesday night said that former Secretary of State Clinton won (54 percent), while 24 percent said Sen. Sanders of Vermont prevailed.
“Clinton’s willingness to engage Sanders on gun control established her progressive credentials,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “And her debate performance solidified her standing with New Hampshire Democratic voters, who have her leading her closest rival for the first time since July.”
When likely voters were asked which Democrat has the best chance of defeating the eventual Republican nominee, 52 percent said Clinton, 16 percent chose Sanders, and 14 percent selected Biden. However, 60 percent of those who watched the debate said that Clinton has the best chance in the general election, compared to Sanders and Biden (13 percent each).
The poll showed Vice President Biden trailing the leaders with 11 percent, while former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, and Harvard Law Professor Larry Lessig combined for 5 percent, and 12 percent were undecided.
“The New Hampshire Democratic primary cuts by gender and geography,” said Paleologos. “In both scenarios, Biden’s presence or absence from the race factors in considerably.”
Clinton led Sanders among women 41 percent to 34 percent, with Biden favored by 7 percent. Among men, Sanders led Clinton 37 percent to 31 percent, with Biden’s support at 16 percent.
Sanders was strong in the counties bordering his home state of Vermont, leading Clinton 52 percent to 31 percent in the north/west region, with Biden capturing 8 percent. Clinton carried the central region and Rockingham County, while Hillsborough County was too close to call.
Forty-one percent of likely voters said that Clinton’s call for stricter gun control is closer to their own position, compared to 24 percent who were aligned with Sanders’ approach to the issue.
"Clinton's advantage over Sanders swelled among debate watchers asked about their stance on gun control, coming in at 50 percent to 29 percent," said Paleologos.
Clinton was seen as the third most trustworthy Democrat (22 percent), trailing both Sanders (33 percent) and Biden (23 percent). A majority of New Hampshire Democrats (62 percent) are unconcerned about the email server situation that has dogged Clinton for much of this year, but 36 percent of likely voters said they are bothered by it.
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. In the last contested Democratic presidential primary in New Hampshire in 2008, both Suffolk University bellwether polls correctly predicted a Hillary Clinton win, while all other polling indicated a comfortable win for Barack Obama.
The statewide survey of 500 likely voters in New Hampshire’s Democratic presidential primary was conducted Oct. 14-15, 2015, using live telephone interviews and a split sample of landline and cell phone numbers. The margin of error is +/-4.4 percentage points 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, firstname.lastname@example.org.