Romney on Top as Gingrich & Paul Battle for Second Place in N.H.

Newt Gingrich is moving up in New Hampshire, but is still far behind front-runner Mitt Romney who, with 41 percent of likely voters in his camp, is holding the line with the GOP field in the Granite state, according to a Suffolk University/7NEWS (WHDH TV) poll of likely voters in New Hampshire’s GOP presidential primary.

Romney (41 percent) and Ron Paul (14 percent) maintained the same levels of support they had in the Suffolk University poll conducted in September, while Newt Gingrich jumped from 4 percent to 14 percent. All other candidates were in single digits, including Jon Huntsman (9 percent), Herman Cain (8 percent), Rick Santorum (3 percent), Rick Perry (2 percent) and Michele Bachmann (1 percent).

Nine percent of likely GOP primary voters are undecided in New Hampshire, and more than half are somewhat (43 percent) or very (9 percent) likely to change their minds before the Primary.

“Every Republican candidate that surges in the national polls hits a firewall in New Hampshire,” said David Paleologos, director of Suffolk University’s Political Research Center. “We’ve seen this with surges from Bachmann, Perry, Cain and now Gingrich. A Romney loss here is highly improbable, and Romney’s best insurance policy in New Hampshire is Ron Paul, whose fixed support takes 14 percent off the table.”

When likely GOP voters were asked which Republican candidate would do best against Barack Obama in a debate, Gingrich tied Romney with 34 percent. And Romney (83 percent) and Gingrich (52 percent) were the only two seen as “presidential.”

Romney’s campaign received a boost this past weekend when U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire endorsed the former Massachusetts governor, enhancing Romney’s conservative bona fides. The endorsement occurred after two-thirds of the surveys were completed in the field.

Romney’s 41 percent number improved to 47 percent among respondents ages 55 and up, 49 percent among voters who said they were unlikely to change their mind, and 59 percent among voters in Rockingham county, one of the largest counties in the southeast corner of New Hampshire, which touches Massachusetts.

Among “second choice” votes, Romney led Gingrich 20 percent to 19 percent, suggesting that if other candidates drop, both Romney and Gingrich will benefit equally. This would secure a Romney win. Among Cain voters, Romney led Gingrich 31 percent to 16 percent as a second choice, and among Huntsman voters, Romney led Gingrich 51 percent to 5 percent.

Gingrich’s strongest demographic was among self identified conservatives, where he captured 20 percent of likely voters.

In an open question, the Suffolk University survey asked respondents to give a reason why 75 percent of national Republican likely voters were holding back from supporting Mitt Romney. The reasons offered were as follows:

  • 16 percent: Because of his Mormon religion
  • 10 percent: Flip-flops on issues
  • 10 percent: His health care plan
  • 10 percent: Too many other candidates right now
  • 9 percent: Not conservative enough
  • 3 percent: He is boring
  • 3 percent: People are unsure of him
  • 2 percent: Not a real Republican
  • 2 percent: Because he is from Massachusetts

“This is a significant finding, coming from Romney’s best early state,” said Paleologos. “Both Romney and non-Romney voters agree that the going will be tough in many other state primaries and caucuses because they believe other Republican voters are holding back due to concerns in areas including religion, inconsistency and health care.”

The Republican Primary voters polled said that the top issues facing the country are jobs and the economy (51 percent) and reducing the national debt (15 percent). A majority of respondents felt the near-universal health care bill passed by Democrats last year should be repealed (52 percent) or modified (30 percent).


The statewide survey of 400 likely voters in New Hampshire’s Republican Presidential Primary was conducted Nov. 16-20, 2011, using live telephone interviews. The margin of error is +/-4.9 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. Marginals and full cross-tabulation data will be posted at 11 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21, 2011, on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310.