Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is a clear front-runner in New Hampshire, while low favorability ratings from Granite State voters have left Donald Trump back with a crowded pack of Republican presidential hopefuls, according to a Suffolk University/7News (WHDH-TV) poll of likely voters nine months before the New Hampshire Primary.
Romney dominates the field of 18 names and is favored by 35 percent of those polled. The highest percentage that any possible opponent secured was in the single digits. Among Granite State Republican Primary voters, Romney’s favorable rating is a commanding 65 percent, while 22 percent of respondents view him unfavorably.
“Today, Mitt Romney is the clear front-runner in the New Hampshire Republican Primary – but front-runner status has its drawbacks,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “He will quickly become the target, and like Hillary Clinton a year before the 2008 party primaries, being positioned as the ‘inevitable’ nominee is often followed by a decline in the polls.”
Donald Trump, Rudolph Giuliani and Ron Paul all received 8 percent in the Suffolk University/7News poll of New Hampshire primary voters. Sarah Palin garners 7 percent; Mike Huckabee, 6 percent; and Tim Pawlenty, 5 percent. Michele Bachmann gets 3 percent, as does Newt Gingrich. Other potential candidates divvy up the rest, and 13 percent of respondents remain undecided.
Trump received a dismal 27 percent favorable rating, while 56 percent of respondents view him unfavorably. Sarah Palin’s unfavorable rate also was high, but at 46 percent was much less than Trump’s, and 42 percent of those polled viewed her favorably.
On the issue of health care, 86 percent of likely Republican Primary voters felt that universal health care should be repealed (52 percent) or modified (34 percent). Despite this, a majority of respondents (53 percent) said that Romney’s involvement in helping to pass Massachusetts’ universal health care law would not affect their decision to vote for him.
“New Hampshire Republicans tend to look at issues a bit differently than others in the country, so Romney’s not out of the woods on the health care issue,” Paleologos said. “But, given the influence of New Hampshire’s Presidential Primary and that independents and new voters who register at the polls may choose a Republican ballot, it’s beneficial to Mitt Romney that these voters are not holding his Massachusetts health care legacy against him.”
Overall, only 39 percent of respondents believed that Trump will become an official candidate for president. In addition, 59 percent said that the White House’s release of President Barack Obama’s long-form birth certificate has put the issue of Obama’s citizenship to rest.
Compared to Trump, Obama did far better among likely Republican primary voters, with a 36 percent favorable rating, even though only 12 percent said the country was heading in the right direction and 84 percent said it’s on the wrong track. And, disregarding their personal presidential preferences, 28 percent of Republican Primary voters said they expect Obama will be the next president, 20 percent said Romney, 8 percent Trump, and 4 percent Huckabee. Twelve percent chose one of the other 15 candidates, and 30 percent weren’t sure.
“The strong perception in New Hampshire– even among likely Republican voters – is that Barack Obama will stay in the White House,” said Paleologos.
A number of Republicans have ruled out a run for President in 2012. However, if he were to run, the poll shows Gen. Colin Powell would vault to the front of the GOP pack. Some 30 percent said they would support Powell over the candidate they currently support, followed by 16 percent who would switch to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Powell also received a 65 percent favorable rating, the same as Mitt Romney’s.
The top issues facing the country were jobs and the economy (37 percent) and reducing the national debt (28 percent). On reducing the deficit, Republican Primary voters were against raising taxes almost 2-1 (63 percent agree vs. 32 percent disagree), and split over whether cutting or changing entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security would be necessary to help pay down the debt (48 percent agree vs. 45 percent disagree).
The statewide survey of 400 likely voters in New Hampshire’s Republican Presidential Primary was conducted April 30-May 2, 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 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 4, 2011, on the Suffolk University Political Research Center Web site. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310, firstname.lastname@example.org.