WMUR poll: Trump's strong lead continues; Cruz jumps to second …
There is no change at the top of the Republican presidential field, but with less than three weeks remaining in the 2016 New Hampshire first-in-the-nation primary campaign, there is both a new runner-up and a tie for third place. Click to watch News 9’s coverage
New York businessman Donald Trump, for the first time, has a 20 percentage point lead in the Granite State, according to the latest WMUR/CNN New Hampshire Primary Poll. But U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has supplanted U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in second place, while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has moved up to tie Rubio for third. Trump has led WMUR s presidential polling since July, and in each succeeding poll his support has grown.
The latest poll shows him with the support of 34 percent of likely GOP primary voters, up by two percentage points since an early December WMUR/CNN poll. Cruz has jumped from 6 percent in December to 14 percent, while Bush has edged up from 8 percent to 10 percent. At the same time, Rubio has dropped from 14 percent to 10 percent and is in a dead heat with his fellow Floridian for third place. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was third in December at 9 percent, has slipped downward to 6 percent, where he is now tied with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ohio Gov. John Kasich Christie for fourth place. Former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina draws the support of 4 percent, with retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson at 3 percent and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at 1 percent. Six percent of those polled remain undecided.
The University of New Hampshire Survey Center polled 414 likely Republican primary voters Jan. 13-18 and says the results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percent. View the full poll results here. According to the survey center, there is still plenty of room for change in the final weeks of the GOP race.
In typical New Hampshire fashion, even with the Feb. 9 primary rapidly approaching, only 31 percent of those polled said they have definitely decided on a candidate, while 26 percent are leaning in favor of a candidate and 43 percent have not yet made a final decision. Survey center director Andrew Smith said that in the so-called horse race question, likely voters are asked who they would support if the election were today. The percentages for the candidates include those who are leaning toward supporting each candidate, even though they may not have made a final, definite decision on who they will vote for on Feb. 9. As a result, 43 percent have not made a final decision who they will support, while 6 percent could not say who they would vote for if the election were held today, Smith said.
Smith said that historically, 35 to 40 percent of New Hampshire voters make up their minds in the three days before the primary. In 2012, Smith said, 21 percent of Republican voters said they made up their minds on the day of the election. While Trump leads the field, he also leads the dubious category of being the candidate most voters would not vote for under any circumstances, named by 30 percent. Bush follows at 18 percent, with Christie at 9 percent. Cruz s rise in New Hampshire is at least partially attributable to an improvement in the way voters view him. He is viewed favorably by 55 percent of those polled, while 30 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him.
That net favorability rating of plus 25 percent is up significantly from a plus 10 percent rating in December and is now a close second to Rubio, who is viewed favorably by 58 percent and unfavorably by 32 percent, for a net favorability of plus 26 percent. Smith pointed out that Cruz is also extremely popular among listeners of conservative talk radio, who, Smith said, make up about 20 percent of the Republican primary electorate. Trump is viewed favorably by 54 percent of those polled and unfavorably by 40 percent. Bush continues to struggle in this category, viewed favorably by 40 percent and unfavorably by 51 percent.
Republican voters opinion of Christie has dropped since December, when he was viewed favorably by 53 percent and unfavorably by 34 percent. Currently, after being targeted with negative advertising by a political action committee supporting Bush, 41 percent of those polled have a favorable opinion of Christie and 47 percent view him unfavorably. Paul has a negative 15 percent net favorability rating, the same as he had in December. Trump s lead is fueled by voters apparent high confidence his ability to deal with two top issues the economy and fighting ISIS. Asked who can best handle the economy, 48 percent named Trump, and no one else was close Cruz, Bush and Kasich were each named by 7 percent.
Trump was named by 32 percent as the candidate best able to handle ISIS, with Cruz second at 14 percent and Bush third at 12 percent. But voters are split on who has the personal characteristics and qualities a president should have. Trump and Cruz were each named by 16 percent, while 14 percent named Rubio and 13 percent named Bush. Foreign policy and national security remains the top voting issue for likely Republican primary voters, but it is not as dominant as it was in the December poll that was taken in the immediate wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.
In the new poll, 34 percent named foreign policy and national security policy as the top issue, down from 50 percent in December. Jobs and the economy was named by 26 percent, up from 18 percent in December. Immigration was named by 11 percent.