New Poll Shows N.H. Voters Favor Clinton, Van Ostern

Oct 14, 2016

A WBUR poll of likely voters in New Hampshire finds Democrat Hillary Clinton still leads Republican Donald Trump, but unlike in many other states, where her lead has gotten a bit more comfortable, her lead in New Hampshire has narrowed. For more on the poll, we turn to Steve Koczela, president of MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the survey for WBUR. He spoke with NHPR's All Things Considered host Peter Biello.

By how much does Hillary Clinton lead Donald Trump—and what do you think this shift says about the state of the campaigns?

Our poll found Hillary Clinton leading by three points when you include all four candidates. When you narrow it down to Clinton or Trump, her lead is a bit bigger at five points.

The poll’s a bit different from what we’ve seen nationally and in other states. In most places since the first couple debates have gone by, her lead’s a bit bigger than this, but in New Hampshire, she’s a bit closer in the polls I’ve seen recently.

There’s a couple possible explanations for this:  that New Hampshire is the only swing state where Trump’s advertising spending actually exceeds Clinton’s. So that’s one possible thing to look at.

Another one is just that there is some reordering of states. Although New Hampshire over the last couple of cycles has been very close to the national number in terms of the margin between the Democrat and Republican, there have been some other states where it seems like those kinds of relationships are a bit weaker than they’ve been just in recent cycles. So New Hampshire could be one of those.

It’s also worth mentioning that, in 2012 at least, the polls somewhat underestimated the margins of the Democrats, so she may actually be doing a bit better than this when the votes are actually counted.

The poll has also been tracking how favorably voters view these two candidates. What did it find this time?

The dynamic is actually fairly similar in the sense that neither one of these candidates is viewed very favorably. Forty percent have a favorable view of Hillary Clinton, 34 have a favorable view of Donald Trump.

Then when you ask them specific questions, the numbers get even worse. When you ask whether Hillary Clinton is honest and trustworthy, we’re looking at 28 percent. And the key question of whether Donald Trump is a role model for young people—the question that came up in the senate debate a couple weeks ago—13 percent say Donald Trump is a role model for young people. Only 33 percent of his own supporters say that.

So there’s a sense in which people’s views of the candidates are inclusive of all of their flaws already. You’re not teaching anyone anything new by telling them Donald Trump is not a role model or Hillary Clinton is not honest and trustworthy.

Let’s talk about that senate race. The poll also found that the race has tightened. Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan is challenging incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte. That race is very close.

Yes, and that follows a long string of recent polls that have in most cases found this race very close. This poll actually finds it tied with each candidate having 47 percent of the vote.

A few undecided voters are left, but this one, I think, is very close by most estimations.

The poll also asked likely voters whether they thought it was right for Kelly Ayotte to withdraw her support from Donald Trump after a video came to light in which Trump is seen casually talking about sexually assaulting women. Thirty-percent of people say she should have continued to support him. To what extent do you think this decision will be a problem for her?

About three-quarters have seen the video, so there’s a lot of awareness that precipitated these questions. By about a two-to-one margin, voters think the way that Kelly Ayotte approached it was the right decision. There’s a partisan split, obviously, or perhaps not obviously or not surprisingly. Democrats, by an overwhelming margin, say it was not the right decision. Republicans are actually pretty evenly divided and then independents also support her decision to withdraw support.

But Kelly Ayotte maintains very strong numbers among registered Republicans. It suggests that any damage she may have anticipated in terms of Republicans who were going to vote for Trump who would ditch their support for her—it doesn’t seem like it has happened. She still has 83 percent of Republicans supporting her, which is about the same number of her own partisans as Maggie Hassan has supporting her.

And perhaps the most surprising result of this poll is that Democrat Colin Van Ostern has pulled ahead of Republican Chris Sununu. Last time we spoke, we talked about how Van Ostern had considerably less name recognition than Sununu, who comes from a prominent New Hampshire political family. Has Van Ostern closed the name-recognition gap?

Van Ostern is a bit better-known now than he has been. His favorable and unfavorable numbers really haven’t changed, but a few more people have heard of him and just haven’t made up their mind yet about how they feel about him. The big shift, though, really came in Chris Sununu’s numbers, where, in the poll that we did back in late September, his favorable and unfavorable numbers were about the same—36 percent favorable, 35 percent unfavorable.

Fast-forward to the poll we just completed and now he’s got by a 12-point margin in voters who are more likely to view him unfavorably, so those numbers have really gone down.

Still, I would take from the body of polls that have been done on this race that it’s a very close contest. Some have it on one side or the other by a couple of points, and this is another one, given how many people still have to make up their mind about these candidates. It could very much go either way.