UMass Poll results place Sanders, Trump at top going into NH primary

By Brendan Deady

Phil Roeder/Flickr
Phil Roeder/Flickr

A recent University of Massachusetts/WBZ poll of likely New Hampshire primary voters indicates that businessman Donald Trump and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders hold considerable leads over their opponents heading into the New Hampshire primary this Tuesday.

The online survey partially conducted by UMass Poll, a polling service based in the political science department on campus, revealed that Sanders leads former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton 58 percent to 35 percent among likely Democratic voters when considering “leaners.” Leaners are voters who did not choose a candidate definitively but indicated a preference for one over other challengers.

Despite Sanders’s 23-point lead over Clinton, 51 percent of likely Democratic voters still believed that Clinton would end up winning the primary nomination for their party. Sanders won 90 percent of the support from likely Democratic voters aged between 18 and 29. Clinton’s largest support group came from respondents aged 45 or older.

Among GOP candidates, Trump leads Florida Senator Marco Rubio 35 to 15 percent of the vote, with leaners considered. Ohio Governor John Kasich placed third with 11 percent and holds a slim lead over Sen. Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush, who earned the support of nine and eight percent of voters, respectively.

Despite Trump’s 20 point lead, based on the results of the survey some uncertainty remains regarding who will place first at the end of Tuesday night.

Forty-eight percent of likely Republican voters who responded to the survey indicated that they might vote for another candidate on election day. Sen. Cruz leads the pack of second-choice candidates with 25 percent of the vote, Bush and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie tied for second with 14 percent. Rubio placed third with 12 percent of the vote, one percentage point over Trump.

When asked which candidate would likely win the primary election for the Republican party, 50 percent of likely Republican voters believed Trump would end up being the party’s candidate.

The poll also asked the 800 participants, consisting of 390 likely Republican voters and 410 likely Democratic voters, a series of follow up questions regarding the candidates’ qualifications, honesty and what were the most important issues to the respondent.

Forty-two percent of all voters noted that whether the candidates best represented their beliefs was the most important factor in making their decision. Democratic voters indicated that a candidate’s honesty, trustworthiness and experience were the most important factors while Republican voters considered strong leadership more important than Democratic voters in making their decision.

The economy and jobs were voted as the most important issues among all respondents, receiving 22 percent of the vote from all likely voters. Twenty-four percent of likely Republican voters considered national security and terrorism as the most important issue compared to two percent of likely Democratic voters who believed the same. Eighteen percent of likely Democratic voters chose either social issues or income inequality as the most important issue to their vote compared to three percent of likely Republican voters.

Clinton received troubling numbers when likely voters from both parties graded the candidates’ degree of honesty. Among Democratic voters, 94 percent believed Sanders to be very or somewhat honest compared to 56 for Clinton. Ninety-three percent of likely Republican voters described Clinton as very or somewhat dishonest.

Among all voters, Bush and Sanders were considered the most qualified to be president, 61 and 60 percent, respectively, and found the two to be very or somewhat qualified.

Christie, who was recently endorsed by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, placed only behind Bush among Republican voters on who is very or somewhat qualified to lead, receiving 70 percent of votes despite only earning five percent of support leading into Tuesday.

Trump placed last among likely Republican voters with 52 percent of voters considering him qualified for the position as president. He is considered very unqualified by 31 percent of Republican voters, one percentage point lower than Sanders.

The respondents were also asked to write a descriptor they most closely associate with the individual candidates. Clinton was frequently described as a liar, dishonest, strong, “criminal” and leader. Sanders was described as old, a socialist and honest.

Trump was described as a blowhard, a**hole, bully, idiot and buffoon, as well as strong, honest and leader. Christie was described as fat, a bully, tough, loud and a leader. Cruz was associated most with the term scary, Canadian, conservative and dangerous.

The poll surveyed 800 likely primary voters between Jan. 29 and Feb. 2 and the respondents were matched on a sampling frame that considered age, race, gender, education, party affiliation and ideological interests. The margin of error among likely Republican voters was 7.1 percent, 6.6 percent among likely Democrats and 4.9 percent among all voters.

Brendan Deady can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @bdeady26.