Though election results rarely resemble survey research data that is conducted more than a year in advance, early polling still provides benchmarks from which to begin analyzing a particular future campaign; in this case a presidential contest that promises to be, perhaps, the most wide open, interesting, and exciting political forum of the modern era.
As we stated many times during the immediate past pre-election coverage, 2016 campaign activity begins right after the mid-term voting concludes. Consistent with that axiom, the Purple Insights organization – the survey research arm of the Purple Strategies consulting firm – conducted a “first in the nation” presidential primary poll for Bloomberg Politics and St. Anselm’s College (NH). The survey was commissioned during the Nov. 12-18 period, interviewing 989 New Hampshire general election voters, including 407 previous Republican primary voters and 404 past Democratic primary voters.
Purple Insights tested 18 different political figures, 17 of whom have been linked to the upcoming presidential race. The only person not in the national category is New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R), who will stand for re-election in the next cycle. She scored a strong 47:27 percent favorability ratio, and a 28:42 percent positive to negative score among Democratic primary voters. The latter rating is actually quite good, particularly when compared to President Obama’s mark among Republican primary respondents of 8:89 percent, and former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney who registers a 14:80 percent within the Democratic cell sample.
Among the Democratic voters, Hillary Clinton scored an 88:9 percent favorability rating and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) recorded 61:11 percent, the next best total. Within the New Hampshire Republican polling universe, the most favorably viewed are Mitt Romney (77:21 percent), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) at 65:19 percent, and former vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) who posted 61:14 percent.
The primary ballot tests uncover several interesting points. First, when added to the potential candidate mix, former Gov. Romney places in the top position, but with only 30 percent of the vote, a low score for the immediate past national party nominee. Only Rand Paul places in double-digits against Romney of the 10 candidates sampled.
Second, without Romney in the mix, Sen. Paul and Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) are tied for first at 16 percent apiece, but closely followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the son and brother of two former presidents, who has 14 percent.
Third, and probably the biggest surprise showing on the Republican side, is the placing of Dr. Ben Carson, the former neurosurgeon and author, who has entered the contest. In the ballot test includes Romney, Dr. Carson commands 6 percent, good enough for fifth place among the 10 candidates tested, and ahead of such bigger Republican names as Rep. Ryan, former governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. In the grouping without Romney, Carson does even better, scoring nine percent and finishing fourth behind Paul, Christie, and Bush.
Turning to the Democratic polling, former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a wide lead, scoring 62 percent of the party loyalty vote. Sen. Warren is a distant second with 13 percent, and Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders is in third place with six percent. Vice President Joe Biden is in terrible shape, finishing a point behind Sanders.
In proposed general election match-ups, Clinton would fight to a draw within the New Hampshire electorate, 46-45 percent, over Romney. She would top Jeb Bush 47-39 percent; and beats Rand Paul 48-41 percent. None of these numbers are wildly impressive for her, however.
Interestingly, while the Democratic and Republican respondent subsets don’t agree on much, one common point is how they view the upcoming election. Over 77 percent of Republican primary voters and 76 percent of similar Democrats say they will “choose the candidate in my party who most closely supports my positions on the issues”. Twenty percent of both party’s primary voters say they will “choose the candidate in my party who has the best chance of winning the presidency in the general election.”
The Purple Insights study is undoubtedly the first of many presidential primary polls to be conducted in New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada, the first four political tests of the 2016 presidential cycle. We can expect many, many more in each place.