Aug. 14, 2015 — For a number of weeks, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has been building presidential political momentum. His crowds have been large and growing. The media covers him extensively. Yet, these positive attributes hadn’t translated into serious polling gains against Hillary Clinton … until now.
The Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald survey, released Thursday, finds Sen. Sanders, for the first time, overtaking Clinton, 44-37 percent, in the important New Hampshire primary. The poll appears methodologically sound. During the period of Aug. 7-10, the pollsters interviewed 442 likely New Hampshire Democratic primary voters. The results mean a net swing of 46 points in Sanders’ direction when comparing the organization’s March 2015 poll. During the interval between surveys, Sanders gained 36 points and Clinton lost 10.
The pollsters asked some interesting under-questions that provide some telling responses. The most troubling tally, from a Clinton perspective, is the group members’ enthusiasm about her campaign. Despite 65 percent of the total response unit saying they believe she will win the Democratic nomination, only 35 percent of those saying they are voting for her “are excited about her candidacy to become president.” A majority of her voters (51 percent) say they “could support but are not enthusiastic about her candidacy.”
Each of the Democratic candidates has high approval ratings, including Vice President Joe Biden. The difference among the three individuals’ personal favorability totals are negligible, each being at 76 percent or better. On the question of whether the vice president should enter the race, 46 percent say he should do so, while 42 percent believe he should not.
The Clinton campaign should take seriously this Franklin Pierce/Boston Herald poll. For a front runner, the early nomination events: the Iowa and Nevada Caucuses, and the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries (throughout next February), are extremely important. As we remember from 2008, Hillary Clinton, when she held the status of “inevitable nominee” before the first votes were cast, fell to third place in Iowa thus proving that her nomination was anything but clinched. A close, come-from-behind win in New Hampshire saved her campaign from an early exit, but it only prolonged her eventual losing outcome.
Now, polls such as this suggest that she could stumble early, which again has the strong potential of denying her the nomination. It has not been a good summer for Hillary Clinton, and the bad news keeps flowing.
While Bernie Sanders is the short-term beneficiary, the person waiting in the wings who may be in stronger position than anyone would have guessed several months ago is Vice President Biden. Even the Franklin Pierce/Boston Herald poll finds that within the New Hampshire sample, while relatively enthusiastically supporting Sanders, only one percent believes he “stands the best chance of being elected.” Therefore, a third alternative, heretofore not in the race, may have the opportunity of presenting him or herself.
Franklin Pierce University, previously polling under the Franklin Pierce College name, has been an active New England political pollster for a number of years. With former George W. Bush White House Chief of Staff Andy Card in position as the institution’s president, we can expect further political involvement. The University is located in Rindge, NH, on the state’s Massachusetts border, about halfway between the city of Nashua and state of Vermont.