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0000017a-15d9-d736-a57f-17ff8f680000Coverage of the 2016 races in New Hampshire, from the White House to the State House.

Poll: Clinton Has Commanding Lead In New Hampshire

Kate Harper for NHPR
Hillary Clinton at primary campaign event at Beech Hill Farm in Hopkinton, NH

A new WBUR poll of New Hampshire voters shows that Democrat Hillary Clinton has a commanding lead over her Republican rival Donald Trump in this year’s general election. The poll also has good news for Democrat Maggie Hassan’s bid to unseat Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte. Steve Koczela joined NHPR’s Peter Biello to dissect the results of the poll. Koczela is president of MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the WBUR survey.

The last such poll you conducted with WBUR showed a much tighter race between Clinton and Trump. How big a lead does she seem to have among New Hampshire voters now?

Yes, last time it was almost tied, and this time we find her leading Donald trump by 15 points in the head-to-head. We find her with 47 percent and him with 32 percent.

That’s pretty big. Is that a result of post-Convention bounce and drop, respectively?

Some of it is likely that. After conventions, often you get these kind of bumps. Some because you just heard all of the Democrat messages, and some because you can get Donald Trump voters not answering the phone for a couple of days, given their perceptions of the state of the race. There’s some of that.

You can also look in the poll and get a more specific idea by looking at who voters thought emerged more strongly from the convention. We see Clinton has a big advantage there. We see many more voters saying that Hillary Clinton is “fit to be President,” which is a question we asked. There are some timing factors that may or may not change back as we go forward. There are also some things about how voters overall are starting to perceive the two candidates that help to explain her advantage.

Let’s go back to that question about “fitness to be President.” Why ask that question? In past elections, “fitness” has never been so much of a question, maybe because it’s been more about the policies than the personalities of the candidates.

Right, and I think this election has focused on it more than in the past. It’s one of the essential arguments of the Clinton campaign that she is fit and Donald Trump isn’t. Some of the news in the last few weeks has raised those questions in some observers’ minds. And based on this poll, it’s on many voters’ minds, too.

We found that, overall, 31 percent see Donald Trump as fit to be President. The interesting number to me is that even among registered Republicans, only 57 percent of them think Trump is fit to be President. So even the people who like him the best have questions about his fitness. So you’re right, it’s not necessarily a question that you can imagine asking in maybe the Obama-Romney matchup, or some of the other ones recently, but this particular year it’s become a central issue.

And perhaps even more troubling for the campaigns regarding the “fitness to be President” question is that 74 percent of Independents see Donald Trump as unfit to be president. That’s three-quarters of people!

Right—among the Independent voters in New Hampshire. That’s one of the groups in which we’ve seen a lot of movement, particularly among Independent women. We are seeing Clinton open a pretty big lead there. She now has a 35-point lead among Independent women. That group has played a big role in past presidential elections in New Hampshire, and we see them poised to do so again this year. And that question is a big part of it.

Let’s look at the Senate race. You asked New Hampshire voters who they would choose for their Senator if the election were today. Voters chose Maggie Hassan by a decent margin.

Yes, and that’s another one that we found pretty close last time, and now we are seeing a bit of a shift. And again, it could just be a timing thing. We’ll see in a couple of weeks if this returns to the state it was in before, which was maybe a two or three point race in either direction.

For the moment, the Democrats look very strong up and down the ballot. We see that in the Hassan-Ayotte matchup. We have her with a ten-point lead. And again, it’s Independents that’s the group that’s really changed in the past few months.

Is this a confirmation of what’s been spoken of as “conventional wisdom:” A good candidate at the top of the ticket will influence candidates lower on the ticket and vice versa—a bad candidate will negatively influence candidates of the same party down-ticket?

That certainly is the conventional wisdom, and I think we are going to get a test of that soon. If Trump’s numbers keep heading downward, does that relationship break at some point? Will there be Republicans and Independents that acknowledge their dislike for Donald Trump but still can’t bring themselves to cross party lines and vote for Maggie Hassan?

We are waiting to see whether or not that relationship holds. It’s conventional wisdom, and if it holds true, it can’t possibly be good news for Republicans in other competitive races. We just don’t know yet, A) if Donald Trump’s numbers are going to keep going down and B) whether that relationship of conventional wisdom will be maintained. 

Peter Biello is the host of All Things Considered and Writers on a New England Stage at New Hampshire Public Radio. He has served as a producer/announcer/host of Weekend Edition Saturday at Vermont Public Radio and as a reporter/host of Morning Edition at WHQR in Wilmington, North Carolina.

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