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WBUR Poll: Buttigieg Takes The Lead In N.H.; Some Voters Could Change Minds On Impeachment

Dan Tuohy/NHPR

WBUR has released a poll showing South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg leading the pack in the New Hampshire primary race.

The poll also looked at how New Hampshire primary voters, both Democrat and Republican, feel about topics like immigration and impeachment.

Steve Koczela, President of the MassINC Polling Group, the team behind the poll, and sat down with NHPR's Peter Biello to discuss what they learned. 


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Note: The following is a machine-generated transcript and may contain errors 

Let's start with impeachment. I'm guessing you haven't done a poll during an impeachment before?

Right. We did this poll and asked about a couple different things. Impeachment, of course, is a topic that's on everybody's mind. So we, I think probably to nobody's surprise, found that there's a lot of polarization and a lot of disagreement depending on which primary you're voting in, as to what you think about the impeachment proceedings. 

So the way people feel about impeachment depends on their party affiliation?

Yeah, it does. I mean, you know, you've got Democrats pretty strongly in favor of impeachment and Republicans strongly against it. There are some interesting dynamics within those numbers, though. Republicans are more solidly against it than Democrats are for it. So when you look, for instance, at just the approval of the impeachment process, that's the dynamic that shows up. The other interesting thing is that you've got about a third of voters on both sides that say they're actually still open to changing their minds. Now, how many of them actually will be persuaded or even could be persuaded versus how many would like to think that about themselves, that's not clear. But there is a significant number of people who say that, you know, my mind is not made up and I could still change it.

Credit WBUR

This poll also looked at how likely New Hampshire primary voters felt about immigration. What made you decide to ask specifically about immigration?

Yeah. So a while back we did a poll where we asked voters in New Hampshire and in Massachusetts, what things do you want the candidates to be talking about? What things should we be focusing on? And immigration was one of the top issues that voters wanted to hear about, that was on the minds of voters on both sides. So I think it's fair to say that it was on voters’ minds in different ways, depending on which party you're more closely affiliated with. But it was something that was of import to voters on both sides.

And this survey shows primary voters in New Hampshire have strong opinions about immigration policy, even though it's had little impact on them personally. Can you tell us a little more about that?

Right. So one of the things we did was we asked about impacts both at sort of the personal level, so whether it's been positive or negative for your family, then moving outwards from there, your town, the state of New Hampshire and then the country as a whole, and found that people didn't really... most people said it hadn't had any impact on them personally or really any impact on their own town. But then when you get out further away from themselves, that's where people really saw there being an impact.

Credit WBUR

And much of this is what we've come to expect from Democrats and Republicans - sharply partisan differences. Was there anything about the results that surprised you?

Yeah, well, that was one of the things, actually, was that they weren't as sharply partisan on every issue. I mean, they were on some. They were on impeachment, for sure. But when you look at whether the Trump administration's immigration policies have made the country more or less safe, the differences there weren't as sharp as I would have anticipated, just because that's a message that the administration and that Republican Party as a whole in 2018 particularly drove so hard. You know, you think about the closing days of the 2018 midterms and you had the caravan messaging, and you had the wall, and you had a lot of really sort of violent imagery and rhetoric being used. So if you just sort of thought, well they must know what they're doing, then you would expect that a very significant majority of the Republican base voter group would think this is good, this has made the country more safe. But in fact, it's only about half. So I think that that surprised me in that it sort of calls into question the reliance on that as a strategy.

Let's take a look at the horse race for a moment, because this survey asked people if they had to vote today, who were they most likely to vote for in the New Hampshire primary? And on the Democratic side, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg was in the lead at 18 percent, and that was followed by former Vice President Joe Biden at 17, Senator Bernie Sanders at 15, and Senator Elizabeth Warren at 12. Can you talk a little bit about how meaningful the difference is between 18 percent and 12 percent at this point?

Yeah, I mean it's... You'd rather be at 18 than 12, I suppose it's meaningful in that sense. But, you know, there's still plenty of time left. Primary polling sort of changes as the primary approaches. So, you know, in New Hampshire time, there is still a long way to go before the primary. So by no means are we saying that this is the way that it will turn out. We're just saying that this is who voters are looking at right now.

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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