A new poll from Suffolk University and The Boston Globe shows a substantial number of New Hampshire voters splitting their ticket with strong support for Democrat Joe Biden for president, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen for Senate and Republican Governor Chris Sununu.
For a closer look at the way voters feel with just 20 days until Election Day, All Things Considered Host Peter Biello spoke with David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, which conducted the survey.
(Below is a computer-generated transcript. It is edited lightly for publication.)
Peter Biello: So Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump 51 percent to 41 percent, with 3 percent still undecided, according to this poll. Did voters express why they're breaking away from the president?
David Paleologos: You know, demographically, the biggest difference that we saw in this poll was among the undeclared voters or the independents. Joe Biden leads by 13 points among independents or undeclared in New Hampshire: 48 to 35. And looking back to our last poll, which had the race dead even between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, Trump won undeclared by 6 points. So you're looking at nearly a 20-point shift from plus 6 to minus 13 right now.
Peter Biello: Was there any evidence that COVID-19 played any role in that?
David Paleologos: Oh, absolutely. You know, if you look at people who said COVID-19 was the most important issue, Biden was winning six to one. On the flip side, among people who said the economy or jobs was the most important issue, you had Trump winning by a wide margin. But in many of the other issues, categories like bringing people together, health care, racism, so many other issues, Biden continues to win among those subsets. And when you add it all up, Biden's got a 10 point lead.
Peter Biello: Meanwhile, Governor Chris Sununu, a Republican, leads Democratic challenger Dan Feltes by a comfortable margin, 55 to 31 percent. So it seems like people aren't necessarily voting according to the letter D or the letter R next to their name. Why are voters supporting the incumbent governor who is a Republican but not the incumbent president?
David Paleologos: Again, look at independents in New Hampshire and I'll tell you the winner. And in this case, Sununu, very acceptable to many different voters. He's even winning one in five Democrats. He's winning 21 percent of registered Democrats in New Hampshire.
So you do have crossover people will vote for Sununu for governor. And Biden, in fact, one of every four Sununu voters is telling us in this poll that they'll vote for Biden. But among independents, that's really where the needle moves, Democrat or Republican. And Sununu has done a fairly good job of convincing not only independents, but even some Democrats.
Peter Biello: The survey also asked about a mask-wearing mandate. You asked people about their feelings on mask mandates. And 50 percent of respondents said that the governor should immediately issue a mask mandate for public places. Another 9 percent said the government should wait and see if COVID-19 gets worse before issuing such a mandate. Governor Sununu has resisted a statewide mask mandate from the beginning, and yet he's polling ahead of Feltes. So he's not quite aligning with the voters who say they really want a massive mandate and yet he's still doing well. What do you make of that?
David Paleologos: So among Democrats, 84 percent say the governor should require a massive mandate, while only 25 percent of people in his own party. And so therein lies the difference. Twenty-five percent of Republicans, just a quarter say that the government, the governor should require a mask now where the rubber hits the road in New Hampshire, as among independents, where forty-four percent say that the governor should immediately require residents to wear a mask and trends very similar to the statewide vote. So you have this party differential. And right now it's not sticking to the governor. But there is a sense of urgency among the electorate to get this done so that you don't experience further tragedy.
Peter Biello: People in New Hampshire seem more likely to vote in person, according to your survey, than people in other states. Does that add, in your view, a little more opportunity for surprises on Election Day?
David Paleologos: I think it does. It was an amazing statistic because, as you know, New Hampshire doesn't allow in-person early voting. So, you know, when you look at this poll result where a wide, far but large majority of people are basically saying that they're going to wait and vote on Election Day. And, of course, with same-day registration, that's going to add more volatility. I mean, 65 percent are saying they're going to vote on Election Day, only 25 percent by mail and, that's barring any unforeseen spike in COVID-19 case. That's because you don't want New Hampshire voters to be in a situation where the COVID-19 cases spike and you have all of these voters who are planning to vote at the polls, it might create for a chaotic scenario in three weeks.
Peter Biello: David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, thank you very much for speaking with me.
David Paleologos: Thank you, Peter.
Peter Biello: And you can find a link to the results of the poll at our website, NHPR.org, and while New Hampshire does not have early voting in the way that other states do under normal circumstances, New Hampshire does have absentee voting for anybody who wants to this election due to COVID-19. And in some cases, that means you can walk right into your town hall, request an absentee ballot and drop it off there after filling it out. If you want more information, check out our voting guide.