Introduction: In the upcoming Republican presidential primary in New Hampshire, former President Donald Trump maintains a significant lead among likely voters. However, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has made a remarkable surge and now holds second place, surpassing Trump's other rivals. According to a new CNN Poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire, Trump's advantage in New Hampshire falls short of the majority support he garners nationally, with Haley closely trailing behind. This article will provide a detailed analysis of the current standings, voter preferences, and key factors influencing the race.
Trump's Dominance and Haley's Rise: Among likely voters in New Hampshire's Republican primary, Trump commands a significant 42% support, indicating a strong base of loyal supporters. However, Haley's popularity has seen a remarkable increase, with her capturing 20% of likely voters. This surge marks an 8-percentage point climb from the previous CNN/UNH poll in September. While support for Trump, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis remains relatively steady, Haley's ascent solidifies her position as a formidable competitor.
Voter Preferences and Undeclared Voters: Trump's standing in New Hampshire is bolstered by majority support among registered Republicans, with 55% backing him, followed by Haley at 17% and DeSantis at 11%. However, undeclared voters, who are not registered with either party but express intent to vote in the Republican primary, present a more diverse landscape. Among this group, Haley holds a slight lead with 25%, followed closely by Trump and Christie, both at 24%. It is worth noting that undeclared voters comprise approximately 43% of likely GOP primary voters in the new poll.
Importance of Undeclared Voters: Undeclared voters, who have the flexibility to choose which party's primary to participate in, play a crucial role in shaping the outcome of the Republican primary. Their representation in the 2024 primary mirrors their share in the 2012 primary, which featured a competitive Republican primary with an incumbent Democratic president seeking reelection. However, their representation has increased compared to the 2016 GOP primary, when Trump made his first run at the presidency. Understanding the preferences and concerns of undeclared voters will be pivotal for all candidates.
Primary Date and Voter Engagement: New Hampshire Secretary of State David Scanlan recently announced that the state's first-in-the-nation primary will be held on January 23, following Iowa's caucuses. As the primary draws near, there has been a notable increase in the number of likely Granite State Republican voters who have made up their minds. In September, only 36% had definitively decided, whereas now, 52% claim their vote is locked in. Among Trump supporters, an overwhelming 83% express unwavering commitment, while other candidates' backers demonstrate varying levels of certainty.
Changing Perceptions of Christie: Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, despite being the candidate most frequently mentioned as someone likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire would never support, has witnessed a softening in views. In September, 60% of these voters said they would never back him, but that number has decreased to 47%. While Christie still faces some resistance, the shift suggests a potential opening for him to gain traction among voters.
Electability and Candidate Attributes: A majority of likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire believe that Trump has the best chance of winning the general election next year, with 57% expressing confidence in his electability. This percentage has increased from 51% in September, highlighting the strong belief among his supporters. Furthermore, nearly two-thirds of likely GOP primary voters (63%) indicate that they would be at least satisfied with Trump as the nominee. Nevertheless, those who do not currently support Trump express predominantly negative views about the prospect of his nomination.
Support for Other Candidates: While Trump's dominance is evident, likely Republican primary voters also express satisfaction with alternative candidates. A majority (54%) would feel at least satisfied if Haley were to become the nominee, making her a strong contender. DeSantis garners a similar level of satisfaction, with 49% of likely GOP primary voters expressing support for him as the top of the ticket. Ramaswamy and Christie receive lower satisfaction ratings, with 44% and 32% respectively.
Attributes and Policy Positions: Trump receives positive ratings from likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire across various attributes and policy positions. The majority view him favorably in terms of policy positions (67%), decision-making abilities (66%), physical and mental fitness (63%), and understanding the problems facing people like them (60%). However, fewer respondents have a positive impression of his temperament (37%) or his honesty and integrity (46%). Notably, even among those not backing Trump, significant minorities rate his policy positions (46%) and decision-making skills (42%) positively.
Key Issues and Trust on Specific Topics: The economy and jobs continue to be the most important issues for likely GOP primary voters, followed closely by immigration or the border. However, there has been a notable increase in the significance of foreign policy issues, with 15% of voters highlighting it as decisive in their primary vote. Trump holds a significant advantage regarding the economy, with 58% believing he can best handle it, while Haley is trusted the most to handle the war between Israel and Hamas (20%).
Conclusion: As New Hampshire's Republican primary approaches, Donald Trump maintains a significant lead over his rivals. However, Nikki Haley's surge to second place has solidified her position as a formidable competitor. With voter preferences, undeclared voters, and changing perceptions in mind, the race for the Republican nomination remains highly competitive. The primary's outcome will ultimately depend on the candidates' ability to address key issues, gain voter trust, and effectively communicate their policy positions. Only time will tell which candidate will emerge as the Republican nominee for the 2024 presidential election.