Polling Experts Predict Early Lead for Clinton in New Hampshire

Presidential Election Day may be more than two years away, but in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton leads among possible candidates in the Democratic primary race at unprecedented levels, while Republicans remain split between their party's potential candidates, according to polling firm Purple Strategies.

A panel of experts from the company were hosted at the Institute of Politics Thursday afternoon to share insights into the 2016 presidential race and the 2014 New Hampshire U.S. Senate race.

The poll found that New Hampshire voters were generally dissatisfied with many possible presidential candiates. Overall, all potential candidates analyzed in the poll—Clinton, N.J. Governor Chris Christie, former Fl. Governor Jeb Bush, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Vice President Joe Biden, La. Governor Bobby Jindal, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, former Mass. Governor Mitt Romney, and U.S. Senator Rand Paul—received more unfavorable ratings than favorable ones.

All the possible candidates received below a 45-percent favorability rating and received net unfavorable ratings from independents with the exception of Paul, who received a 35-percent favorable and a 34-percent unfavorable rating.

“I think one thing that’s incredibly notable is how much people in New Hampshire dislike everybody running for office,” said Doug Usher, managing partner for Purple Insights, the research division of Purple Strategies. “We have a very sour electorate about everything that’s going on.”

The poll demonstrated differing sentiments among Democrats and Republicans regarding their party’s potential candidates. New Hampshire Democrats overwhelmingly favor Clinton above others, with a 88 percent favorable to five percent unfavorable rating. Biden and Warren had favorability ratings of 70 percent and 61 percent, respectively, and unfavorability ratings of 14 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

“These numbers mean virtually nobody else gets in the race because of them,” said James Demers, managing partner of Purple Strategies New England. “She has frozen the field.”

By contrast, Republicans’ support of possible candidates is less pronounced. Leading the party is Mitt Romney, who received a 72 percent favorability rating from New Hampshire GOP voters. However, Alex Castellanos, founding partner of Purple Strategies, believes Romney’s popularity comes from an incomplete Republican field.

“You can look at this as if Mitt Romney is almost a parking lot right now,” Castellanos said. “Our candidates aren’t right yet, and I think a lot of people are sitting idly in the Mitt Romney parking lot.”

Behind Mitt Romney, who has said multiple times that he will not enter the race, Bush leads among GOP voters, with a 59 percent favorable and 15 percent unfavorable rating. Paul and Christie are “essentially tied” for third place, according to the PurplePoll report, with favorability ratings of 53 percent and 48 percent, and unfavorability ratings of 16 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

The lack of focused support for any potential Republican candidate in the field suggests brand issues among the perceived field of candidates and the possibility for other Republicans to enter the race, according to experts.

The poll also reflected a gender gap within the electorate, with Clinton leading among women by 14 points but trailing by 13 points among men. The poll also showed that Clinton holds slight advantages over Christie and Bush in a general election test.

—Staff writer Bryan L. Bu can be reached at