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Mitt Romney (left) and Herman Cain (right) greet one another at Saint Anselm College during a June 2011 debate.

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NHIOP/Harvard Poll Shows Romney with 18 Point Lead In A "Race That Is Far From Settled;" Cain Emerges As Strong Contender

October 10, 2011

Contact:
Barbara LeBlanc (603) 486-8760
Esten Perez (617) 496-4009

Background

The Harvard and St. Anselm New Hampshire Institutes of Politics collaborated to conduct a telephone survey (landline and cell phone lines) of N=648, likely voters in the New Hampshire Republican primary for President. The interviews were conducted between Sunday October 2 and Thursday, October 6, 2011. The margin of error for this survey is ± 4.4 percentage points. This project marks the second collaboration between the two institutes during this campaign; in September, two focus groups with 18 to 29 year-old voters were conducted in Bedford, New Hampshire.

Key Findings

1. Mitt Romney currently leads the field by 18 points; Herman Cain and Ron Paul follow - remaining candidates polling at 5 percent or less.

If the Republican primary for President were held today, which ONE of the following candidates would you most likely vote for? Would you say you are going to definitely vote for [INSERT CHOICE] or probably vote for [INSERT CHOICE]?

Net Vote Totals (Definitely / Probably / Unsure of Support Levels):

  • Mitt Romney................................................................... 38%
  • Herman Cain.................................................................. 20%
  • Ron Paul ........................................................................ 13%
  • Newt Gingrich ................................................................ 5%
  • Jon Huntsman................................................................ 4%
  • Rick Perry ...................................................................... 4%
  • Michelle Bachmann........................................................ 3%
  • Gary Johnson................................................................. 1%
  • Rick Santorum ............................................................... 1%
  • Don't know ..................................................................... 11%

2. The race is far from settled; only 10 percent say that they are "definitely" voting for Mitt Romney, 6 percent say the same about Herman Cain -- 14 percent "very satisfied" with the field of candidates.

To gauge current commitment levels of likely New Hampshire Republican voters, we asked a two-part ballot test question that probed whether or not voters would "definitely vote" or "probably vote" for the candidates they mentioned. The total vote by candidate and the "definitely" vote totals follow:

Net Vote Total with "Definitely Voting":

  • Mitt Romney................................................................... 38%
    (10% "definitely voting")
  • Herman Cain.................................................................. 20%
    (6% "definitely voting")
  • Ron Paul ........................................................................ 13%
    (4% "definitely voting")
  • Newt Gingrich ................................................................ 5%
    (1% "definitely voting")
  • Jon Huntsman................................................................ 4%
    (2% "definitely voting")
  • Rick Perry ...................................................................... 4%
    (1% "definitely voting")
  • Michelle Bachmann........................................................ 3%
    (<1% "definitely voting")
  • Gary Johnson................................................................. 1%
    (<1% "definitely voting")
  • Rick Santorum ............................................................... 1%
    (<1% "definitely voting")

Additionally, we asked how satisfied voters were with the current group of candidates: 14 percent indicated that they were very satisfied, 51 percent somewhat satisfied, 23 percent not very satisfied and 11 percent not at all satisfied.

3. Slightly less than half (46%) of primary voters support the Tea Party; ballot test a "toss-up" between Cain and Romney among this segment of the electorate.

Net Vote Totals (Tea Party Supporters Only, n=292, MoE ± 5.7 percentage points):

  • Herman Cain.................................................................. 30%
  • Mitt Romney................................................................... 29%
  • Ron Paul ........................................................................ 10%
  • Newt Gingrich ................................................................ 6%
  • Rick Perry ...................................................................... 5%
  • Michelle Bachmann........................................................ 5%
  • Jon Huntsman................................................................ 1%
  • Gary Johnson................................................................. 1%
  • Rick Santorum ............................................................... 1%
  • Don't know ..................................................................... 7%

4. Sixty-two percent believe ideological fit is more important than "defeating Obama" when deciding whom to support in primary.

Which of the following do you believe is more important when choosing a candidate in the Republican primary:

  • The candidate that best matches your ideology and beliefs 62%
  • The candidate that has the best chance of defeating Obama 29%
  • Neither/Both equally....................................................... 7%
  • Don't know/Decline to answer........................................ 2%

5. Economy dominates landscape.

Similar to other polls, the economy is the dominant issue in this campaign. More than a third (34%) reported that the economy in general was the number one factor in deciding whom to support (based on open-ended question); another 16 percent said that jobs and unemployment was the most important issue; issues related to the size and scope of government were third (13%).

6. Romney leads Paul, Perry and Huntsman significantly in all of the issues- and characterbased attributes we tested; "Cares about people like me" is a potential vulnerability.

We asked New Hampshire Republican voters which of four candidates (Romney, Paul, Perry and Huntsman) they believed would be the best fit along a series of issues- and character based attributes. Due to time constraints, all candidates were not included in this section of the survey - we regret that Herman Cain was not included. His national and local momentum largely began after this survey instrument was completed.

The question asked was: "Regardless of which Republican presidential candidate you may support, for each of the following characteristics or qualities, please tell me if you think it best describes Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, or Mitt Romney." In every instance Mitt Romney bested his competitors, with Ron Paul second on all but one item:

  • Will defeat Obama. [Romney +50]
  • Will create jobs. [Romney +45]
  • Will get things done in Washington. [Romney +32]
  • Will keep us safe from terrorists. [Romney +21]
  • Will deal with the national debt. [Romney +20]
  • Will deal with Social Security. [Romney +16]
  • Will deal with immigration. [Romney +11]
  • Cares about people like me. [Romney +9]

7. Romney is well-known and well-liked in New Hampshire.

Name identification ratings and net favorability ratings:

  • Mitt Romney: 96 percent name recognition; 75 percent favorable, 21 percent unfavorable; 3.6:1 ratio.
  • Ron Paul: 93 percent of name recognition; 57 percent favorable, 36 percent unfavorable; 1.6:1 ratio.
  • Michele Bachmann: 90 percent of name recognition; 44 percent favorable, 46 percent unfavorable; 0.96:1 ratio.
  • Rick Perry: 84 percent of name recognition; 43 percent favorable, 41 percent unfavorable; 1.0:1 ratio.
  • Jon Huntsman: 54 percent of name recognition; 29 percent favorable, 25 percent unfavorable; 1.2:1 ratio.
  • Chris Christie: 70 percent of name recognition; 51 percent favorable, 19 percent unfavorable; 2.7:1 ratio.
  • Sarah Palin: 98 percent of name recognition; 49 percent favorable, 49 percent unfavorable; 1:1 ratio.

8. New Hampshire ambivalent about Romney's tenure as Massachusetts Governor.

While much has been written about Mitt Romney's term as Governor of Massachusetts, a plurality (43%) of likely Republican voters believe that the fact he was Governor makes no difference in his candidacy for the Republican nomination. Twenty-nine percent (29%) believe that his governorship of neighboring Massachusetts helps him; 26 percent say it hurts him.

9. New Hampshire Republicans confident of a Romney win over Obama; less confident of a Perry win - believe Christie would have been successful.

When likely Republican voters were asked to predict how various Republican nominees would fare in a general election match-up with Barack Obama, Romney was the strongest candidate by far (we compared Romney with three other governors, including Chris Christie).

  • Obama vs. Romney: 72 percent believe Romney would win, 20 percent Obama
  • Obama vs. Christie: 52 percent believe Christie would win, 31 percent Obama
  • Obama vs. Perry: 47 percent believe Perry would win, 43 percent Obama
  • Obama vs. Huntsman: 25 percent believe Huntsman would win, 56 percent Obama

10. One-in-five likely Republican voters have met at least one of the candidates.

Over the 24-hour period before our interview, 36 percent of likely Republican voters tell us that they discussed the primary campaign in person or over the phone; 16 percent did the same online - and since the campaign started 20 percent have met one of the candidates running for President in person (Romney has met the most voters by margin of more than 3:1).

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Attention media: Inquiries should be directed to Barbara LeBlanc, Director of News and Information at Saint Anselm College.

 

Cell: (603) 486-8760
Email: bleblanc@anselm.edu