March Poll by Saint Anselm College Survey Center finds voter preference for Sununu by a margin of 47%-41% in a hypothetical matchup against Hassan     

March 10, 2021

By Ann Camann

The March poll by the Saint Anselm College Survey Center at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics (NHIOP) shows a significant change in political dynamics as President Biden settles in and becomes the central focus of voter attention. Since our last poll conducted February 4-6, 2021, President Biden’s job approval among registered New Hampshire voters has narrowed from 53%-45% and is now just slightly better than even at 50%-49%.  

At the same time, Democrats enjoy a 48%-40% advantage on the generic congressional ballot, reflecting the general voter preference for the Democratic brand.  Caught in the middle of these competing trends are New Hampshire’s senators, who have seen their job approval slip in the last month.  Voters now approve of the job performance of Senator Jeanne Shaheen by a margin of 51%-43%, down from 54%-38%.  Senator Maggie Hassan has narrowed even closer to 47%-44%, down from 49%-40%.  By contrast, New Hampshire’s Members of Congress, a bit further removed from the top of the ticket, have actually improved their standing somewhat: Congressman Chris Pappas now enjoys a 45%-39% job approval, up from 43%-38%; while Congresswoman Annie Kuster sits at 48%-39%, up from 46%-40%.

New Hampshire Institute of Politics Executive Director Neil Levesque summarized the results, saying “While Democrats still enjoy a numerical advantage among voters, the independent nature of our state tends to be suspicious of a unified federal government, and this may be contributing to the relatively short duration of President Biden’s honeymoon period.” 

In the Center’s look at a hypothetical matchup between Hassan and Sununu, respondents expressed a preference for Sununu by a margin of 47%-41%.  This is driven by a significant disparity in popularity between the two: Sununu’s job approval has fallen somewhat since our last poll, but still sits at 67%-31%.  His approval comes from virtually every demographic group, and even Democratic-identifying respondents disapprove of his performance by only a narrow margin, 48%-50%.  However, if a hypothetical Sununu challenge did become reality, he would necessarily trade a relatively nonpartisan image for one significantly more ideological and consequently face inevitable voter polarization.  So while Hassan’s relatively low standing with voters may make her vulnerable to a strong challenge, she does still benefit from her party’s strength as reflected in the generic congressional ballot. Levesque continued “This sets the stage for what may become one of the most closely-watched races in the nation this cycle as Governor Chris Sununu has signaled the possibility of challenging incumbent Senator Maggie Hassan.”

Former President Donald Trump still looms large in the Republican Party, as 71% of Republican-identifying respondents would like him to continue to play a significant role in the party going forward.  For their part, 45% of Democratic-identifying respondents view Vice President Kamala Harris as their preferred heir-apparent to Biden should he decline a re-election bid.

Full Results (PDF/668KB)

Results are from the Saint Anselm College Survey Center poll based on online surveys of 871 New Hampshire registered voters. Surveys were collected between March 4th and 6th, 2021 from cell phone users randomly drawn from a sample of registered voters reflecting the demographic and partisan characteristics of the voting population. Names were presented in random order for each of the political leader series (e.g. job approval).

The survey has an overall margin of sampling error of +/- 3.3% with a confidence interval of 95%; the margin of sampling error for questions specific to congressional districts are 4.7% for each district. The data are weighted for age, gender, geography, and education based on a voter demographic model derived from historical voting patterns, but are not weighted by party registration or party identification.

Founded in 2001, the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College provides a nonpartisan forum for discussion and debate. It seeks to develop programming, and to foster scholarship and dialogue, encompassing a diverse range of political topics, opinions and issues. The Institute serves as a resource for students, scholars, politicians, and the general public.