BOSTON Donald Trump is holding on to his lead in the latest WBUR poll of likely voters in New Hampshire’s Republican presidential primary, while his closest rival, Dr. Ben Carson, appears to be fading.
And in the wake of the attacks in Paris, the new poll also shows that the state’s GOP electorate is divided on Middle East military policy and immigration.
Trump More Firmly On Top, But Rubio Is Rising
After losing a few percentage points in a WBUR survey two weeks ago, Trump is more firmly on top in the latest poll (topline, crosstabs), with 23 percent of likely GOP primary voters choosing him or leaning his way.
Many of Trump’s supporters, including Gerard Scolamiero, an Exeter Republican, say they’re done with political insiders.
“I’m tired of it,” Scolamiero said. “And I want someone who’s outside of the system, who’s not going to game the system for their own ends.”
Carson had also benefited from that sentiment. But the new WBUR survey, conducted by the MassINC Polling Group, shows Carson’s appeal may be waning.
Carson was in a near tie with Trump in September, but he’s 10 points behind now, with 13 percent support.
MassINC pollster Steve Koczela says voters gave Carson an early honeymoon, but the attraction is fading. (Read more from Steve.)
“The counter example to that is [Florida U.S. Sen.] Marco Rubio,” Koczela noted, “where the better voters get to know him, the more they like him.”
While Carson’s overall favorability score is falling, Rubio’s is rising. Rubio started to shoulder through the GOP pack in the last WBUR poll, and now he’s supported by 13 percent of respondents, in a dead heat with Carson.
Unlike Trump, Rubio draws appreciable support from both the 46 percent of respondents who prefer an outsider, and the 36 percent who prefer an experienced candidate.
“I’m not someone who’s just looking for an outsider for the sake of it being an outsider,” said Wolfeboro independent Constance Miller. “I’m looking for someone who’s going to fix some of the issues that are going on in our country right now.”
“I’m not someone who’s just looking for an outsider for the sake of it being an outsider. I’m looking for someone who’s going to fix some of the issues that are going on in our country right now.”
Miller is leaning toward Rubio. She’s voted for Democrats in the past but says the current crop is too much in President Obama’s mold and she’s looking for change — on the economy and immigration, and particularly on terrorism.
“We need to be a lot more aggressive and put more troops on the ground and quash this radical [ideology] that’s going on in the Middle East because if we don’t, as we can see, it’s spreading further and further,” Miller said.
A Division On Middle East Policy And Immigration
WBUR’s last poll showed that defeating Islamic State terrorists was the top priority for GOP primary voters in New Hampshire, when nine issues were offered.
This new poll was conducted in the days immediately following the Paris attacks, but it did not ask directly about the tragedy.
Still, the results suggest a split on just how ISIS might be fought: 38 percent of respondents, like Miller, say more troops are needed in the Middle East.
But 50 percent said the next president should stick with current troop levels or even pull back.
Koczela, the pollster, says those numbers reflect growing wariness about wars launched in response to terrorism.
“It creates space for some diversity among the candidates in terms of their approach,” he said. “It’s not like there’s a litmus test you have to be able to pass in order to win in New Hampshire.”
And as with military strategy, respondents are split on immigration. Forty-two percent said people who came to the U.S. illegally should be found and deported — in line with the view of Trump or Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.
But a majority — 55 percent — took a different view, saying either that these people should be allowed legal status to live and work here, or that they should be given a path to citizenship.
That leaves an opening, perhaps, for candidates such as Rubio, who are looking for some running room in New Hampshire.
These results are based on a survey of 405 likely voters in the 2016 New Hampshire Republican Primary. Live telephone interviews were conducted Nov. 14-15. The margin of error is 4.9 percent.
Correction: An earlier version of this post linked to polling results that had a typo on the results to an immigration question. We regret the error.