WBUR Poll Finds A Tightening Presidential Race In N.H.

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Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. (AP)
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. (AP)

Amid a cascade of shocking developments in the presidential race, a new WBUR poll (topline, crosstabs) finds the race in New Hampshire is very close.

Democrat Hillary Clinton leads Republican Donald Trump by just 3 points — 41 to 38 percent. That's within the poll's 4.4 percentage point margin of error. Libertarian Gary Johnson is at 11 percent.

New Hampshire is bucking a national trend. The race there is getting tighter, whereas nationally, Clinton has in recent weeks been widening her lead over Trump. The results are surprising to Steve Koczela, the president of MassINC Polling Group, which conducted the survey for WBUR.

"In the last couple [of election] cycles, the margin in New Hampshire has been about the same as the margin nationwide, but this poll is a bit divergent from where the national polls have been coming in recently," Koczela said. "Really, since the first debate, Clinton has widened her lead nationally, but the last couple of phone polls I've seen from New Hampshire, it's been a bit narrower."

In WBUR's last New Hampshire poll, conducted in late September, Clinton led Trump by 7 points. Since then, Koczela said, he sees support moving away from Johnson as an increasing number support Trump.

The new survey was conducted the three nights after Sunday's presidential debate, but before The New York Times' report in which two women say Trump touched them inappropriately. Trump denies those accusations.

'We've All Said Things Stupid'

"Both candidates are horrible," said Don Rycroft, who was sitting on a bench in downtown Portsmouth when I met him. But Rycroft, who is retired from the Federal Aviation Administration, believes one candidate is worse than the other.

"I tend to be conservative," said Rycroft, so he is sticking with Trump.

The poll finds 77 percent of those surveyed have seen the 2005 videotape released last week in which Trump boasts of being able to assault women sexually because he's a television star. And 60 percent say Trump should still continue his campaign.

"I think people's reaction to the video is telling in terms of how this election is unfolding, and perhaps why New Hampshire is actually closer than I would have thought," Koczela said. "Even though most people have seen it, and most people don't think that Donald Trump is a role model, a lot of people are voting for him anyway."

The poll reveals that most likely New Hampshire voters believe neither Trump nor Clinton is a role model for young people: 56 percent say Clinton is not a role model; 83 percent say Trump is not a role model.

Rycroft said he did not see the video, but he stands by his candidate.

"Well, first of all, he's a buffoon, but that was 10 years ago," Rycroft said. "I presume he's changed, but we've all said things stupid."

Rycroft's friend, Brian Leben, sitting on the bench with him, said he will not be voting for Trump.

"No, I'll be voting for Hillary, because I think Mr. Trump is a sexual deviant," Leben said.

Trump has said the most recently released video was just "locker room talk." Leben, who lives in Dover, doesn't buy it.

"I've played sports my entire life," he said. "I've spent a lot of time in locker rooms. I have never, ever heard some deviant go on like that, and he probably would have been barred from the locker room."

'He Lied About Almost Every Fact'

The poll finds 51 percent of those who say they watched Sunday night's debate between Trump and Clinton believe she won.

Leben disagrees.

"I think that Donald Trump actually won the debate, but he did it with a very special technique," Leben said. "He lied about almost every fact that he brought forward."

Sitting across the street on a cafe bench, Liz Smith, of Epping, said she did not see the debate. The art student said she voted for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, and is probably going to vote for Clinton.

"Trump's pretty much a joke," Smith said. "I don't know if he's doing it for fame, or what his reasons are, but Hillary's been in politics forever, so I'd rather trust someone who has been in it."

The poll also finds Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and her Democratic challenger, Gov. Maggie Hassan, in a tie, with 47 percent each. Of those surveyed, 61 percent say Ayotte made the right decision when she withdrew her support from Trump after last week's video came out.

In the race to succeed Hassan in the governor's office, Democrat Colin Van Ostern leads Republican Chris Sununu by just 3 points: 47 percent to 44 percent.

The live telephone survey of 501 likely voters was conducted Oct. 10-12.

This segment aired on October 14, 2016.


Headshot of Fred Thys

Fred Thys Reporter
Fred Thys reported on politics and higher education for WBUR.



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