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Friday, September 23, 2011

Romney surges to lead in most recent Suffolk University poll of NH voters

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney continued to distance himself from the rest of the pack among New Hampshire’s Republican voters, according to a poll conducted by Suffolk University.

Romney garnered 41 percent of the support among the survey of 400 likely voters in New Hampshire’s Republican Presidential Primary. Romney gained five points since the last poll was conducted in June. The survey was conducted Sept. 18-21, using live telephone interviews.

The closest candidates to Romney were Texas congressman Ron Paul (14 percent) and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (10 percent). Paul and Hunstman both gained 6 percent since the last poll. While considered one of the front-runners nationally, Texas Gov. Rick Perry only garnered 8 percent of interest among those surveyed.

“Mitt Romney is saying ‘get out of my back yard’ and making New Hampshire his strong firewall despite showing some weakness in the other states’ early primaries,” said David Paleologos, director of Suffolk University’s Political Research Center, in a prepared statement. “The anti-Romney candidate at this point could be either Ron Paul, who has polled consistently over the past year, or Jon Huntsman, whose numbers are really growing in the Granite State.”

Romney is considered the favorite to win the New Hampshire primary in January, but Paul and Huntsman have been campaigning hard in the Granite State, hoping a strong showing in January’s primary will be a springboard to momentum on a national level.

Among other Republican candidates, Minnesota congresswoman Michelle Bachman garnered 5 percent of the support, followed by Newt Gingrich (4 percent), Rick Santorum (1 percent) and Buddy Roemer (1 percent). Despite no formal announcement about her intentions to running for the nomination, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin received 6 percent of the support.

Eleven percent of the GOP primary voters surveyed said they still were undecided. Suffolk reported a 4.9 percent margin of error.

The survey results boded well for Romney in several ways. When asked who they would vote for if their first choice dropped out, 21 percent picked Romney as their second choice candidate. Perry got 20 percent of the “second choice” support, followed by Paul at 9 percent.

“Romney’s added strength in the second-choice question reduces the probability that any other candidate will be able to mobilize and capture all of the non-Romney voters as well as the undecided voters,” Paleologos said. “Romney is not only the overwhelming first choice, but he also has a competitive edge as a fallback option among voters who support other candidates.”

Romney was the candidate of choice for 50 percent of voters surveyed in Hillsborough and Rockingham counties, the two largest counties in the state.

Among the other findings of the survey included that 48 percent identified themselves as aligned with tea party ideals, while 49 percent described themselves as conservative. While favorability for President Barack Obama was not surprisingly low (22 percent), and 22 percent also said they expect Obama to be re-elected.

The top issue among 57 percent of those surveyed was jobs and the economy. The next most important issue was reducing the national debt. A majority – 55 percent – said the health care bill passed last year should be repealed, while 30 percent said it should be modified.

Michael Brindley can be reached at 594-6426 or