Top 5 contenders: Biden leads early N.H. polls, but voters also want strong action

Polls show that 89 percent of New Hampshire Democrats want the party’s 2020 presidential nominee to support the plan that will:

• Cost U.S. taxpayers up to $1 trillion per year;

• Eliminate all coal, oil and natural gas from the nation’s energy portfolio;

• Mandate “upgrading all existing buildings in the U.S.” to achieve energy efficiency; and

• Act toward “guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage, adequate family and medical leave, paid vacations, and retirement security to all people of the U.S.”

These are some provisions of U.S. House Resolution 109, which is titled: “Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.”

Polling data provided by the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College show that Granite State Democrats are 89 percent more likely to support a candidate who favors the Green New Deal as compared to a candidate who does not.

“It is no accident that the popular candidates in this race have embraced emerging progressive themes; that’s where the voters are and that’s what they want to send against Trump,” Institute of Politics Executive Director Neil Levesque said about Democrats opposing President Donald Trump upon releasing the data.

The Numbers

Those working on the survey used both traditional landlines and

cellphones to poll 600 random New Hampshire voters from Feb. 6-9. Democratic respondents were asked if they had a favorable impression, unfavorable impression, or no opinion of each person, while they were asked to let the caller know if they had never heard of a particular candidate.

Of the 14 names on the list, former Vice President Joe Biden of Delaware scored the highest favorable rating at 80 percent. As yet, Biden has not declared himself a candidate.

“He is very well-known and very well-liked,” Levesque said of Biden. “Whether or not he gets into this race is a huge factor.”

Prior to serving eight years as vice president under President Barack Obama, Biden spent 36 years as a member of the U.S. Senate from 1973-2009. Some Democrats wanted Biden to run in 2016, but he ultimately deferred to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

After Biden, 65 percent of New Hampshire Democrats said they have a favorable view of Vermont’s Bernie Sanders. Officially an independent member of the U.S. Senate, Sanders nonetheless won the 2016 New Hampshire Democratic primary. He went on to finish a strong second to Clinton in that cycle’s nominating process.

As with Biden, Sanders also has yet to declare that he will seek the presidency in 2020.

Unlike Biden and Sanders, California’s Kamala Harris is a confirmed 2020 presidential candidate. The first-term U.S. senator is scheduled to make appearances in New Hampshire on Monday and Tuesday. Despite being a first-time candidate from a state 3,000 miles to the west, Harris scored a 63 percent favorable rating from New Hampshire Democrats in the recent survey.

Another official candidate is U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, who is scheduled to appear at a “house party” in Nashua at 10 a.m. Monday. The poll shows 61 percent of New Hampshire Democrats view Booker favorably.

In fifth place, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts saw Granite State voters give her a 60 percent favorable rating in the poll. Also a confirmed candidate, Warren would almost certainly need a very strong showing in her neighboring state to have a realistic chance of gaining the nomination.

Levesque refers to former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke as a “wild card” with a 52 percent favorable number in New Hampshire. Though O’Rourke has not confirmed a run, he recently told Oprah Winfrey he is considering it.

“Less well-known are announced candidates Julian Castro, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Amy Klobuchar, all of whom have a solid base of favorable opinion to build on,” Levesque said. “Rounding out the field at this time are John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, and Pete Buttigieg.”

Moving Forward

“The electorate is polarized, with Democrats nearly unanimous in their view that the country is on the wrong track, at 94 percent, and in their opposition to President Trump, with 96 percent having an unfavorable impression and disapproving of his job performance,” Levesque said.

Traditionally a “battleground” state in the general election, New Hampshire has moved increasingly toward the Democratic column in recent years, as it has not gone Republican since 2000.

In fact, Trump is so unpopular in New Hampshire that a full 51 percent of Republicans polled said they would consider a GOP primary challenger. Trump’s strong appeal with blue-collar voters in the South and Midwest often produces the exact opposite effect among traditional Republicans in states such as New Hampshire.

Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld has already announced his intentions to challenge Trump in the 2020 Republican primary, while former Ohio Gov. John Kasich and current Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan are also considering this race.

“There is some concern about Trump as reflected in 51 percent of Republican primary voters’ willingness to consider a primary challenger,” Levesque said. “However, only 26 percent of those voters actually have a specific potential primary challenger in mind.”

As for Trump’s overall job approval rating in New Hampshire, only 42 percent approve. In fact, more than 50 percent of survey respondents said they “strongly disapprove” of Trump’s job performance.

By comparison, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu commands a 70 percent overall job approval rating, with only 8 percent saying they “strongly disapprove” of him.

“As the New Hampshire primary season kicks off, a clear picture is beginning to emerge of what is motivating voters as they consider visiting candidates,” Levesque said. “Overall, this is shaping up to be a very interesting election cycle, with a lot at stake, a lot of voter interest, and talented candidates from a lot of different backgrounds.”

Levesque said the overall survey had a margin of sampling error of 4 percent, with a confidence interval of 95 percent.