MANCHESTER, N.H. — With the contest for the Republican presidential nomination now a two-person race, Donald Trump holds a clear lead among New Hampshire voters over Nikki Haley, his last remaining challenger, ahead of Tuesday’s primary here, according to a Washington Post-Monmouth University poll.
The poll finds 52 percent of potential primary voters supporting Trump, while 34 percent are backing Haley. In the poll, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is at 8 percent, but the survey was completed before DeSantis delivered his surprise announcement Sunday that he was suspending his campaign.
Haley’s support has nearly doubled from 18 percent in November, appearing to benefit from the withdrawal of former New Jersey governor Chris Christie. But Trump’s support has grown by six percentage points over the same period. Trump may have benefited from the withdrawal and endorsement of entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and could gain more with the exit of DeSantis, who immediately endorsed Trump. If DeSantis’s supporters in the poll are allocated based on their second choice, Trump’s support rises by four points while Haley’s increases by two points.
Trump is buoyed by strong support from the party’s conservative base, while Haley has been consolidating support among moderates and independent voters who plan to participate in the GOP primary.
New Hampshire offers Haley the best opportunity to slow the momentum of the former president. Any independent, or unaffiliated, voter can participate in the Republican primary on Tuesday and she has been banking on a big turnout to boost her standing enough to genuinely challenge Trump. But there is little evidence that she has gained significant ground on Trump since her third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses last Monday.
Trump’s supporters appear more committed to turning out than Haley’s do. While Trump leads Haley by 18 points among all potential voters, his advantage grows to 28 points among voters who say they are “extremely motivated” to vote in the Republican primary. Trump won the primary here eight years ago with 35 percent of the vote.
Haley’s favorability ratings have declined among New Hampshire potential GOP primary voters: 46 percent of them are favorable of the former U.N. ambassador, down from 56 percent in November.
Her unfavorable ratings have increased from 31 percent in November to 40 percent now, putting her at a net six points positive compared with a 25-point positive margin two months ago. The decline has come as Trump’s campaign has increasing attacked her, including a flurry of ads that are running constantly here.
Trump’s favorability rating is 23 points net positive, with 59 percent of New Hampshire Republican primary voters rating him favorably and 36 percent unfavorably, unmoved since November.
New Hampshire’s undeclared voters, those who are not registered as Republicans, have often played significant roles in presidential primaries. They made up as many as 45 percent of primary voters in previous New Hampshire primaries and the Post-Monmouth poll finds 47 percent of potential Republican primary voters are not registered Republicans.
The Post-Monmouth poll finds that these undeclared voters support Haley over Trump by 10 points, 48 percent to 38 percent, an improvement for her since November. But Trump boasts a much larger 42-point lead among the 53 percent of the sample who are registered Republicans: 64 percent to 22 percent for Haley, essentially unmoved from November.
Haley’s advantage with undeclared voters will be key to her performance Tuesday, and other polls show varying estimates for her support. A Suffolk University/Boston Globe/NBC-10 poll taken Jan. 18 and 19 found similar results, with Haley leading by eight points among these voters, but a CNN-UNH poll in the field Jan. 16-19 found Haley leading by 28 points with this group.
New Hampshire’s relatively large share of moderate-to-liberal Republican voters also provides an opening for Haley. She has seen her share of the vote increase among this group from 35 percent in November to 56 percent in this most recent Post-Monmouth poll. But Haley is struggling with conservatives, who make up a larger portion of the potential electorate, with Trump enjoying a 68-point lead among very conservative voters and a 29-point lead among somewhat conservative voters.
About half of potential Republican voters in the New Hampshire primary believe the false idea that Biden won the 2020 election “due to voter fraud” (51 percent), while 42 percent say he won the election “fair and square.” That is a smaller percentage than among Iowa Republican caucus participants who said Biden was not legitimately elected, but it is still a reminder of how Trump’s lies about the 2020 election have infected the attitudes of Republicans.
Those who believe false claims of voter fraud continue to be Trump’s strongest supporters, with 82 percent backing him for the party’s nomination and only 14 percent saying they support Haley and DeSantis. Those who believe Biden won the election fairly support Haley by a large margin: 71 percent compared with 14 percent for Trump.
About a quarter of potential GOP voters in New Hampshire (26 percent) say Trump committed a crime in his response to the 2020 presidential election. Another 27 percent say he “did something wrong but not criminal,” and 45 percent say he “did nothing wrong.”
Trump leads Haley on trust to handle four different issues among New Hampshire GOP voters. He enjoys the widest margin on trust to handle immigration policy (62 percent to 26 percent), which has been a focus of Trump’s attacks against Haley. He also enjoys a big advantage on economic policy (58 percent to 29 percent).
Trump has a wide margin over Haley, who served as his U.N. ambassador, on trust to handle foreign policy (57 percent to 32 percent). Their closest issue is abortion: 40 percent prefer Trump and 29 percent prefer Haley, while 22 percent say they trust both equally.
New Hampshire Republican primary voters are relatively more liberal on abortion than Republicans elsewhere. That is a potential opening for Haley, who strongly opposes abortion but has urged Republicans to find a better way to talk about the issue at a time when Democrats have been successful in painting the party as extreme on the issue.
Over half of potential Republican voters in the state (56 percent) say they think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with 43 percent who said the same in a Post-Ipsos-538 poll of likely Republican voters nationwide in December. The Post-Monmouth poll found that 54 percent of New Hampshire Republican voters say they are at least somewhat concerned the Republican Party is focusing too much on abortion.
GOP voters in New Hampshire who think abortion should be mostly or always legal support Haley over Trump by 49 percent to 38 percent. Among those who think abortion should be mostly or always illegal, Trump has 72 percent support to Haley’s 14.
Looking at other demographic groups, Trump maintains a similar lead among both men and women. He maintains a 33-point lead among voters without four-year college degrees, down from 46 points in November. Haley fares better among college graduates with 43 percent, but Trump is nearly even with her at 39 percent support among this group.
Trump has a 52-point lead among White evangelical Christians, but still has a 10-point lead among those who are not.
Fewer than 1 in 4 New Hampshire Republican voters say they were personally contacted to vote for a particular candidate (23 percent), down from 49 percent who said the same in a 2016 Monmouth poll. Of those who were contacted, more say they heard from Haley’s campaign than any other.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) enjoys 74 percent approval among Republican voters, but that does not translate into much more support for Haley. Just 10 percent of potential GOP voters say his endorsement of her candidacy makes them more likely to support the former South Carolina governor.
This Washington Post-Monmouth University poll of 712 potential voters in New Hampshire’s Republican primary was conducted Jan. 16-20 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points. The sample was drawn from a database of New Hampshire registered voters who were registered as Republicans or undeclared; potential voters include those who say they are certain, probable or have a 50-50 chance of voting in the Republican primary. Interviews were completed by live callers on cellphones and landlines, as well as through an online survey via cellphone text invitation.
Clement and Guskin reported from Washington.