New Hampshire Poll: Hillary Clinton Resilient in Nation’s First Primary

Her favorability rating is virtually unchanged despite recent controversies in the news.

Former US President Bill Clinton waves with former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York September 22, 2014.

STEPHEN CHERNIN/AFP/Getty Images

Despite a storm of recent controversies, Hillary Clinton's popularity is proving durable among likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire, home of the nation's first presidential primary election in early 2016.

Nearly nine of 10 Granite State Democrats who are likely to vote in the primary say they had either a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” opinion of Clinton, according to a new Bloomberg Politics/Saint Anselm New Hampshire Poll. The number, 86 percent, is virtually unchanged from her 88 percent favorability rating among Democrats last November and an 89 percent rating in February.

She also fares about as well as her husband, the 42nd president and a popular figure in U.S. politics, on a host of qualities, the poll found.

Read the poll questions and methodology here.

 

“She's the best of what I've seen so far,” said poll respondent Bruce Bonnette, a 79-year-old retiree from Northfield, N.H. “And she's got Bill to back her up.”

There are also signs that Clinton shouldn't take her support for granted, particularly among the state's independent voters. Even among Democrats, there is considerable skepticism about her truth-telling.

“I'm not that happy about the private e-mail server,” said Walter Hamilton, a 64-year-old Democrat and retired civil servant from Portsmouth, N.H., referring to Clinton's use of non-official e-mail while she served as secretary of state. He also expressed concerns about allegations of impropriety over foreign donations made to the Clinton Foundation during that same time.

But one thing stands out for Hamilton: “She's the only one that can beat the Republicans, and my guess is that most Democrats feel the same way.”

Among likely general-election voters, Clinton is less popular. Nearly half of respondents had an unfavorable opinion of her, and her favorable rating has dropped 8 percentage points since February to 46 percent.

Still, only one politician in the survey had a higher favorability rating among general-election voters: Bill Clinton, at 53 percent.

Among likely Democratic primary voters, both Clintons and President Barack Obama are deeply popular, with more than 85 percent expressing either “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” opinions of them.

By contrast, independent Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist from neighboring Vermont who announced his candidacy for the nomination last week, has a 56 percent favorable rating among likely Democratic primary voters. Another potential Democratic presidential candidate, former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, had a 25 percent favorable rating, a likely reflection of poor name recognition.

Yet the poll also suggests that voters believe the former first lady has a clear deficit in some of the qualities they consider most important in choosing a president.

Nearly six out of 10 likely general-election voters said neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton can be trusted to tell the truth. Nearly half, 47 percent, said neither Clinton shares their values. They rated somewhat better on questions about having a vision for the future and perceptions that they care about “people like you.”

 

While feeding a narrative about her truthfulness, criticism over Clinton's handling of foreign donations to her family foundation has not created the firestorm that Republicans might have foreseen.

A solid majority, 60 percent, of likely general-election voters said they were either unsure about the allegations or believed they were just another example of overblown accusations by Republicans against the Clintons. 

“There's no smoking gun,” said Democrat Sharon Spickler, a 58-year-old retired attorney from Dover, N.H. “I'm old enough to remember ... all those ridiculous accusations from the far right. There's nothing that's convinced me that this is a legitimate issue.”

Others think the accustions have merit. Forty percent of those polled said they believed foreign governments and companies that donated to the Clinton Foundation or paid for Bill Clinton's speaking fees were probably looking for favors and some of them got what they wanted.

 

Thomas Keach, a 50-year-old independent who said he voted for Obama in 2012, said Clinton's foreign connections, along with the e-mail controversy, are evidence that she is “part of the old-school politics” in Washington.

“They don't address real problems that people like I face every day,” said Keach, who now favors Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive.

Women voters are especially likely to support Hillary Clinton. Fifty-six percent of women who are likely to vote in the general election expressed a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” opinion of her, compared to 37 percent of men. 

“I'm so glad she's giving it a second shot,” said Spickler. “I felt strongly in 2008 that it was such a wonderful thing to see a woman as a serious candidate in my lifetime. Now, I think it's more that I think she's the best-qualified Democrat.”

But she faces a challenge among independent voters who can cast their ballots in either party's primary. Just 41 percent of independents rate Clinton favorably, compared to 51 percent who expressed positive opinions of Bill Clinton.

Even so, she has a higher favorability rating among independents than many likely Republican presidential candidates, including Jeb Bush.

The poll, conducted May 2-6 by Washington-based Purple Insights, included 500 general-election voters as well as oversamples to include 400 Republican primary voters and 400 Democratic primary voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points on general-election questions and plus or minus 4.9 percentage points on primary questions.

More from the Bloomberg Politics/Saint Anselm New Hampshire Poll: Republican Field Tightens, Hillary Clinton Still Out in Front Among Democrats

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