N.H. Poll: Romney front-runner, but voters far from settled
May 23rd, 2011
05:00 PM ET
3 years ago

N.H. Poll: Romney front-runner, but voters far from settled

(CNN) – Three weeks before the first Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney remains the front-runner in the battle for the state that holds the first primary in the road to the White House, according to a new poll of Granite State voters.

Full results (pdf)

But a CNN/WMUR survey conducted by the University of New Hampshire also indicates that the race is far from settled, with nearly nine in ten potential Republican primary voters saying they haven't come close to making up their minds and more than four in ten saying they're not satisfied with the field of GOP candidates running for president.

Listen to CNN Radio's Bob Costantini and CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser discuss the poll results:


According to the poll, which was released Monday, one-third of those questioned say they would vote for Romney if there election were held today, far outpacing any other candidate or potential candidate. The former governor from neighboring Massachusetts and 2008 Republican White House hopeful has formed a presidential exploratory committee and is expected to formally announce his second bid for the White House.

"The shifting nature of the Republican field and a perception that the 'perfect candidate' candidate has not appeared, has led many New Hampshire Republicans to support the best known candidate, Mitt Romney," said Andrew Smith, Director of the UNH Survey Center. "Romney has been the clear favorite among New Hampshire Republicans for more than two years and no other candidate has persuaded voters to move away from Romney."

Romney's large lead in the new CNN/WMUR poll as well as other GOP horserace surveys of Granite State voters shouldn't be any surprise. Romney is well known in the Granite state. Massachusetts media dominates in the heavily populated southern part of New Hampshire. Romney campaigned heavily in the state in the 2008 primary, and he has a summer home in the state's lakes region. A win in New Hampshire would be important for Romney's hunt for the nomination. He finished second in the state in the 2008 primary to Sen. John McCain, who went on to win the nomination.

The poll indicates that a desire by New Hampshire Republicans to pick a someone who can beat President Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election may be behind his poll numbers.

"Republicans are looking for someone who can take on President Obama, and right now, Romney is seen as the only Republican who can do that," adds Smith.

"Romney also appears to benefit from the perception that he is a strong leader and has the right experience to be President," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "He also gets relatively high marks on the economy and the budget deficit, and despite criticism of the health care policy Romney passed as governor of Massachusetts, he has a solid lead over his GOP rivals on that issue as well."

No other candidate is currently in double digits. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who ran as a libertarian candidate in 1988 and as a Republican White House hopeful in 2008, comes in at nine percent, followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at seven percent, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani at six percent apiece. While Paul, Pawlenty and Gingrich are all declared candidates, Giuliani has not taken any concrete steps towards making another bid for the GOP nomination, although he hasn't ruled out a run.

According to the poll, five percent back former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. The 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee also has not ruled out a bid for the White House, but hasn't taken any serious step towards running.

Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, former Godfather's Pizza CEO and radio talk show host Herman Cain, and former Utah Gov. John Huntsman, who recently stepped down as U.S. ambassador to China, are all tied at four percent. Cain has officially declared his candidacy, while Bachmann and Huntsman are expected to announce their intentions soon.

Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania comes in at two percent in the poll. Santorum is also expected to formally declare his candidacy soon.

Although the poll indicates Romney far ahead of the rest of the field in New Hampshire, Holland warns against thinking Romney's a shoo-in.

"Only 13 percent of potential GOP primary voters in that state say they have definitely decided who to vote for or are leaning toward someone. And 43 percent wish that someone else would get in the race, with less than one in ten very satisfied with the current field," adds Holland. "The race is likely to take some funny twists and turns between now and primary day."

The interviews for this poll started last Wednesday, when Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels was still considered a potential GOP candidate and his name was included in the list of Republican hopefuls read to respondents. Daniels did not announce his decision to forego a bid for the White House until Sunday, after nearly all the interviews had been conducted.

How can the University of New Hampshire report results that exclude Daniels?

"The questionnaire also asked respondents for their second choice. As a result, UNH can take those respondents who said Daniels was their first choice and allocate them to the person who was their second-favorite candidate, "says Holland. "That allows us to present a more accurate reflection of the state of the race now that Daniels is out of the running."

The poll also indicates that New Hampshire Democrats are solidly behind President Obama as their 2012 candidate.

"When asked if they would vote for President Obama or another Democratic candidate, 73 percent of likely Democratic primary voters said they will vote for Obama, only 6 percent said they would vote for another Democrat, and 21 percent are unsure," says Smith. "The percentage of Democrats who say they will vote for Obama is at its highest point, and indication that there is little support for a Democratic challenge."

The CNN/WMUR poll was conducted May 18-22, 347 New Hampshire residents who say they will vote in the Republican primary and 289 New Hampshire residents who say they will vote in the Democratic primary interviewed by telephone by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

The poll's sampling error for likely GOP primary voters is plus or minus five percentage points.

CNN, WMUR and the New Hampshire Union Leader are teaming up on June 13 to host the state's first GOP presidential primary debate of the 2012 election cycle.


Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • New Hampshire • Polls
soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. LacrosseMom(real one)

    FACT: Far-Right religious, will not...... repeat......... will not.......... vote for a Mormon.

    May 23, 2011 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  2. Sylvia Saint

    I find it telling that Mr. Romney's former employer – – the citizens of Massachusetts - would not hire him again for the job. They would NOT RE-ELECT Him.

    We talk a lot about how Government should operate as a business. If Romney couldn't get rehired in his lower level position, by people that know his work, I'm not willing to hire him for the big job!

    May 23, 2011 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  3. me

    Hey, send in the clowns!

    May 23, 2011 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  4. Kimberly

    Mitt Romney will NEVER be president, he was a disaster last time around, and he has done NOTHING since then to prove he has ANY business running for president- hes as worthless as Palin. I REALLY want Palin to run though!! THAT WILL BE AWESOME!!! Watching mitt lose to Obama wont be nearly as much fun as watching him clean palins clock!

    May 23, 2011 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  5. ck1721

    Obviously they spent a lot of time her- A whopping 347 Republicans polled! And all from New Hampshire! Just another CNN add for Romney! They should start calling it the Romney News Network-if CNN supports him, then GOPers should RNN away!

    May 23, 2011 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  6. carrotroot

    The Republican field is shaping up to look like this: Newt, Paul, Pawlenty, Cain, Huntsman, Romney, Santorum and possibly Bachmann. Pawlenty seems to be gunning as someone's VP, Huntsman is using this to build-up name recognition for 2016, and Romney is the default leader because all the candidates who did better than him the last time aren't running this year.

    May 23, 2011 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  7. Texas Doc

    I wonder how the Tea Party is going to react to their party's nominee/front runner being a free health care giveaway program supporting, psudo-Christain cult member?

    May 23, 2011 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  8. Steve, New York City

    While I do not agree with Romney on all of his policy issues, I think that he is probably a smart guy. However, considering his religious affiliation, intolerant people on the far right will use that against him.

    I'm also interested in what these folks might say about Obama's visit to Ireland, including his ancestor's village. Will the PEA-BRAINS like Glen Beck and the birthers still declare that Obama somehow hates White people (even though the guy was raised by his maternal grandparents)? If people get hung up on things that are so truly stupid, then a Mormon candidate like Romney has no chance (even though he might be qualified, very smart, and love America just as much as I do).

    May 23, 2011 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    Yawn. NH is the northeast's SC. Lost hope for them long ago. They caught the Teatroll virus hard.

    May 23, 2011 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  10. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Republicans won't select someone who is qualified, they prefer to wait for Palin to finish them off.

    May 23, 2011 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  11. once upon a horse

    I would like for Mitt to explain to me that Obama threw Israel under the bus comment or at least retract it. President Obama got standing ovations at that Jewish conference so he must have said something right.

    May 23, 2011 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  12. riddle me this

    What I cant figure out its how Mitt Romney keeps saying he did what was right with health care for "his people" in "his state" as governor and stands behind his plan.But when you become president, isn't it "my people" in "my country" that you are looking out for, and how come he has not been asked this question yet. I personally would like to see a public option, but that's just me, looking out for my neighbor.
    Obama/Biden 2012

    May 23, 2011 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  13. GonzoinHouston

    It's hard to fault Romney for his stand on the issues. No matter what the issue, and no matter how you feel about it, Romney has agreed with you at some time or another. He's been for and against just about everything during his 8 year (and counting) run for the White House.

    I for one am tired of NH getting so much attention every election cycle. We really need rotating regional primaries.

    May 23, 2011 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  14. lynn

    Two-faced once again. Health Care Reform is great for his state, but not the rest of us. Romney is another pretty face, similar to McCain's running mate, but don't look for substance, he has nothing except high taxes and mandatory health care in Mass., that he denies is anything like Obamacare. Liar-Liar, Pants On Fire.

    May 23, 2011 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  15. Bill Kilpatrick

    Romney is in a great position, though largely by default. He's a bland candidate with no great charisma but no great scandals, either. Trump dropped out. Gingrich is self-imploding. Sarah Palin is too much of a circus. Eligible bachelors are abandoning the race left and right, including Romney's 2008 nemesis, Mike Huckabee. It's a little like 1992, when none of the big Democrats wanted to go up against George W. Bush, leaving a huge gap for Bill Clinton. In a different place and time, Romney's flip-floppery would cost him dearly but it's small potatoes compared to what the other Republicans have done to themselves. Right now, Romney is the safest choice – but right now, the election is 18 months away. In the world of politics, that's an eternity.

    May 23, 2011 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  16. Stacey, Connecticut

    Flip-Flopping Romney. The GreedOverPeople party will never endorse a Mormon, otherwise, they would have done so by now. Stay tuned for Ronald McDonald to run for the GOP; I hear he needs a job now anyway. ROTFLMAO!

    May 23, 2011 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  17. The Greedy Old Pigs have declared class war on Ameriica!

    Romney is just another neocon GOBPbagger cultist whose only "business experience" was destroying American jobs running his hedge fund. The real problem is that many GOBP voters simply don't understand that standing for the proven policy failures of the past, like deregulation and tax cuts for the filthy rich, does not make for a modern American political party. Instead it marks the existence of a political cult that is faith-based and not reality-based.

    May 23, 2011 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  18. Rex

    The Teapublicans are already running for Pres. but have done diddly in Congress about jobs, etc. Bunch of blowhards one and all, just criticizing, just saying no, just obstructing. If they and this attitude represent almost 50% of America, then America is in for bigger trouble than it now faces.

    May 23, 2011 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  19. Eric

    New Hampshire is quite literary his second home, and he's the closest thing to a moderate who's even running this time. He should do well in NH. His problems will be in Iowa and SC.

    May 23, 2011 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  20. Mutt

    Here we go again. Mitten is always in the lead till actual votes are counted then he falls out of contention fast. Be fun watching all the cornpone rightwingers put the beat down on him again making him look like a complete fool. gotta hand it to him Ol' Mitten keeps on coming back for more punishment. what he lacks in charsima & intelligence he makes up for in complete stubborn foolishness. At least it will be someone other than Huck beating him up this time.

    May 23, 2011 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  21. diridi

    gop idiots...o.k.

    May 23, 2011 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  22. Dave Aiello

    Ron Paul will emerge from the pack. He is the one GOP contender who we can trust to never waver from his principles, as he has shown in his 30+ years in congress. He's cast the single "no" vote more than any other rep in history, strictly out of principle. People are desperately looking for a REAL small-government candidate, and as they wake up to Ron Paul's message, many will jump aboard.

    May 23, 2011 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  23. T-Man

    President Obama, will be re-elected, the republicans should be sent a very srtong message and be put in time out, all of them have lost their minds over this GREAT AMERICAN LEADER!!!. They had an opportunity to show us something since November, they have DONE NOTHING but attack women, and hard working middle class americans. What happened to listening to the people, OH YES, THAT'S ONLY WHEN THE POLLS ARE ON YOUR SIDE, WHAT AN JOKE!

    May 23, 2011 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  24. Name king

    Aahhh I wonder how the good old south is going to perceive Romney, since he's the one that came up with the most hated healthcare province in recorded history, the dreaded mandate for every one to pay their own share of health care cost. I wonder how they're going to past up other candidate and vote for the originator of such a province. Or will the real truth comes out, that this is all about the color of a person skin, which would allow a person to do so and not another. It's the thing that makes you go mmmm.

    May 23, 2011 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  25. T-Man

    President Obama, will be re-elected, the republicans should be sent a very srtong message and be put in time out, all of them have lost their minds over this GREAT AMERICAN LEADER!!!. They had an opportunity to show us something since November, they have DONE NOTHING but attack women, and hard working middle class americans. What happened to listening to the people, OH YES, THAT'S ONLY WHEN THE POLLS ARE ON YOUR SIDE, WHAT A JOKE!

    May 23, 2011 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
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