Early Poll of New Hampshire Voters Shows Potential Problems for Republican Presidential Primary Season

UMass Amherst Poll Finds GOP Voter Support for Primary Challenge
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AMHERST, Mass. – With nearly 40 percent of likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire saying they would welcome a primary challenger to President Trump, a new poll by the University of Massachusetts Amherst could highlight potential problems for the president.

Thirty-nine percent of likely Republican voters in the Granite State said they think that President Trump should be challenged in the 2020 primary, according to poll results released today by the UMass Poll.

Detailed information on the poll, including toplines and crosstabs, can be found here.

“While nearly 40 percent of all likely Republican voters believe President Trump should face a primary challenge, almost half of college-educated Republican voters believe that Trump should be ‘primaried,’” said Tatishe Nteta, associate professor of political science and director of the UMass Poll. “Given the comparatively higher levels of turnout among highly educated voters, these results do not bode well for Trump.”

“The fact that a significant share of Republican primary voters supports a primary challenge to Trump reflects the reality that the president’s divisive rhetoric and policies are alienating parts of the Republican coalition,” said Jesse Rhodes, associate professor of political science and associate director of the UMass Poll. “Significantly, support for a primary challenge is strongest among younger and female voters, pointing to bigger problems for Trump and for the Republican Party. In a diversifying electorate, the GOP can ill afford to drive away members of these groups.”

The poll also asked what qualities that Republican primary voters are looking for in their presidential candidate in 2020, and more than a quarter of these voters want a candidate that “best represents my views on issues,” followed by the “strongest leader,” and the candidate who is “most honest and trustworthy.” Republican male voters appear more concerned about a candidate who represents their views, says Raymond La Raja, professor of political science and associate director of the UMass Poll. “Women tend to want someone who will change how things are done in Washington,” he noted. “Women apparently care as much about the process as the substance of democratic politics.”

The poll also probed to what extent Republican voters feel the investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller could impact the 2020 race. Asked if the Mueller report would make them reconsider their vote for Trump, just 22 percent said it would affect their support for Trump if the report concludes that Trump conspired with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election. Sixteen percent said it would affect their vote for Trump if the report concludes that Trump directed his attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie under oath to Congress. And only 14 percent said it would impact their vote for Trump if the report concludes that Trump obstructed justice by firing former FBI Director James Comey and engaged in witness tampering.

“While the nation awaits the final report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team, only a handful of Republican primary voters in New Hampshire will reconsider supporting President Trump in light of the potential revelations in the report,” Nteta said.

Rhodes agreed, saying, “The fact that few Republicans would defect from Trump even in the face of evidence of collusion with Russia highlights the power of party identification in an era of sharp partisan polarization.”

He added the low confidence level for the investigation among Republican voters points to the president’s and conservative media’s success in delegitimizing the Mueller report. “For many Republicans, the conclusions of the Mueller investigation are likely to be viewed as ‘fake news,’ as the president frequently says,” he says.

The UMass Poll, conducted online by YouGov Feb. 7-15, has a margin of error of 4.8 percent among all registered voters and 7.3 percent among likely Republican voters. It interviewed 600 registered voters, of which 263 were likely Republican primary voters in New Hampshire. Established in 2010, the UMass Poll has provided political polling for Massachusetts, New Hampshire and national races.